Rosanne Barr and now Samantha Bee, does the punishment fit the crime?
You may have heard that Roseanne Barr made a horrible comment/joke on her Twitter account - this lead to the cancelation of her show, Rosanne.
Then, Samantha Bee made a horrible comment/joke on her show about Ivanka Trump that has prompted an apology, and an advertiser exit (so far).
If Samantha Bee is canceled too, does the punishment fit? Did Rosanne deserve to see her show canceled? Is there (or should there be) a limit to what comedians can say on TV or online?
Note: Typed this out on mobile, so may need corrections later. Edit: Added links, corrections. Edit again, update Bee's details.
You're equivocating. Using similar language when they are not even remotely the same.
Roseanne was being racist among other things. Samantha basically called someone feckless and attached an additional 4-letter modifier.
I agree, making a horrible comment/joke about someone is one thing, bringing in race is another.
It is safe to say many more people, on both sides, agree with the way the Roseanne situation was handled by ABC
Plain and simple, this day in age you can not be a racist in a public forum as a celebrity and expect to keep your job. You can call people names all you want, it has happened forever, it's when things like race/orientation are brought into the insult, then there is not much argument to be had in their favor.
I agree. I've also been thinking ever since I posted and I also want to include this.
Roseanne was making comments about someone for who they were. Samantha was making comments about someone for what they did that Samantha took exception to.
Exactly. Making a racist remark is not the same as, in Bee's case, just using an over the top swear word.
Personally I don't agree with going too far with swearing when you're trying to make a point, if only because it turns people off and takes the focus away from the actual point you're making. Then you have to waste time defending yourself, having given your detactors something they can use to undermine your point via character assasination. It's counter-productive.
As a comedian, it would have been effective to use a funny label, which people can at least repeat and associate with the point she was making. Bee may have done it on purpose to make it front page news, but it's not worth it - how many times can you use that "technique" until it's not effective anymore?
Also... comedian Jim Jeffreys says c*t on his show from time to time, and nobody really cares. It's part of his act. As an Australian, it's not exactly uncommon here (same in the U.K. I think). So the only reason people are making a fuss about Bee is because it was unexpected from her, not because of the word itself.
There is a long history of likening black people to apes in an attempt to dehumanize them. Offering an example of how a white person was likened to an ape doesn't negate decades of history.
Roseanne also has a storied history comparing black people to apes. She compared Susan Rice to "a man with big swinging ape balls." She knows what she's doing.
And, you're absolutely correct, being deliberately obtuse to decades of history comparing black people to monkeys and apes does not absolve the racial animus present in Roseanne's commentary.
Roseanne has a history of racism on her personal twitter and attacking non-white people by comparing them to apes, here. This kind of talk (animalization, especially black people to apes) has a long, well-documented history of hatred and racism.
The context of Samantha's joke is that Trump's policy and actions are directly at odds with many of the things Ivanka says she cares about. Ivanka has seemingly not done anything to push back about this juxtaposition. Ivanka is the walking definition of feckless in this context. Also Trump has made numerous comments that imply incestuous intent about his daughter, so it's not like Samantha pulled that out of thin air, especially in this context.
What was the context for Roseanne's comments?
I also found it curious that you would quote Samantha's actual words but not Roseanne's.
E: clarity, sorry
Perhaps you are right. But comparing a black person to an ape is absolutely inherently racist, unless you just arrived on this planet and know absolutely nothing of the social history of North America.
I don't know if Rosanne should have been cancelled. That's up to the network. I do know that comedians say extremely non politically correct things fairly regularly. But you can't convince me that what Rosanne said wasn't racist. That's a weak argument.
Why is it important to clarify? The context here was clearly racist, so what does it matter if you can make a non-racist comparison?
Nothing in those movies applies, she was drawing a comparison based on skin colour and facial structure, a tactic long done to dehumanize black people.
Comparisons themselves may not be strictly inherently racist, but the context that Rosanne employed it in does make it inherently racist.
You're correct about the last part. I hadn't originally even bothered to look up the whole Samantha quote because I basically agree with what she said and found the snippet accurate. That she used "cunt" is more or less in line with feckless asshole that I have in my head, just with a different crass word at the end.
I generally have no hold ups about people slinging asshole, dick, cunt, fuckwad, shitgibbon, etc. around provided they're attacking people for things they've done and not who a person is.
The culmination of all of what I've said is why Samantha gets a small tutting and a pass but Roseanne gets a show cancelled. Context, target, and specific reason why the insult was made.
The double standard is the biggest thing to me. I think what Rosanne did was in bad taste but its not any different to the plethera of comedians insulting trump for looking like an Oompa loompa and even worse, insulting his family.
I keep running into you and agreeing with everything you have to say, I almost think you're an anarcho-capitalist like me.
Is that a dirty word here like on reddit?
There is no double standard, and it is completely different. Racism in North America is a serious issue, one that is on fire right now (and rightfully so). You're not taking into account the inherent problem of racism: there is a very real power differential that black and brown people are struggling under. Trump stands to lose nothing by being made fun of. Black people can and are dying because of racism.
I don't disagree that the people insulting Trump for his appearance and especially those who insult his family solely for being related to him are in the wrong, but it is different. Calling him an oompa loompa or making fun of his appearance isn't bringing race into it by using something that's been used as a racist attack and dogwhistle for decades.
If Roseanne had just insulted Valerie Jarrett's appearance, it would be in poor taste but it wouldn't have led to the outcry we're seeing now, and she'd probably still have a show. Calling someone the love child of "Planet of the Apes and the Muslim Brotherhood" isn't insulting their appearance, it's a bigoted attempt to insult someone based on race and religion.
Ordinarily, I'd agree with you. But words don't just have the meanings ascribed to them in the dictionary. Language is a living, breathing thing, and the historical and cultural connotations that words carry are often more important than their dictionary meanings.
To ignore that is to ignore half of the argument -- Barr made comments that have clear and well-established historical connotations. In this particular context, the black people == monkeys insinuation ropes in themes of dehumanization that have been used to demean and subjugate the black community since the days of slavery. Calling Bush a monkey doesn't call up those same implications.
So, yes, double standard, but maybe more when ideologies are factored in.
But, I think one core thing here is intent, and this is clearly being conflated with the content of the messages (which were jokes). They should probably be separate if we're to get anywhere in this complicated landscape.
Rosanne = Clearly racist with history of this. Intent was probably racist without the careful dog whistle applied by her "handlers".
Bee = Clearly incendiary with a history of this to entertain. Intent was probably not to encourage real incest or say Ivanka actually resembles a feckless c**t in real life (whatever that is).
I agree. With racism aside, I don't think people should be losing their jobs because they offended someone. The biggest problem of this is that people have to start watering down their comments because they are afraid their opinion will cause companies to pull their advertising because they don't want to be associated with the person who offended someone, let alone it giving people the impression that the company supports them.
People are all to quick these days about trying to make someone lose their job because they didn't like what someone else said etc.
Due to the huge growth of social media now, some people in this world now seem to make it their life long mission to disrupting and destroying the daily lives of people all because they simply disagreed with their point of view or actions.
I don't think you'll find many tears shed for people who are racist and nazi-sympathizers that have their lives tuned upside down.
This is society's response to bad amd undesirable elements.
The KKK wore hoods for a reason.
That 4 letter modifier I remind everyone, was also used by a certain right wing musician toward Hillary Clinton, without causing similar outrage, nor an apology, and in fact said musician was later invited to the White House.
Which is why I laughed so hard about the claims of double standards elsewhere in this thread. I found it incredibly ironic.
I use similar language to draw parallels, not to say the content of the comments was equal. By both comedian's subsequent public statements these "comments" were described by them as "jokes". You can take from there (as everyone else has - probably for good reason), but it doesn't mean I have to. I am, after all, just trying to draw parallels here - the entire point of my post whether you agree or not.
Fair enough. I vehemently disagree and took offense at the way you phrased it. To me it seemed incredibly reminiscent of the way people provoke responses in bad faith.
It seems like a disservice to the topic by equivocating without even a small disclaimer or distinction in the question up front.
Really? You were offended about how I phrased this? What sort of disclaimer could I possibly have added? Isn't the point of asking a question sometimes to provoke a response? Isn't that the genesis of discussion? Is it that you think that my drawing some (or any) parallel here is equivalent to manipulation of some sort? What about being correct is bad faith (though admittedly, the parallels are my own subjectiveness, I made an effort to try and be correct).
You should have included the comments or at least the gist of the specific comments in the post.
It's an extremely common tactic when it comes to bad faith actors to draw parallels but ignore further context or detail.
The actual comments made.
They way you did it, yes. You didn't give full information, only the implication that they were pretty much the same type of statement. There's a rather large and significant difference between the two: one was crass and racist, the other was just crass.
This is extremely presumptuous of you.
Was on a mobile phone, added comments when I was able to. Still working through this mobile interface.
In fact, I saw paralells (not equvalancies, I have never said I think these comments were the same, nor do I, umh, think that). I made an effort to be as correct as possible to avoid overly pedantic responses.. but in that regard I clearly failed lol.
Also, just thought it seemed worthy of discussion, and given the number of responses here, (even with my imperfect way of expressing the point) seem to validate that thought.
I haven't heard about Samantha Bee yet, so I can't give an opinion on that, but people seem to misunderstand why Rosanne got her show canceled. She didn't just say racist things once, she has a long history of doing that; Vox covers it pretty well. This was just the final straw.
Sam called Ivanka a "feckless cunt" (which she is) and said she should sleep with her dad (remember, Trump wants to sleep with his daughter..) to get things done.
Bee's comments and Barr's comments are nothing alike, what-so-ever and anyone who thinks so clearly doesn't understand context.
Bee wasn't racist. I don't even see what she said as being that bad. The president called the one right before him worse for years.
I don't see it as punishment so much as consequences. They are free to make these remarks, no one is denying them that right, but if you are going to anger your employer's customers to the point that it hurts them financially I don't see it as unreasonable for that employer to let you go.
This is the thing for me. Networks make financial decisions. ABC decided they stood to lose more money by keeping Roseanne's show on than by cancelling it. Whatever happens to Samantha Bee's show will be a financial decision. Goodwill is a business asset. If one of your employees is costing you more in goodwill than they're worth, you can them.
As for this language in the public space, I'm with Bill Maher: we're becoming too easily offended and have weaponized being offended for political reasons. It has become counter-productive. People should understand the Times vs Sullivan ruling and what has become of that. Basically, if you put yourself out there, you should be able to take it or you should stay home and binge-watch sanitized '50s sitcoms.
Roseanne's comment was both cruel and racist.
Samantha Bee's was just cruel, so I think there's a difference.
EDIT: Thinking about it some more. I'm not sure how I feel about shows being cancelled for racist/incendiary comments. I think for regular people, it would be great if we could call each other out on comments like this, maybe have a discussion/learning experience, and then move on. This would allow for growth. However, I'm not sure famous people should be held to the same standard. Celebrities have a large following and some sort of power/influence over that following. Not "punishing" them might normalize these sort of cruel comments and give them a platform. At the end of the day though, celebrities are just people, so maybe giving them a chance to reform publicly would be best. /end ramble
To be clear though, the networks are not "punishing" them. They are managing their public relations which ultimately affect their bottom line. I think that is missing a bit from this conversation. This isn't censorship, this isn't a court of law, it's companies choosing to end a contract (or not) that they deem as a toxic asset. It's hard to even compare the outcome of these two instances because one was ABC (Disney) and one is TBS (Time Warner). Two separate companies that may have different tolerances for controversial employees.
This situation has devolved to a black and white left vs right, as most things do these days, with little room for nuance.
This is exactly correct. If ABC didn't cancel Roseanne, people would have seen it as implicitly condoning her words. Could they have taken other actions that also showed that they don't condone what she said? Sure, but then people would have said they were just paying lip service to placate their viewers. And they'd be right.
You you think that both shows should be canceled as a result? Was Rosanne’s cancelation justified?
Just added an edit
I wish as a society we had a better process for dealing with things like racism and #metoo issues.
The courts have largely failed in this regard. For many infractions, going to the courts is over the top. Handling the issue yourself is out of question. There is no other option. No proper outlet to handles these disputes.
Corporations have stepped in and started firing misbehavers. It seems like a backwards way to handle it, but it's better than the "do nothing" approach we effectively were pursuing.
I don't know what the answer is. I think all the controversy is drawing attention to the fact that we don't have a good way to process these kinds of disputes.
Until we figure it out, while firing might be overboard (and may carry collateral damage), I think it's far superior to the alternative of doing nothing. If we don't push back on inappropriate behavior somehow, we can expect a lot more inappropriate behavior.
I have not, if anyone has a source it would be much appreciated. Nevertheless, I can comment on one sentence you said:
I'm personally on the more absolute side of free speech advocacy, and I'd say there should be no limit to what anyone says, so long as it doesn't infringe with someone else's rights. That means you can say pretty much whatever you want, so long as you don't slander people, or incite direct violence to them.
As I've not heard about this case, and as such not read the comment in question, I don't know if this incident was slander or inciting direct violence. If it's not, I'm most likely of the opinion that she should be allowed to say whatever she said.
Agreed. But there is no freedom from consequences.
Your link has become part of the quote, so I almost missed it. Thanks for the link, though!
Indeed, and we shouldn't want that. After reading the article, I don't think the tweets were that bad, but I do feel that this wasn't a one-off incident. I can understand that some action has been taken, albeit a little harsh in my opinion.
I'm surprised there hasn't been a mention of Roseanne's claim of being under the influence of Ambien (a hypnotic) at the time she made the tweet (2am). She made a full apology, and her career appears to have been ruined by this incident. I don't really think that Roseanne is stupid enough to think making a racist tweet is more important than everything she's lost in the past couple of days. I strongly suspect that she was indeed under the influence of Ambien, and did not believe the tweet was racist when she posted it.
I suppose if I have learned anything from this incident, it is that apologies are no longer meaningful to people who have the power to ruin your life (hollywood and news media), so they're probably a bad idea even if you actually are sorry.
Was she under ambien back in 2012 when she said the same thing about Susan Rice? Barr has a history of racist comments. You can't honestly believe this was a "mistake". And then of course was this picture she did for a shoot for a magazine.
lol, that image is pretty funny considering roseanne herself is jewish. :P I don't know the context for it, but it certainly hits a couple of joke criteria: 1. it is taboo (dressing up like adolf hitler) 2. it is surreal/bizarre (hitler as a woman, hitler baking cookies, the cookies are people-shaped). IMO it's comparable to dankula's nazi pug joke. It doesn't strengthen nazism, it mocks it.
I don't know the context of the susan rice tweet. If she has a history of racist comments (I do not know the veracity of this claim), why have none of them ruined her life like this one has?
With the reboot running and the viewer numbers it was pulling, all the eyes of the industry were there for this comment.