Roseanne Barr: From Deification to Disgust
A heroine? A goddess? Or just a pig?
BY JAMES TARANTO
New York City Tribune, Wednesday, August 1, 1990
The New York Post dubbed her "Roseanne Barr-f" and put her on the front page for two consecutive days. President Bush said her horrifying rendition of the National Anthem, after which she grabbed her crotch and spat, was "disgraceful."
Aren't we taking Roseanne Barr a little too seriously? Bush's comment was indisputably accurate, but does this crude and corpulent comic really merit the attention of the President of the United States? Probably not.
But Bush and the Post aren't the first to take Barr too seriously. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Adair Lara, for example, thinks Barr is a good role model for her children. In an article entitled "Why Roseanne is a heroine" (written, one should note, before the recent commotion at Jack Murphy Stadium), she explains: "I don't want my kids to swear at the world and belch and fart and stuff, but I want them to be this real, this honest, when they grow up. I want them to like themselves this much."
If Barr as heroine and role model isn't enough for you, how about Barr as goddess? "Zeitgeist Goddess," to be exact--that's how she was characterized on the cover of The New Republic in April.
Author Barbara Ehrenreich, who is something of a fixture in liberal opinion journals, found in Barr a "great working-class spokesperson." In extended review of Barr's book Roseanne: My Life as a Woman, Ehrenreich writes that Barr represents "the hopeless underclass of the female sex: polyester-clad, overweight occupants of the slow track; fast-food waitresses, factory workers, housewives, members of the invisible pink-collar army; the despised, the jilted, the underpaid."
Yes, Ehrenreich informs us, Barr is a master of "the kind of class-militant populism that the Democrats, most of them anyway, never seem to get right."
Aspiring young class-militant populists will be interested to learn of Roseanne's path to the top. She left home in 1971 at age 19 to become a hippie. She ended up working at a feminist bookstore in Denver, where she developed what Ehrenreich calls a "special brand of proletarian feminism."
Explains Barr in her book: "I began to speak as a working-class woman who is a mother, a woman who no longer believed in change, progress, growth or hope."
Barr became a stand-up comic and offered her audience such gems as this: Heckled by a man in the audience for being insufficiently feminine, she turned to him and declared, "Suck my dick."
"Yeah, she's crude," concedes Ehrenreich, "but so are the realities of pain and exploitation she seeks to remind us of."
You may have begun to suspect by now that Barr has some sort of systematic political plan to ameliorate the woes of the working class. Nope. "Not given to didacticism," Ehrenreich reports, "Barr offers no programmatic ways out. Surely, we are led to conclude, equal pay would help, along with child care, and so on. But Barr leaves us hankering for a quality of change that goes beyond mere reform: for a world in which even the lowliest among us--the hash-slinger, the sock-finder, the factory hand--will be recognized as the poet she truly is."
Barr, the porcine poet, was roundly booed by a crowd who had come out to see a Padres double-header on "Working Women's Night." She left the Left with another fallen idol.
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