In an interview with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Roseanne Barr, who recently lost her hit ABC show after tweeting a racist slur against former Obama official Valerie Jarrett, explained herself. “What can I do now except say of course, I’m not a racist, I’m an idiot,” she stated. She added that the tweet “didn’t mean what they think I meant,” but accepted responsibility for it: “I have to face that it hurt people. When you hurt people even unwillingly there’s no excuse. I don’t want to run off and blather on with excuses. But I apologize to anyone who thought, or felt offended and who thought that I meant something that I, in fact, did not mean. It was my own ignorance, and there’s no excuse for that ignorance.”
There’s certainly plausibility to Barr’s claim regarding her mental problems. She’s had serious mental issues for years. Her political views have swung wildly from the far-left to the Trumpian right; she’s moved from baking cookies dressed as Hitler to grabbing her crotch while singing the national anthem. And comedians who know Barr have suggested that she’s been mentally troubled for years, from Joe Rogan to Jimmy Kimmel, who tweeted, “The real Roseanne I know could probably use some compassion and help right now.” Roseanne has herself acknowledged a “few nervous breakdowns,” a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and several hospitalizations.
Yet ABC was happy to put her on the air, knowing about her problems. It’s not wrong for ABC to pull her series, but there’s a case to be made that they knew what they were getting when they signed her up. In prior decades, studios protected their stars from public view for specifically this reason: many of those stars were similarly self-destructive, and studios realized they had to protect those stars from implosion. Thanks to the rise of social media and the radical increase in curiosity about the thoughts of celebrities themselves, carefully-cultivated public images have gone by the wayside, and all forms of thoughtvomit find their way to public view. The inevitable effect is that some troubled people, like Roseanne, blow themselves up.