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Judd Apatow Thinks Roseanne Isn’t a “Hateful Person”
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Judd Apatow offered his thoughts on his friend and former colleague Roseanne Barr, saying that he feels “very sad for her” and that he believes her to not to be a “hateful person” but someone struggling with mental illness and “crying out for help.”
The writer and director was interviewed by the magazine to promote his recent HBO documentary, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. When asked his thoughts on Barr’s firing from ABC in the wake of her racist tweet describing former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett as the love child of the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes,” Apatow said:
There’s always so much energy around people when they’re in moments of personal destruction, and some people seem thrilled or titillated or excited, and other people try to find a reason to support her. I, as an old friend, felt very sad for her because she has very real mental-health issues. And she’s talked about them for decades. I interviewed her for my book [Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy]. We talked about it at length, and I think you have a person who’s in a moment of success and maybe that’s uncomfortable for her, and whatever urges she has to be rebellious have overtaken her in some way. I haven’t spoken to her recently to know where her head’s at generally, but I see it more as someone who’s crying out for help than someone who’s a hateful person.
When the reporter followed up by asking whether Apatow thought ABC should have cancelled the show, he sounded torn.
I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about it. I may be too close to Roseanne to have a place in me that’s like, “They’ve got to take her show away!” I totally understand it and it makes perfect sense and I don’t think she’s had a response to why she did it that is logical enough to say maybe you should still have the show. I think that she continues to change the reason why she did it, which I also see as a mental-health issue.
Apatow isn’t the first of Barr’s fellow comics to defend her on the grounds of her mental health struggles. Shortly after the controversy broke, Jimmy Kimmel tweeted that Barr “could probably use some compassion and help right now.”
What @TheRealRoseanne said is indefensible, but angrily attacking a woman who is obviously not well does no good for anyone. Please take a breath and remember that mental health issues are real. The Roseanne I know could probably use some compassion and help right now.
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) May 30, 2018
Barr has a long history of racist statements, including a 2013 tweet in which she called Susan Rice, who, like Jarrett, was a black woman in the Obama administration, “a man with big swinging ape balls.”
As Apatow points out, it’s hard to analyze friends and loved ones objectively. But he presents a false dichotomy between “hateful” people and those “crying out for help,” when Barr could very well be both. By invoking her mental health as an explanation for her tweet, he and Kimmel overlook the millions of Americans who struggle daily with mental illness and yet manage not to be racist.
Roseanne’s show—minus its former star and retitled The Conners—is slated to return to ABC this fall.