Tuesday, May 17, 2011

how awesome is Roseanne?

I first realized the awesomeness of Roseanne and her show when I caught the episode where Roseanne Conner quits her job:

The asshole supervisor is played to perfection by rightwing asshole politician Fred Thompson - talk about typecasting!

The petty dictatorship of the Thompson character is an exact portrait of so many assholes I have worked under. As my old boyfriend John, who certainly had his share of crap jobs once observed: "the tiniest speck of power corrupts absolutely."

And the toady guy at the beginning of this clip is exactly like a co-worker of mine at my present job.

Then I read Roseanne's autobiography My Life As A Woman and I couldn't stop laughing.

And now, the trifecta of coolness, Roseanne's scathing article in this week's New York Magazine. So many bracing truths in one article!

Item 1:
It didn’t take long for me to get a taste of the staggering sexism and class bigotry that would make the first season of Roseanne god-awful. It was at the premiere party when I learned that my stories and ideas—and the ideas of my sister and my first husband, Bill—had been stolen. The pilot was screened, and I saw the opening credits for the first time, which included this: CREATED BY MATT WILLIAMS. I was devastated and felt so betrayed that I stood up and left the party. Not one person noticed.

I confronted Marcy under the bleachers on the sound stage when we were shooting the next episode. I asked her how I could continue working for a woman who had let a man take credit for my work—who wouldn’t even share credit with me—after talking to me about sisterhood and all that bullshit. She started crying and said, “I guess I’m going to have to tell Brandon [Stoddard, then president of ABC Entertainment] that I can’t deliver this show.” I said, “Cry all you want to, but you figure out a way to put my name on the show I created, or kiss my ass good-bye.”

Item 2:
Eventually she told me that she had been told by one of Matt’s producers—his chief mouthpiece—“not to listen to what Roseanne wants to wear.” This producer was a woman, a type I became acquainted with at the beginning of my stand-up career in Denver. I cared little for them: blondes in high heels who were so anxious to reach the professional level of the men they worshipped, fawned over, served, built up, and flattered that they would stab other women in the back. They are the ultimate weapon used by men against actual feminists who try to work in media, and they are never friends to other women, you can trust me on that.

Item 3:
The “big house” was what I called the writers’ building. I rarely went there, since it was disgusting. Within minutes, one of the writers would crack a stinky-pussy joke that would make me want to murder them. Male writers have zero interest in being nice to women, including their own assistants, few of whom are ever promoted to the rank of "writer," even though they do all the work while the guys sit on their asses taking the credit. Those are the women who deserve the utmost respect.)

Item 4:

But at least everyone began to credit me. I was assumed to be a genius and eccentric instead of a crazy bitch, and for a while it felt pretty nice. I hired comics that I had worked with in clubs, rather than script writers. I promoted several of the female assistants—who had done all the work of assembling the scripts ­anyway—to full writers. (I did that for one or two members of my crew as well.) I gave Joss Whedon and Judd Apatow their first writing jobs, as well as many other untried writers who went on to great success.

Call me immodest—moi?—but I honestly think Roseanne is even more ahead of its time today, when Americans are, to use a technical term from classical economics, screwed. We had our fun; it was a sitcom. But it also wasn’t The Brady Bunch; the kids were wiseasses, and so were the parents. I and the mostly great writers in charge of crafting the show ­every week never forgot that we needed to make people laugh, but the struggle to survive, and to break taboos, was equally important. And that was my goal from the beginning.

Now go read the entire thing, it's free online.

The hostility of men to women who demand artistic control is just as bad today for the most part as when Roseanne was butting heads with entrenched misogyny, twenty-some years ago. And kiss-ass toady yes-women are definitely still with us. They might not all be blondes, and they don't always wear high heels, but there are so many women who will gladly support attacks on women in order to win admission to the boys club - any boys club - even an off-off Broadway theater group or no-budget film studio.

I know some of this type - they work for an independent film director I've clashed with (I blogged about his casting notice appearing on the blog "Nudity Required - No Pay" and he's never gotten over it.) If his work had any artistic merit I could understand why they'd do so much for him for free - but he seems to be dedicated to re-doing every Hollywood sci-fi movie that's ever been made, except with less coherent plots and more naked women.

And incredibly these women actually believe they are feminists - and don't see any conflict when they gladly support an asshole in his lame male-demographic-target endeavors or when he attacks an actual feminist for discussing his douchebaggery.

The best part of Roseanne's story is that while it was a tough struggle, she came out on top. And where are the backstabbers, the faux feminists, the blonde women in heels, today? Wondering why the men they served so faithfully have replaced them with 20-something blondes with belly rings. Who will themselves be traded in 20 years later for 20-something blondes with vajazzling.

But at least, unlike the faux feminists I've dealt with, all the blondes get paid to work for creeps.

I was going to do a play that was in part a parody of the director's work - but I ran out of steam because after a while it seemed like, what was the point? The films already look like parodies to me.

Although I did write a scene that I still kind of like, where a female actor refuses to get naked in order to play an android. So the director has a tantrum and to mollify him, his female flunky suggests that the female actor wear a body stocking to simulate android nudity. When the director reminds the flunky that it's a contractual requirement that all his movies show titties, she suggests that the android have gigantic, gravity-defying breasts that will be added later with CGI. He loves the idea, of course - who doesn't like the idea of gigantic free-floating CGI breasts? I'll have to see if I can recycle that idea in another play.