Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"Roseanne" Tackles the "Muslim Next Door" Trope -- And Stumbles Over the "I Lost My Job to Those Darned Illegals" Side-Trope

I'm still watching ABC's "Roseanne" revival series. Mostly, I've enjoyed it. The Becky surrogacy story line resolved itself fairly quickly, which was a good reminder that the original "Roseanne" show was good for introducing concepts and then scattering them well before you thought that it would happen. Grandmother Bev has returned to the show and moved in with Jackie. David returned briefly and gave us some reasons behind his abandonment of Darlene and their kids. And we've met up with several of their old friends each week. And all of this has been good stuff.

This week swerved away from the family and friends and veered into the realm of the uncomfortable and socio-political. The Conners have new neighbors: a Muslim family. And Roseanne is terribly uncomfortable with them -- largely because they have a ton of fertilizer stacked up beside their garage. Because terrorist bomb-makers would leave tons of fertilizer stacked up beside their garage for everyone to see.

DJ asks his parents to watch his daughter Mary for the night while he goes to a neighboring community for an appointment at his VA Clinic. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad to see DJ again. He's barely been on the show since the program returned. But I got tired of hearing about how challenging it was to get in to see a "cheap doctor" at the VA. I mean, I get that there are issues with getting appointments with the VA. But my experience with the VA is that you don't have to fight over open spots at the VA when you actually have appointments there. Maybe things are different in Illinois than they are in Iowa. But that's been my experience.

Roseanne gets tasked with making sure that Mary gets to Skype with her mother over in Afghanistan at 2 AM (Middle East time). But she messed up their bills and so that wifi went out at the last minute forcing Roseanne and Jackie to go over to the Muslim neighbors' home (at 2 AM) to ask for their wifi code. All the while acting like jerks and implying that Samir and Fatima are a couple of potential terrorists.

The Muslims finally gave the Conners their wifi code and Mary got her call. The next day, Roseanne ran into Fatima at the store trying to purchase rotissary chicken with her EBT card. The cashier began insulting the Muslim mom and Roseanne finally developed some empathy. She agreed to use some of her own EBT money to pay off the balance on Fatima's grocery bill and then did her best to put the cashier in her place -- by implying that Samir would blow up the grocery store with all of his fertilizer if the cashier wasn't nicer to his wife.

I understand that "Roseanne" was trying to tackle the topical issue of the "Muslim next door" (Jon's Note: That's topical, right? Well, actually...) But the whole process of Roseanne learning to trust her Muslim neighbor just seemed fake and awkward. Especially to anyone who's spent any time glancing through Roseanne Barr's Twitter feed. It might have been better to just sidestep the entire issue altogether. Then again, most likely Samir and Fatima was move away and get replaced by some new neighbors in a couple of episodes. That's pretty much the routine for neighbors on "Roseanne."

And any pass one might have given "Roseanne" this week for their shaky handling of her Muslim neighbors pretty much got tossed to the side by the B-story line featuring Dan's business losing a major sidewalling job to a business that hires "illegals." (Jon's Note: *Eyerolls*)

Anyway, next week's episode will focus on Roseanne going under the knife for a knee surgery. Which hints that it will focus more on the family and less on the Muslims next door. One can only hope...

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