Roseanne Conner’s support of Donald Trump has been a lot — too much for some viewers — to get past. But the latest surprising reveal about the character is a stereotype too far.
Roseanne’s hawking her new neighbors, and not in her usual Roseanne way, where she’s scoping out how she can use any of their possessions or services for herself (the dishwasher of her former neighbors was used to keep the Conner dinnerware clean, too, in earlier seasons). Instead, she’s making note of the many bags of fertilizer her Muslim neighbors have piled up outside their garage, and she’s thinking they’re probably going to use them to make bombs. Because they’re Muslim, and you know, why else would a Muslim family be in possession of multiple bags of fertilizer, if it’s not because they are terrorists who wish death to all Americans?
Oh, Roseanne. I was on board with you putting your Trump vote out there in the season premiere, but then ignoring it so far across the rest of the season. I could understand suggesting the Conners’ tenuous financial, employment, and health situations led Roseanne to cast a vote the Roseanne Conner of earlier seasons almost certainly would not have cast, and then flipping assumptions about small-town Trumpers around when Roseanne revealed herself to otherwise be the domestic goddess we’ve always known, the one who championed underdogs and got right in the faces of bullies.
So why would that woman suddenly be afraid of people who are different than her, people who, she soon learns, are on the receiving end of bullying so terrifying that their little boy insists on sleeping in a bulletproof vest? If the point of the reboot is to poke holes in suppositions about small-town conservatives, did Roseanne really have to become a stereotype to do it, running the risk of reinforcing ideas about people who voted like she did?
It was Roseanne Barr’s idea to do the episode, according to an EW interview, with the intent of preaching tolerance and understanding. And the episode does that, with a cliché-heavy storyline that involves Roseanne realizing her neighbors are just like her, facing their own dire financial problems (and, again, even scarier threats of violence). When the Conners’ Wi-Fi is disconnected and D.J.’s daughter Mary freaks out about missing her 2 a.m. Skype with her deployed mom, Geena, in Afghanistan, Roseanne goes next door — with a baseball bat in her hand — to ask to borrow her neighbors’ Wi-Fi password.
Despite the crazy hour of the request, neighbor Fatima invites Roseanne to bring Mary to her house and make the call, but Roseanne hesitates. Fatima’s husband, Samir, accuses Roseanne of balking because she’s afraid they’ll try to ascertain Geena’s coordinates and report them to ISIS. Samir thinks Roseanne and Jackie, who’s accompanied her sister on the visit, hate his family.
“We don’t hate you,” Roseanne says. “We’re scared of you.”
Ditto, Samir says.
“Yeah, well, we have way more reason to be scared of you … how do you explain all that fertilizer in your yard?” Roseanne asks.
There’s no terrorist activity afoot; Samir simply has a trigger finger when it comes to adding items to his Amazon shopping cart, hence the oversupply of fertilizer.
And, despite the uncomfortable, though ultimately enlightening, exchange, Fatima and Samir share their password. It’s “gocubs.” They’re big fans of America’s pastime.
The next day, Roseanne runs into Fatima at the grocery store, where they’re both using EBT cards for their purchases. The snotty cashier smirks as she rings up Fatima’s food, swipes her card, and tells her she’s $30 short. “Maybe the American taxpayers forgot to fill [the card] up last week,” she tells Fatima.
Roseanne offers her card to cover the balance.
“Maybe you can help her carry the groceries out to her camel, too,” the rotten cashier adds. Fatima leaves, and then the Roseanne we all knew and loved comes back to life, having relearned the lesson she, apparently, needed to relearn about not fearing what or who you don’t know.
“Hey, you know that saying, ‘See something, say something’?” Roseanne tells the cashier. “Well, I saw something, and I’m going to say something to your manager. You are ignorant! That woman is twice the person you’ll ever be. She’s dealing with a lot of stuff you don’t even know about, so the next time she comes in this store, you keep your damn mouth shut! She’s got enough fertilizer to turn this place into a smokin’ hole in the ground.”
Mary does get her early morning chat with her mama, and Roseanne gets her $30 back, from Samir, who shows up on her doorstep to repay her loan … at 2 a.m.
Well played, Samir.
And, despite that major misstep with turning Roseanne into the resident racist, “Go Cubs” deserves those four stars. I don’t think Roseanne needed to be the one to personally unroll it, but the message of tolerance does bear repeating, however clumsily it was delivered.
• Things just keep spiraling downward for the Conners’s financial future. The reason their Wi-Fi went bye-bye: Dan and drywall partner Chuck lost out on what they counted on as a sure-thing work project. The client decided to go with non-union, undocumented workers, leaving Dan and Roseanne without the funds to cover the bill payment checks Roseanne just mailed out.
• D.J.’s life is just as bleak. We learn he wanted to re-enlist in the Army, but he was rejected. “I told them I wanted to continue defending our country, and they said, ‘We’re good,’” D.J. tells his dad. Now he’s seeing a therapist at the local Veteran’s Administration office to try to figure out what to do next. One sweet outcome: Dan realizes D.J. has mechanic skills. D.J. says it was all those years watching Dan tinker on bikes and drink beer in the garage. They decide to make some much-needed cash by restoring some motorcycles together, “Conner and Son.”
• Roseanne, Jackie, Darlene, Harris, and Mark build a sheet tent in the living room to pass the time until Mary makes her Skype chat. But instead of ghost stories, Jackie tells “ghosted” stories, like the one about the guy she dated three times, but then … (we never find out what exactly happened).
• Yes, this episode was written before the controversial Black-ish/Fresh Off the Boat joke Roseanne made in “Roseanne Gets the Chair.”
• “You don’t need to do that,” Fatima tells Roseanne when she offers up her EBT card at the grocery store.
Roseanne: “Well, we’re stealing your cable, so this probably makes us even.”