Progressive characters should be encouraged in ‘Roseanne’ reboot


Grammy nominees show improvement in award diversity

By Ariana Portalatin

Fans of “Roseanne” are well aware that the TV show never shied away from tackling controversial issues during its run, with a fairly progressive view, so news that the reboot will include a gender fluid character is not shocking. While some praise the show for reflecting real-life situations and characters, One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association, launched a petition Sept. 14 against the casting.

Ames McNamara was announced Sept. 8 to be playing the role of young “gender creative” Mark, the son of “Roseanne” characters Darlene, played by Sarah Gilbert, and David, played by Johnny Galecki. The reboot is scheduled to air in 2018 and would be one of the first TV shows to include such a character. 

The petition, which currently has more than 8,000 signatures, refers to the casting as “child exploitation at its worst” and claims the show could attract younger viewers that shouldn’t be “introduced to the experience of mental disorders.” 

“Placing gender fluid and non-binary characters in mainstream television shows are the next step in normalizing a culture that dissociates a person’s biological gender from their ‘gender identity,’” the petition said. But OMM’s argument is flawed.

Since its inception, television has always served as a mirror to reflect cultural norms and values. This can be seen as far back as the 1950s when major networks like ABC, NBC and CBS created domestic comedies reflecting a standardized version of the typical American family, and throughout the decades when controversial topics began making their way into everyday entertainment. Following its 1988 premiere, “Roseanne” was always a platform for social and taboo topics, including domestic violence, LGBTQ relationships, racism, substance abuse and poverty. Why would anyone expect the reboot to be any different? Just because someone’s views are not the same as yours does not mean they don’t exist at all and that we should refrain from showing the diverse society we live in. 

This is especially important when it concerns the LGBTQ community. Representation in media can help bring that community to the forefront, making them more accepted in a society they historically have not been accepted into. According to a Nov. 21, 2015, article from Quartz Media, Congress formed a new task force Nov. 17, 2015, to combat violence and discrimination against transgender people after statistics showed an increase in hate crimes against them from 31 incidents in 2013 to 98 in 2014.

OMM’s remarks on the disassociation of gender from gender identity is incorrect, as gender is an identity differentiated by social and cultural roles and behavior. Equating a person’s gender identity to a mental disorder is not only insulting to both groups of people, but also categorically wrong. The viewpoint that children should not be exposed to mental disorders or gender identity in a way that can be educational is also incredibly disrespectful to those people. It is not OK to pretend these people don’t exist because it only leads to further ignorance on a topic that requires education and understanding. 

The LGBTQ community should not be hidden to satisfy bigots who refuse to accept people for who they are, and TV shows should continue to tackle controversial and taboo topics to reflect our changing society. Those that sign OMM’s petition agree to boycott the show and the network, providing a simple answer to their concerns. As with any TV show, if you don’t like it, don’t watch.