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Comments: Week of May 30, 2011


1. Roseanne Barr’s essay on the lessons she learned about Hollywood as she fought her way to the top of the sitcom game (And I Should Know,” May 23) not only was an immediate hit with readers but continued to attract record numbers of viewers all week—unusual for a story days after its initial publication. It was admired for the same feisty honesty that characterized her show Roseanne. BoingBoing said it was “terrific”; Time’s Newsfeed Blog called it “hard-­hitting” and “deliciously funny and critical.” Salon considered it “fearless,” and Jezebel “awe-­inspiring.” The blog Feministe declared it “the best thing you will read all day,” and Bink blogger at Daily Kos said it was “the best thing that I have read all year.” This despite, or possibly because of, the fact that, as Time pointed out, “Roseanne doesn’t come across entirely sympathetically.” Or as the Daily Kos writer put it, “She comes across as so completely sensible and yet so completely radical.” Much of this radical sense comes from the feminist interpretation she put on the events of her career. As the blog Feministing puts it, speaking of the character Roseanne on the sitcom as well as Barr herself, “She was funny, powerful, respected by her family, and real in ways that most TV shows are not. The family dealt with their issues in a way that was often painful to watch—with yelling and high-pitched emotion. It was painful because it had resonance beyond its role as a sitcom … Her article shows that despite what showbiz has put her through, she’s still very much the same Roseanne from her show—strong, abrasive, and unafraid to give people hell.” Still, there were critics. Julia Raeside, in the Guardian’s TV & ­Radio Blog, noted that the article “had many of my feminist friends on their feet, applauding,” but she felt that Barr seemed to relish her “bratty behavior” a bit too much. “Barr was given a perfect platform to talk about the obvious inequality in the industry … but instead she shouts down anyone who disagrees with her and calls them a woman-hater. Flying the working-class, feminist flag with one hand, while kvetching about not being [able] to get a table at her favourite celebrity restaurant with the other. In Barr’s case, it’s not simply about her being silenced because she’s a woman. If your method of communicating is shouting, sulking, and threats of violence, of course you won’t get what you want. Or worse, you will, along with a reputation as a capricious tyrant.” The producer Denise Moss, who worked on Roseanne for, as she put it on the blog Ricochet, “one long, long season,” said that where Barr was correct was “in her main gripe that she didn’t share credit for creation of the show,” since it came out of her stand-up act, and that “Hollywood remains the most sexist of businesses.” Still, she saw “hypocrisy” in the fact that “in all the years she did reign supreme, firing and hiring showrunners on a whim, she never had a woman running the show. Not even close. And there were plenty who were qualified. No, she liked being the queen bee in that little high-school hive.” Some commenters on wrote that Barr had become “bitter,” “grating” or “megalomaniacal,” but many were just happy to hear the behind-the-scenes story of a sitcom they found especially meaningful. As one put it: “Hell yeah, Roseanne! I started watching your show when I was 6 years old. It’s refreshing to hear your honest, shameless voice preaching important truths through these pages. We need a working-class revival.”

2. As for the issue’s cover girl, Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler (Welcome to Her Island,” May 23), there was no dissent whatsoever in the discussion of her interview with Kera Bolonik. The closest thing to controversy is whether or not she should have left SNL. Says one commenter, “I ­really miss her doing SNL, because it allowed her to do a variety of characters (and Amy’s characters were standouts because they all had balls)”; another wrote, “I’m glad she left SNL to do this, because this is so much more pleasurable.” And on top of that, said another commenter, “Amy’s acting has been top-notch this season, and I hope she gets recognized for it.” Overall, the response to her was summed up by this reader: “I absolutely love the always hilarious and adorable Amy Poehler! I wanna give her a big hug.”

3. Glee’s Chris Colfer’s brief memoir of his newfound celebrity (Babe in the Woods,” May 23) was strangely more divisive. One commenter criticized him for being “rude, arrogant, bitchy” and declared that he “doesn’t deserve his fans because he’s not grateful for them.” Others wonder if in fact it’s accurate to say that his is one of the “first positive portrayals of a gay person on a TV show,” pointing to forerunners on Will & Grace, Gossip Girl, and Grey’s Anatomy: “He’s a great character and example, but he is hardly the first.” Still, Colfer has many devotees, like this one: “I love Chris Colfer! Pure talent, super adorable, and such a beautiful soul!” Another admirer was more protective: “Chris is amazing, and I really hope that these fan girls will settle down. He’s a person with feelings and has a right to privacy.”

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