ABC made the May 8, 2018 episode of “Roseanne” available in advance for comment by some thoughtful observers. When producer Tom Werner, an old friend, asked me if I had some scholars to suggest, I immediately thought of Amir Hussain and Sohad Murrar.
Marty Kaplan, Director, Norman Lear Center
Why Muslim TV Characters Matter
I watched the “Go Cubs” episode of Roseanne, which I think is extraordinary.
When asked in surveys, most Americans indicate that they don’t know a Muslim, and so the images that they see on television are crucial, as they may be the only Muslims that people encounter.
(Spoiler alert!) In this episode, a new Yemeni Muslim family moves next door to the Conners. Not only are they Muslim, but they are also refugees from a country that was put on President Trump’s travel ban. Roseanne, not surprisingly, is suspicious. But when she is forced to go to their neighbors for help, which is also her first encounter with them, they help her out.
That’s the key.
Her neighbors, like good neighbors, share their Wi-Fi password with her so her granddaughter can Skype with her mom. This simple act changes Roseanne’s perception so that when she sees Fatima, the mom next door, insulted by a store clerk, she’s able to speak up for her neighbor. And there’s also a lovely dig at the government bureaucracy which deems prepared food a luxury, so that people can’t use EBT for cooked chicken.
Roseanne Takes on Islamophobia
The new episode of Roseanne turns to Islamophobia. It does it responsibly.
The season has already tackled problems of class, political ideology, race, sexuality, immigration and veteran affairs. (Spoiler alert!) This new episode, “Go Cubs,” introduces the Conners’ new neighbors, the Al Harazis, a young Muslim immigrant couple from war-torn Yemen and their son. From the start, conflict ensues between Roseanne, who is suspicious of the neighbors, and her sister Jackie and daughter Darlene. Jackie and Darlene find her suspicions unwarranted and motivated by bias. In the opening scene, for example, Roseanne suspects that the Al Harazis are terrorists, bent on making a bomb. Jackie challenges Roseanne by telling her she cannot just spy on people because they are Muslim.
Later, Roseanne’s granddaughter wants to make a late-night Skype call to her mother who is serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan, but is unable to acquire WiFi access. Roseanne makes several crude guesses at the Al Harazi’s password, including “DeathToAmerica123,” much to Darlene’s dismay. Darlene briefly pretends the password works only to forcefully point out to Roseanne that it was an absurd guess. MORE
(If you’d like to read my take on this, check it out here.)