In the third episode of the show’s new season, “Roseanne Gets the Chair,” Roseanne (played by Roseanne Barr) and Dan (John Goodman) wake up after having fallen asleep on the couch. Dan comments that “We missed all the shows about black and Asian families,” in an apparent reference to ABC’s Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat.
“They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up,” Roseanne quips.
In a series of tweets, Yu commented “At the very least, it’s reductive and belittling, as if to say those shows are nothing more than ‘Black’ and ‘Asian’ in their existence.” He added his opinion that the joke seems to suggest that these shows only exist to normalize minorities, which ignores any aspects of characterization, plot or humor that makes them unique.
He also referred to it as “one stinky little shit sandwich of a joke that ABC allowed to be served in their own restaurant,” due to the fact that, in both real life and in the show, Roseanne voted for Donald Trump.
While Roseanne is not an extremely political program, the first episode of its new season featured Roseanne having a feud with her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), who supported Hillary Clinton. It took no sides and had the pair reconcile, but many reviewers slammed the show for its positive portrayal of one of the president’s supporters.
Of course, this itself resulted in a backlash—many question why people should boycott a show for having a character support the president, given that, obviously, about half of the country agrees with that position. Some have even suggested that its massive success—becoming the most-watched sitcom in three years—can be attributed partly to lower-class whites flocking to a show which portrays them in a sympathetic light.
The joke about Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat was only ten seconds out of the episode, but it reinforces the show’s controversial status. For what it’s worth, in the revival Roseanne and Dan have a black granddaughter named Mary (portrayed by Jayden Rey), as well as a gender nonconforming grandson named Mark (Ames McNamara).