Reporters and commentators were abuzz with news that the ‘Roseanne’ revival on ABC proved itself to be a ratings juggernaut, breathing life into the dying broadcast cable industry. The revival picks up twenty years after where the original ‘Roseanne’ left off. In its first run, from 1988-1997, ‘Roseanne’ was popular. It was #1 in the Nielsen ratings during its first year. TV Guide chose one of its episodes for its list of 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time when it compiled the list in 1993.
In the two decades ‘Roseanne’ was off the air, a lot changed in the television industry. More and more viewers switched from broadcast networks like ABC to other cable stations, premium stations like HBO, and eventually to online streaming services, like Netflix. The gravitation away from traditional networks like ABC is part of why the enormous success of the ‘Roseanne’ arrival has attracted national attention.
Yet, there’s another reason. The show is inherently political. Roseanne Barr, a former presidential candidate herself, plays the main character of the show and has become an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump. The show’s Conner family has long reflected the type of white working-class family that tended to support Trump and largely propelled him to victory. Many expected that the modern Conner family would again bring flyover country back into the national spotlight. It has.
The new season’s first episode brings politics to the forefront. Roseanne says she considers her sister, Jackie, dead because she voted for Hillary Clinton. Jackie later reveals she actually voted for Jill Stein because Roseanne made her doubt her support for Hillary. When Jackie shows up for dinner, she is wearing one of the famous ‘pussy hats’ that were popularized during the Women’s March. Her shirt is pink with the words “Nasty Woman” in bold lettering. At dinner, Roseanne thanks God for “making America great again” while saying grace.
Like the original broadcast, the show also confronts pressing cultural issues. Roseanne’s grandson, Mark, identifies as a man and is biologically male, but chooses to wear skirts and other clothing typically associated with women. The season’s second episode primarily deals with Mark going to school and the Conner family’s effort to support their grandson even though his feminine style is clearly outside of what they expected from a grandson.
All of the national commentary about the show’s meaning left The Hilltopper wondering a simple question: What do Saint Anselm College students make of the ‘Roseanne’ revival? Survey respondents represent a limited sample of the College and the results are not scientific, but they offer some possible answers to the question.
Of the 39 people who took the survey, 59% of respondents said they had seen or were going to watch the ‘Roseanne’ revival. Forty-one-percent of respondents said they had not seen it and were not planning on watching it. Nearly half of those who said they were going to watch it or had watched it said they liked the show’s political message and that was a motivating factor for why they saw it. One-third of those who watched it said they watched because they used to watch ‘Roseanne’ reruns while growing up.
Surprisingly, the majority of respondents who said they watched the show for its political message were Democrats. All of the Democrats who liked the show’s message identified as politically moderate. Those who identified as liberal or very liberal were significantly less likely to identify with the show’s political message, as one would expect.
For most of the Saint Anselm students who took the survey, the politics of ‘Roseanne’ did not weigh heavily on their decision to watch the show.
Given the tendency of college students to stream shows from Netflix and Hulu, it is interesting that nearly 3 in 5 Saint Anselm students turned on the television to watch the ‘Roseanne’ revival. This statistic is likely skewed. Those who took The Hilltopper’s survey likely had some kind of relationship to the show. The survey was made available on The Hilltopper’s Facebook page. Students who have gone out of their way to “like” the page in the first few days of its creation are likely more well-read on national news than the general student population.
The show was successful even in the key demographic, which includes college students. It seems natural that the show, which broke a record for being viewed within the first 72-hours of airing, would also trickle into the Saint Anselm community. Saint Anselm’s response to the show seems perfectly average.
(The picture accompanying this article was taken from Vanity Fair).