There was once a time and day when celebrities were virtually untouchable — and though it may still seem like it’s that way sometimes — the reality is things have changed. As movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein faces class action lawsuits for his sexual assaults, ABC has demonstrated that they will not tolerate racism with the cancellation of “Roseanne” last week following the star’s offensive Twitter rant.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey in a statement that CNN reported.
CNN stated that the “Roseanne” revival was just noted for pulling in huge ratings prior to the star’s racist Twitter tirade against former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, showing that doing the right thing might in fact be able to trump making money for the industry — at least sometimes.
The network’s choice to cancel the show despite its refound success has garnered positive feedback and the hope that the tolerance for racism (and hopefully sexism) in the industry is rapidly dissipating.
Unsurprisingly, Roseanne Barr met the media backlash with excuses, blaming the usage of sleeping pill Ambien for her actions, as well as insisting she isn’t really racist — it was just a joke.
This excuse has dropped from numerous mouths, and it’s time to put it to rest. Even if said in a joking manner (which Barr’s clearly mean-spirited and spiteful tweet was not), using racial stereotyping is damaging because it reinforces the belief that said stereotypes are normal and acceptable to spread. It gives power to the stereotyping, which in turn reduces the group of people being targeted by lumping them into a collective group stamped with a negative connotation that has nothing to do with the individual.
And this type of damaging language should not be okay, especially from public figures who do in fact bear more responsibility than the average citizen, since they have platforms that enable their voices to be readily spread.
Racism requires an honest dialogue with both the self and others. Many people are not responsible for their hatred, since racial prejudices are often something that was taught by a role model figure or embedded due to the environment one is exposed to. But it is not enough to blame your upbringing for your damaging beliefs, words and actions. People need to challenge themselves to confront their beliefs and eliminate those which are filled with prejudice.
This is not an easy job, nor can it happen instantly. But the first step is recognizing that one is wrong and honestly seek change. Barr’s excuses were as pathetic as her tweet. The good news is that her wrongdoings led to her losing her show. This not only damaged her livelihood, but, unfortunately, that of her friends and coworkers. Perhaps this will provide a wake-up call that the cleared troubled actress desperately needs.
This isn’t the first time a celebrity has lost his or her job due to the inability to stifle their racism. Food Network staple Paula Deen’s career took an enormous hit when she lost her show and numerous endorsement deals and faced the threat of a lawsuit following her admitting to using racial slurs. Charlie Sheen was fired from “Two and a Half Men” following anti-semetic comments about the show’s creator. Alec Baldwin came under intense media fire after a homophobic rant against a photographer. Bill Maher lost his show on ABC after a number of politically incorrect comments, despite trying to brand himself as capable of making inappropriate and risque statements.
The bottom line is this: no matter who you are, you can be replaced. Racism is no longer tolerated. Neither are excuses.
Emma Polini is the managing editor of the Van Alstyne Leader, Anna-Melissa Tribune, Prosper Press and Bryan County News. What do you want in your paper? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know.