Popularity of Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee shows how crude our culture has become: Ted Diadiun

June 6, 2018 GMT

Popularity of Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee shows how crude our culture has become: Ted Diadiun

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Sometime in the early ’90s, I picked up one of those ubiquitous America Online CDs, loaded it into my computer and established the only personal email address I’ve ever had.  

As technology and fashion have evolved and overtaken the onetime cutting-edge Internet provider, let’s just say I haven’t evolved along with them. I’ve taken plenty of abuse for that. My son-in-law, who does mystifying work for a medical software company, has told me that he doesn’t even open job applications from people with AOL addresses, because it reveals them as too backward to work there. I don’t think he was kidding.  

But I have stuck with AOL for two reasons: First – lethargy (and a fear that none of my old friends would be able to find me if I switched after all these years). Second – apathy (and a suspicion that without the Huffington Post folks who populate the AOL site with reports on popular culture, I would be even less equipped to make my way through the world of social media than I am now).

How would I have found out who all those first-names-only, first-last-name combos and combo couples are (were) without HuffPo? Beyonce and Justin and Snooki and Nick and J-Lo and JLaw and ScarJo and Brangelina and Kimye and TomKat?

I still secretly admire people who don’t know any of these, and once considered it a badge of honor that I had to ask, “Who is ‘Pink?’ And why?” But now I know ’em all, although I’m still trying to sort through all those Kristens and Jennifers.

So that’s how I came to be aware of the recent misadventures of a couple of comedians, Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee. (As long as we’re on the subject, Roseanne can usually get by with only her first name. Samantha must use both names, although last year Time magazine included her in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world, which says more about Time than it does about Samantha Bee.)

I’ll assume you know what happened, even if you don’t rely on AOL/HuffPo for your popular culture insights. But in a nutshell:

For reasons still unexplained, last Tuesday Barr posted an unprompted, insulting and racist comment on her Twitter account, comparing Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to Barack Obama, to an ape.

The following day, on Bee’s weekly “Full Frontal” show on TBS, she expressed her opposition to U.S. immigration policy by directing the most vile word one can hurl at a woman toward President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.

Both women immediately offered their “sincere” apologies, as is the custom in these matters.

ABC promptly canceled Barr’s show. TBS coughed into its corporate hands and said, well, what Bee said shouldn’t have been aired, it was our fault too and we regret it. But the show goes on.

Since then, people have been trying to plumb some sort of message from the mess by mashing the two together. Conservative Barr vs. liberal Bee. The conservative gets fired but the liberal doesn’t. Which outrage was most outrageous.

A few thoughts:

First of all, they won’t mash. The only thing these two have in common is that they are both loud, annoying, crass and profane people who said – far from the first time – something offensive. But Barr’s was a Tweet, unrelated to her show; Bee’s was part of her show. Barr’s was racist; Bee’s was vulgar. Barr’s was impulsive; Bee’s was scripted.

Second, this isn’t Them vs. Us, a liberal/conservative issue. Barr says she voted for Trump (mainly because she didn’t like Hillary Clinton), but that doesn’t make her a conservative, or a Republican. Trump isn’t a conservative either, and is barely a Republican. In 2012, after failing to gain the Green Party nomination for president, Barr received almost 70,000 votes as the candidate of the far-left Peace and Freedom Party, with antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan as her running mate.

Which was worse? Does it matter?

Barr’s tweet was revelatory and needs no elaboration. Shed no tears for her cancellation.

Bee’s was no less revelatory, but while Barr was reviled nationwide, Bee received cheers. Listen as the audience roars with laughter when she says on her show, referring to a tweeted photo of Ivanka and her young son, “As one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration policies, you feckless c--t ... put on something tight and low-cut and tell your father to f-----g stop it.”

Who laughs at something like that? If you’re looking for an example of how far we have fallen in our idea of public civility, just watch the clip and listen to the reaction.

Finally: Why does anyone care what Roseanne Barr or Samantha Bee thinks? Who watches these crude shows?

I don’t know. I’ve taken an informal survey, and thus far I’m happy to report that I haven’t found any Bee or Barr fans among my friends (and if you are my friend and do enjoy them, please keep it to yourself).

As for me, I’ll get all I need to know about them when I sign on to AOL to retrieve my personal emails. Way more than I need to know, in fact.

Ted Diadiun is a member of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.


Have something to say about this topic? Use the comments to share your thoughts. Then, stay informed when readers reply to your comments by using the “Follow” option at the top of the comments, and look for updates via the small blue bell in the lower right as you look at more stories on cleveland.com.