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Netizen 24 AUS: The financial struggles depicted on canceled 'Roseanne' sitcom are still relevant

Posted by On 7:10 AM

The financial struggles depicted on canceled 'Roseanne' sitcom are still relevant

May 31 at 9:36 AM Email the author
(Adam Rose/ABC via AP)

The tweet that got Roseanne Barr’s hit sitcom reboot canceled was horrible. It was racist.

This week in a tweet, the comedian wrote “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby =vj.” She was referring to Valerie Jarrett, who was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Barr later apologized, but it was too late.

ABC network snapped Barr back into reality by not putting up with such vitriol. A show that drew high ratings is now gone.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” Channing Dungey, the p resident of ABC Entertainment, said in a statement.

Because Roseanne the real person and “Roseanne” the sitcom mom are so connected, it would be hard for me to watch the show had it stayed on the air. Comedians push past the edge of decency all the time. Yet this time, Barr’s joke wasn’t funny. It hurt, because comparing blacks to primates has such a dark, ugly, racist history that it’s hard to imagine that Barr doesn’t really believe what she wrote.

Read more: ‘Roseanne’ was about a white family, but it was for all working people. Not anymore.

Still, I regret that what will be lost in the firestorm surrounding the actress are the real financial hardships that a lot of families are going through as represented by Barr’s TV family. The series focused on the Conners, a barely hanging on, working-class family living in the fictional town of Lanford, Ill.

Even though the economy has improved since the Great Recession, the Conner family represented a swath of America that isn’t doing so well financially. They stress about having adequate health care. They are in jobs that barely make the ends meet. They don’t have savings or a retirement plan. They are one emergency from financial ruin.

Read more: On ‘Roseanne,’ Times Have Changed, but They’re Still Tough

Throughout the series, Barr played a fierce mom who held various minimum-wage jobs. When the show first aired in 1988, she was a factory worker. Her husband, Dan (played by John Goodman), was a drywall contractor always struggling to make his small business succeed.

“During its run, ‘Roseanne’ focused on the trials and tribulations faced by families in middle America â€" it wasn’t uncommon for episodes to center on having the electricity cut or scrimping to pay a child’s college tuition,” wrote Jacob Passy for MarketWatch.

Read more: The legendary sitcom shed light on working-class Americans’ economic hardships

MarketWatch looked at what has changed economically since the show premiered.

“Economically, matters did not improve for the working class over the intervening years â€" if anything, they’ve gotten worse,” Passy wrote. “These days there’s a good chance that Barr and Goodman’s characters would be out of work or making less money. The median salary for drywall installers (Dan Conner’s profession) fell from $48,000 in 1997 to roughly $41,000 today after adjusting for inflation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Many factory jobs that provided at least a stable income are gone.

“Roseanne’s overriding theme, week in, week out, was money: getting jobs and losing them, starting businesses and folding them, scrimping to keep the kids in college and put food on the table,” according to a 1994 Entertainment Weekly review of the show’s sixth season.

Fast-forward to now, and things for the Conners aren’t really that mu ch better â€" like so many real Americans.

“The Conners are all still living by the seats of their pants, in a world where the gap between the haves and the haves-not grows wider by the second,” Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff wrote. “The family is hanging on, somehow, but every problem that pops up causes four or five others.”

Read more: The Roseanne revival is incredibly honest about life in Trump’s America

NerdWallet looked at how the Connors got by and what we could take from their struggles: 3 Money Lessons We Can Learn From ‘Roseanne’

But your know what? We can live without “Roseanne” because there are plenty other options of television shows that reflect America’s economic diversity.

Read more: Roseanne was canceled. It isn’t the only sitcom tackling politics and the working class: From Mom to Superstore, here are 11 other TV comedies making sitcoms great again.

Here are some of my favorite from the Vox’s list.
Mom (CBS): “It’s by and large a forthright depiction of the twin struggles of poverty and addiction.”

Black-ish (ABC): You have to watch the “Keeping up with the Johnsons” episode. It brilliantly captures how income does not equal wealth. Although the fictional Johnson family is very well-off, they’ve got budgeting and spending problems too.

The Middle (ABC): The show just finished its series run but was so right on the money. There were so many belly laughs watching the Heck family manage their finances.

This sitcom was a “warm and affectionate look at life in the lower-lower middle class, centered on the Heck family of Orson, Indiana, who are trying to make their ends stretch enough to almost meet their needs, and often failing at that task. The show has explored the struggles of having too little money all the time, of living a very traditional life in an America that’s changing rapidly,” Voxâ €™s Caroline Framke and Todd VanDerWerff wrote.

If nothing else, the popularity of “Roseanne” has sent a message to entertainment executives. The financial tightrope that a lot of families walk has a lot of heart and laughter. Their stories are worth exploring.

Color of Money question of the week
Did you identify with the financial struggles in the now-canceled “Roseanne?” Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Roseanne.”

Live chat today
Please join me today at noon (ET) for a live discussion about your money. I’m happy to help you find an answer to a financial dilemma.

I’ve also got a guest today. Kevin Kwan, author of “Crazy Rich Asians,” soon to be a major motion picture, will be joining me to take your questions. His book was this month’s Color of Money pick.

Read my review: For the Color of Money Book Clu b, a lesson on the limits of wealth

Here’s the link to join the conversation.

Parents who went to court to evict their unemployed 30-year-old son did the right thing.

The story of the New York parents who had to go to court to get a judge to make their unemployed adult son generated a lot of interest.

So last week I asked: Have you or would you allow your adult child to come back home to live? If you’re an adult child who lives at home, how’s that working out for you?

Here’s the son’s story.

InfoWars’ Alex Jones gives $3,000 to help Mike Rotondo move out of parents’ home reports Michael Rotondo has to be out by noon on June 1.

JG Cooper of San Antonio, Tex., wrote, “Three years ago our oldest moved back in to save money for a down payment on a house after her one-bedroom apartment rent went up to a ridiculous amount. She arrived in mid February, but by June she was engaged to be mar ried. She bought the house in the fall, they moved in and got married in December. She had a job, benefits and a plan. She has a degree, a job she loves and paid off her student loans this spring. Son, 26, is moving home this summer to attend graduate school. He’s worked since he was 16, did college on full academic scholarship and has been out of the house since his freshman year. Now three years in the job market he wants to make a career change. We said we will provide room and board but he will get some kind of job to pay his way. And I already changed his room into my sewing room, so he has to bunk in the guest room (formerly sister’s room). He has a plan so we are okay with that.”

Diana Fields of Herndon, Va., wrote, “Our 22-year old daughter graduated from college last May, luckily with no college debt. The agreement when she returned home was that she could save her money and live rent free for one year. After one year, she had to officially l aunch (or pay rent to live at home) or go to graduate school. She saved her salary working for a government contractor for the year and now she has a full ride to graduate school. We will be moving her into her new place in July for school. Win, win. Think the bottom line was clear and defined parameters when she moved back home.”

“When my youngest son graduated from college several years ago (two degrees, magna cum laude), he couldn’t find a job,” wrote Toni Brown of Virginia Beach. “I told him he could stay with me until he did. He lived here for about a year until he went to graduate school. I didn’t ask for rent, but he helped out with the groceries and helped me navigate the monstrous amount of doctors appointments I had (I’d become quite ill and having him help advocate for me was wonderful). He searched for work the entire time, and I encouraged him to find something he wanted to do. He also worked as a substitute teacher in order to make his student loan payments. He and I have always been close, and managed to negotiate what our adult-adult relationship would look like. He eventually went to graduate school, got his degree, worked for a while in a job he liked, decided to switch careers, and is now at the University of Chicago without another stop home. While I was sad for him that his initial job search was lousy, I’m so proud of the man he’s become. You mostly hear of horror stories of adult children moving back home. My experience was quite the opposite.”

I’d like to leave you with comments from Connie living in the suburbs of Seattle.

“Like many people, I was disheartened yesterday when I read about the circumstances that led to the Rotondos evicting their son,” she wrote. “It epitomizes the worst millennial stereotypes. But today, the public reaction to this story makes me want to defend young adults living (temporarily) at home, because many are conflating living at home with the sin of sloth. I’m 25 and have lived with my parents for the last two years. In college, I took a full coursework while working part time and completing an undergraduate research thesis. I won student leadership awards, I was active in my community, and I graduated debt-free. It still took me two years to find a full-time job with a livable wage and full benefits in my profession. I was never proud to say ‘I live with my parents’ because it’s already seen as social taboo â€" only failures who can’t function as an adult properly make that decision. But in retrospect, it was a prudent decision. Several of my high school and college peers made a similar decision, and moved back to their childhood home until they could make it on their own. I moved back in out of practicality, since I was only offered part time jobs or internships after graduating. My parents actually rejected my offer to pay rent because they always wanted me to know that I’ll have a roof ov er my head and a hot meal, if I needed it. We never made an official move-out date or rental plan, because I was raised to work hard and be independent. I’m moving out this [this month] with a significant balance in my savings account and after rebuilding a great relationship with my parents, too.”

Color of Money columns this week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.

Stay informed about your money.

In addition to this newsletter, please read and share my weekly personal finance columns.

â€" You’ll soon be able to freeze your credit for free â€" but that won’t be the end of identity theft

â€" Should grandparents open a 529 savings plan to help with college costs?

Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to b e a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)

Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.

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