'The Conners' killing off Roseanne sets Twitter ablaze with praise and anger

George Back
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

The reboot of Roseanne, now known as The Conners, took on the heavy subject matter of opioid addiction in America. While it was initially thought that the titular character of Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr) had passed away from a heart attack in her sleep, the coroner revealed that her death was the result of an opioid overdose.

With opioid addiction becoming a crisis in the U.S., many appreciated the way The Conners tackled the subject.

But there are always two sides to the same coin and many also found the topic of opioid addiction and death to be too heavy for a primetime network comedy.

After the episode aired, Roseanne Barr tweeted, “I AIN’T DEAD, BITCHES!!!!” And Barr, along with her rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, issued the following statement:

“While we wish the very best for the cast and production crew of The Conners, all of whom are deeply dedicated to their craft and were Roseanne’s cherished colleagues, we regret that ABC chose to cancel Roseanne by killing off the Roseanne Conner character. That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show.

“This was a choice the network did not have to make. Roseanne was the only show on television that directly addressed the deep divisions threatening the very fabric of our society. Specifically, the show promoted the message that love and respect for one another’s personhood should transcend differences in background and ideological discord. The show brought together characters of different political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds in one, unified family, a rarity in modern American entertainment. Above all else, the show celebrated a strong, matriarchal woman in a leading role, something we need more of in our country.

“Through humor and a universally relatable main character, the show represented a weekly teaching moment for our nation. Yet it is often following an inexcusable – but not unforgivable – mistake that we can discover the most important lesson of all: Forgiveness.  After repeated and heartfelt apologies, the network was unwilling to look past a regrettable mistake, thereby denying the twin American values of both repentance and forgiveness. In a hyper-partisan climate, people will sometimes make the mistake of speaking with words that do not truly reflect who they are. However, it is the power of forgiveness that defines our humanity.

“Our society needs to heal on many levels. What better way for healing than a shared moment, once a week, where we could have all enjoyed a compelling storyline featuring a witty character – a woman – who America connected with, not in spite of her flaws, but because of them. The cancellation of Roseanne is an opportunity squandered due in equal parts to fear, hubris, and a refusal to forgive.”

The episode also touched on the issue of affordable healthcare, as it was revealed that Roseanne received pain pills from a well-meaning neighbor. The neighbor, played by Mary Steenburgen, said “Nobody can afford their meds. We all help each other… Rosie needed painkillers, I had some, so I gave them to her.” The neighbor also explained how many in the neighborhood share drugs from heart medicine to anti-anxiety medication.

The original Roseanne was known for tackling important topics with comedy and heart, and it seems like that concept has carried over to The Conners.

The Conners airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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