Jezebel points out that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Roseanne‘s premiere, and links to EW interviews with several cast members. So, first of all, holy crap, I’m old. Second, I’m really glad for the reminder of how much I used to love that show — and maybe more importantly, how much everyone did. (Note: Yes, I am aware that there were undoubtedly people who didn’t like Roseanne, and probably for some very good reasons. Point is, it was popular.)
Roseanne herself ultimately got so loony it was pretty hard to like her, and that’s without even getting into the cosmetic and weight loss surgery — she hasn’t been an ace self-acceptance role model in quite a while. But looking back, the fact that there was a show on TV featuring a fat female lead, in a loving and frankly sexual relationship with a fat man, and it was wildly fucking popular, really does blow my mind.
From the New York Times in 1997, as the final season (where the Conner family won the lottery) came to a close:
In one episode this season, when a television producer wanted to turn the Conners’ rags-to-riches story into a mini-series, he said: ”You’re blue collar. Middle America is blue collar. Americans want to see themselves on television.” Of course, he didn’t think it was a bad idea to cast Melanie Griffith as Roseanne. ”Nobody in their right mind is going to want to look at you,” he tells her.
Proving guys like that wrong for nine years may have been Roseanne’s sweetest revenge. It was a revenge that Middle America could share.
Exactly. And nobody’s done it since. There have been fat, female TV characters, some of them fairly prominent (e.g., Camryn Manheim on The Practice), but no more shows constructed around fat women. (At least, not that I know of. Have I missed any?) Sitcoms about white, working-class families based on stand-up acts have flourished in the wake of Roseanne, but as we’ve all lamented here before, even when the stand-up comics in question are fat, they’re men and their wives are played by conventionally hot thin women. The pairing of leads who looked like Roseanne Barr and John Goodman was unheard of then and basically is again today. Sigh.
If you’re too young to have watched Roseanne or, like me, you just haven’t thought about it in a while, you should totally watch this clip of season 1 highlights. (Embedding seems to be disabled, dammit.) If Al and I ever have kids, I’m pretty sure this is exactly what our lives will look like. The scenes that are just Roseanne and John Goodman are pretty much what it looks like now.