“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” is consistently provocative, timely and — depending on the political perspective of the viewer — often funny. One could say the same of the high-profile remake of “Roseanne.”
On Wednesday, the Star Tribune Editorial Board criticized the latter show’s star, Roseanne Barr, and praised ABC’s decision to cancel the show after her offensive tweet attacking Valerie Jarrett. Bee’s profane shot at Ivanka Trump, which also came this week, was also disgusting.
But it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Barr’s tweet was both Islamophobic and racist; Bee’s labeling Trump a “feckless c---” was vulgar and hateful. You can be the judge of the relative severity, but both are deplorable.
Barr made her comment on Twitter — the social-media trap that has caught so many public figures. Bee’s Trump “joke” was part of a prewritten, prerecorded comedy bit on the cable network TBS. Bee was commenting on U.S. immigration policy; Barr was in attack-by-tweet mode.
Both comedians and networks have apologized, although only Barr blamed her lack of judgment on “Ambien tweeting.” Barr lost her show. It remains to be seen if TBS will follow suit or limit its response to an apology. Advertisers might end up determining the network’s next move.
Although many pundits are focused on the question of equivalency, it might be more constructive to ponder what both incidents reveal about American culture in 2018. It’s also worth considering the tone set by Ivanka Trump’s father, President Donald Trump, who seems to mock and bully for sport — on Twitter and during his decidedly unpresidential rallies.
Some observers have speculated that, knowingly or not, Barr was emboldened by the president. A similar explanation could be used for Bee’s lack of decency. If not emboldened, she’s undoubtedly been provoked by Trump-era rhetoric on both sides to lower herself into a cesspool that drowned out the point of her political commentary.
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