\'Roseanne and The Kiss\'

Jodi Terwilliger
Paper #1

“Roseanne and ‘The Kiss”

This past winter break, myself and one of my best friends were driving down one of the main roads in our home town of Elmira, New York. I happened to look up at a billboard that was on the side of the road, and saw a sign that read something like: “Be safe, be smart, be protected.” I thought to myself (immediately) “well, that’s a big improvement from a few years ago when condom ads weren’t even allowed on television.” Then I noticed, it had the gay symbols of the upside down pink triangle, and the symbols of two men and two women together. My first thought was “why is this necessary” then I mentioned that to my friend. He didn’t notice, but we both kind of laughed and agreed that why does it have to be gay people that need to protect themselves? We (straight people) are just as much at risk--what was the point? The point is, that it has become mainstream and accepted to be gay in this society now, so they can do that. Only three years ago, however, it was a bit different.
“Roseanne” helped to set a trend in society that has made it more acceptable to be gay in the media. From the billboard I saw, to Roseanne’s now (in)famous kiss with another woman. Roseanne has contributed to this trend immensely with her television sitcom.
To begin with, the series Roseanne has had gay characters on it for a long time. Roseanne’s boss Leon was gay, and after “the kiss” his role on the show became more outspoken as he got married to his lover in the season after Roseanne kissed another woman.
In the 1994, Roseanne had a homosexual encounter with another woman played by Mariel Hemingway in a gay bar. The episode was entitled “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” seemingly making light of Bill Clinton’s policy of gays in the military. The plot of this episode is, that Roseanne goes into a gay bar with her bisexual friend Nancy, played by outspoken bisexual actress Sandra Bernhard. Roseanne dances with Nancy’s new girlfriend Sharon (Hemmingway). The situation is uncomfortable to Roseanne’s sister Jackie who also went with them, but Roseanne has a great time. After dancing with Sharon, the two sit down to chat, one thing leads to another and Roseanne makes a joke which is misinterpreted by Sharon, and she kisses Roseanne. The rest of the episode deals with Roseanne’s discomfort with the kiss.
The episode was finally aired, but it went through a lot of trouble to do so. In fact, it had to have a parental advisory prior to it and was moved from its usual 8:00 slot, to 9:30.
Apparently, some executives at ABC were uncomfortable with this episode and didn’t want to air it because of the kiss. Steve Weiswasser, President of Multi-Media Group and Executive vice President TV Network Group had been quoted as stating that “....it is not a lifestyle most people lead.” What strikes me as odd, is that I remember how much media coverage about this kiss there was. I even remember that ABC aired commercials that specifically mentioned the kiss. The strange thing is, that the show included an openly gay man, and an openly bisexual woman. If ABC doesn’t have a problem with that, then why should they have a problem with a slight kiss.
Since Roseanne, and specifically the time of this kiss, there have been many more gay characters on mainstream television. “Melrose Place” has two gay men, and one of the times that I watched the show, I saw them coming extremely close to kissing. Michael J. Fox’s new show, “Spin City” has a gay black man as one of its main characters. This is extremely new since he represents two minorities in one. These shows have followed the trend that Roseanne helped to set.
I feel that this brings a “chicken or the egg” dilemma. Is society responsible for the new liberal attitude toward gays, or is it that the media has allowed a more open attitude in its various forms of programming? It’s both. I see it as one feeding off of the other. Another cliché that can be