Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Roseanne Barr

Laurie and Debbie are on a blogging vacation, because they’re both at WisCon in Madison, Wisconsin. Debbie will be back next week. In the meantime, have another post from the wonderful Lynne Murray:

Lynne Murray says:

I recently read a long New York Magazine interview with Roseanne Barr, which is accompanied by some stunningly beautiful photos.

artistic head shot of Roseanne Barr

I’ve long loved Roseanne, and the article offers a fascinating glimpse into her greatest achievement, and it is well worth reading, just for the blow-by-blow dissection of how hard Roseanne had to fight to get her own truth and her comic genius a fair showing, when after her show was number one in the ratings, and one would assume she would have some clout.

Hollywood hates labor, and hates shows about labor worse than any other thing. And that’s why you won’t be seeing another Roseanne anytime soon. Instead, all over the tube, you will find enterprising, overmedicated, painted-up, capitalist whores claiming to be housewives. But I’m not bitter. Nothing real or truthful makes its way to TV unless you are smart and know how to sneak it in, and I would tell you how I did it, but then I would have to kill you.

I’m not bitter. I’m really not. The fact that my fans have thanked and encouraged me for doing what I used to get in trouble for doing (shooting my big mouth off) has been very healing. And somewhere along the way, I realized that TV and our culture had changed because of a woman named Roseanne Conner, whom I am honored to have written jokes for.

I’ve read a couple of Roseanne’s autobiographies. The first one influenced me most in that it included pictures of her at various weights. It came out when I was writing Larger Than Death, and I included a sequence where the heroine finds an album of photos taken of Nina, her role model in size acceptance, “At different ages. Different sizes.” This scene was directly inspired by Roseanne’s book [I've cropped my quote a little].

Most fat people have such a sequence of pictures. The first picture in the book showed Nina as a teenager, with the glowing energy of youth. At that age she must have been around a size fourteen—the largest size on the rack in most women’s clothing stores. Of course she felt fat and everyone told her she was unacceptable.
. . . In the next photo I scarcely recognized my old friend. She had lost a substantial amount of weight. She was wearing a tight sweater, very short micro-mini skirt, and an expression of frenzied animation. I had seen enough desperately dieting women to understand the forced gaiety in her face.
“Well, here it is, the Holy Grail. I’m finally at a normal weight. Why do I feel so crazy? I’m always thinking about food. I’m terrified to eat. Men’s heads turn when I walk by, women see me as competition. I’m getting the attention I always wanted. Why do I feel so driven and hopeless? What will happen to me if I gain weight again?”
Over the next series of photos she did.
. . . Her body testified that normal for it was not the size of the Nina in the micro-mini. In the last few photos I thought she looked glorious. Glowing with health and confidence, wearing clothing she had designed to show off a body she had come to accept and even celebrate. This was the Nina I’d known and loved.
As I looked at the last picture I realized that every one of Stack’s clients would call it a “before” picture and would suffer any pain or indignity to get to the slender “after” mode, never facing the fact that for many of them it was unnatural, even damaging to their health, and impossible to maintain.

I realized I was crying without knowing when I had started. [Larger Than Death, Chapter 35]

Like a lot of fans who feel they “know” Roseanne, I’ve always felt affection for her even when I’ve been saddened by her struggles with self-esteem, including gastric bypass surgery. While each person’s health care decisions are that person’s business, Roseanne’s had the unfortunate effect of canceling out some of her size positive message. I must note that this also is also her business–she’s a human being, not a walking role model, and she’s entitled to do what she wants based on her own feelings. But the upshot is that sites pushing the surgery list her as a celebrity victim. They don’t call her a “success” as they note that she regained much of the weight she lost. The gastric bypass community blames her for this, following the conventional commercial delusion that any weight regained is always the fault of the fat person. Roseanne appears to blame herself as well, judging by her joke: “Since I had my gastric bypass surgery in 1998, I eat like a bird. Unfortunately, that bird is a California condor.” That sort of comment saddens me even more.

On a positive note, I’m glad to hear that Roseanne seems to have found happiness with a compatible mate, growing macadamia nuts in Hawaii. She has a web presence that links to video clips, a radio show and her many causes.

4 Responses to “Roseanne Barr”

  1. Debbie Says:

    Thanks for this, Lynne!

    What struck me about the article (among other things) was how dauntless a class warrior she is, and her comments on what it cost her to be a strong woman in Hollywood.

  2. Patsy Nevins Says:

    If she could only accept, love, & feel comfortable in her natural body & understand that her size is okay & natural for her & not a result of eating ‘too much’, she could do so much good to help us get the message out there.

    I wish her well & I wish her self-esteem, love & happiness.

  3. Lizzy L Says:

    I love the photo: it shows her age, and it shines with tremendous dignity. She looks beautiful.

  4. Lynne Murray Says:

    My pleasure, Debbie! Her tenacious fight to preserve her vision impressed me too. That kind of fight always leaves scars, and as women we are not taught to be proud of our scars…yet they can be souvenirs of amazing feats of courage and endurance!

    I agree, Patsy–and along with my admiration I wish her all the best too!

    Lizzy, the stunningly beautiful portraits that accompanied the article also captivated me! A rarely seen attractive representation of an older, non-traditional woman. The images also made me remember that I’m a few years older than Roseanne. She’s been in the withering glare of the spotlight for so long I sometimes forget that!

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Laurie Toby Edison by Carol Squires

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