You may not like it, but I’m gonna say it anyway: Roseanne Barr should have been fired. Not because she made insanely ill-advised comments in one of the most public forums on the planet. Not because those comments were racist, weird and clearly part of a decades long pattern of behavior which would require an enormous amount of therapy to rise to “erratic.” Not even because the reboot of her eponymous sitcom wasn’t all that good, despite monster ratings. Roseanne should have been fired for one simple reason: Disney was tired of her crap.
That’s the real issue here, kids. Roseanne’s show was ABC’s show. And ABC’s show is Disney’s show. Disney didn’t make Mickey Mouse the official mascot of the 20th century by allowing their most visible employees to work out their sanity issues on their nickel. If you’re an employee — whether of Disney or the local children’s theater — and you let the crazy off the leash in public, you’re risking your job.
The same rules that snared Roseanne can trip the rest of us up, albeit on a much smaller scale. If you work at the local supermarket and decide to tweet your belief that a former senior presidential adviser bears a resemblance to Ari, the chimp from Planet of the Apes, you might not face any repercussions because you don’t have 875,000 Twitter followers. But if your manager sees your tweet, you might.
Likewise, if you decide to take a knee on the sidelines of an NFL game because the country in which you make eight figures a year to play a game is just super racist, and your boss doesn’t like the look, you might be watching the next season from the couch. And your 1st Amendment rights are not being violated if the brass shows you the door; they’re not stopping you from taking a knee, they’re stopping you from doing it on their field. Just like ABC isn’t stopping Roseanne from throwing meatballs into the professionally aggrieved set’s wheelhouse, they’re just stopping her from doing it while wearing their proverbial jersey.
It’s basic economics, kids. As NFL owners who joined their players’ protests on the sidelines demonstrated, a mouthy quarterback isn’t a problem. A mouthy quarterback who thinks he’s worth more than $14 million per season may well be. As Netflix demonstrated when they gave Michelle Wolf a series, a mouthy comedienne may not be a problem. As ABC demonstrated this week, a mouthy comedienne who thinks she’s worth more than a social media nightmare and attendant boycott may well be.
The wave breaks both ways. MSNBC circled the wagons around their weekend blowhole Joy Ann Reid, whose past statements include antisemitism, homophobia and outright racism. She followed revelations about her Roseanne-esque bigotry with a bizarrely inconsistent narrative in which she essentially claimed she was the victim of time-traveling hackers. Granted, Reid’s target demographic is different — and much smaller — than Roseanne’s. It’s also possible that MSNBC brass is the same flavor of bananas as Reid. Reid disgusts me, but if MSNBC and their corporate overlords at Comcast love bananas, then there’s no real reason to flambé her. In the same vein, TBS is perfectly within its rights to continue to burn airtime on Canadian comedienne Samantha Bee. Calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless c*nt” would get you deleted from my playlist, but if Time Warner doesn’t think it deserves a one-way ticket out of the studio, then they’re welcome to keep her.
Hell, if I was to point out that taken objectively, Roseanne’s remark about Valerie Jarrett isn’t entirely off the mark — she does look a bit like Helena Bonham Carter’s character from the Tim Burton “Planet of the Apes” — Mr. Livingston might replace me with a crossword puzzle. It’s the same at Personal Liberty Media Group® as it is at TBS, ABC or the NFL… or even where you work. His site, his rules.
— Ben Crystal