In Roseanne's world, only she is right

February 28, 1994|By Kasey Jones | Kasey Jones,Sun Staff Writer

Earth to Roseanne Arnold: Get over it.

We know you believe your parents abused you. We know about your struggle with mental illness, drug abuse, obesity. We know your first husband was a jerk. (Whose first husband wasn't?)

Most of all, we know that you have struggled mightily against the male-dominated worlds of stand-up comedy and television -- and you won. You are one of the richest, most powerful women in Hollywood. You have a husband you claim to love and four children, including one given up for adoption with whom you have been reunited.

So how about acting like a winner, Roseanne? How about being gracious in victory, or at least quietly enjoying the fruits of your struggles?

"My Lives" is the book many of us dream about writing. Who doesn't want to write about every slight, real or imagined, perpetrated against us? Who doesn't want to make everyone who ever wronged us in life look like a complete jerk for having done so?

This is one angry woman.

About her first husband, Bill Pentland: "Bill always thought I was talking about lesser-evolved males than himself. That, however, was not possible, since my [comedy] act was not about amoebas."

About Matt Williams, the first head writer for "Roseanne": "Matt, being the horrid little terrier he is, would . . . lunge at me."

She always is, and always was, right about everything: about her show, about her career, about feminism, and on and on.

Mrs. Arnold doesn't even take the traditional stand of the tragically misunderstood genius. She sees evil intent in every action against her. If someone didn't laugh at her jokes, it wasn't because the jokes weren't funny, it's because the person was stupid/sexist/unhip/jealous. Anyone who didn't share her vision for her hit TV show felt that way not because of creative differences but because he was a studio lackey. Anyone who doesn't accept the World According to Roseanne Arnold is deserving of scorn.

The only ones who get (very scant) praise, besides her current husband, are those who believe Mrs. Arnold is the genius she says she is. "Roseanne" co-stars John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, at one point, apparently were willing to leave the show rather than continue it without her, and for this the author leaves them unharmed.

Her current husband, Tom Arnold, whom she praises effusively, is no prize, even when compared with her first husband. Mr. Arnold's early comedy act included killing goldfish onstage and then setting them on fire. ("Really brilliantly horrible," Mrs. Arnold writes.) How could any woman not be attracted to such a clever guy?

The author stretches credulity when she repeatedly contends that, despite his frequent nosebleeds, nighttime "errands" and visits to the restroom during crucial business meetings, she had no idea Mr. Arnold was addicted to cocaine.

She states: "I have had no contact with my family [her parents and siblings] for almost four years now, and these four years have been the most productive, healing, and happy years of my life."

Sorry, but I'm not buying it. No happy, healing person could have written such a book. Mrs. Arnold is so bent on revenge, so determined to blame everybody but herself for her problems, so certain that her way is the only way and that there is no room for genuine disagreement, that it is clear that this woman is very unhappy.

She pulls stunts such as announcing plans with her husband to marry another woman, and then wonders why people fail to take her seriously.

She thinks tabloids such as the National Enquirer aren't fit to wrap fish, yet she admits giving the publications information for her own purposes when it suited her.

I was an admirer of Roseanne Arnold before she became a TV star. She is a funny woman, and her success has paved the way for female comics both on the club circuit and TV.

Her show has repeatedly pushed the comfortable boundaries of sitcoms (witness the recent controversy over a kiss between Mrs. Arnold's character and another woman).

But she needs to let up on herself and everyone else. Being rich and powerful can't be much fun if one sees just about everybody else as the enemy.

BOOK REVIEW

Title: "My Lives"

Author: Roseanne Arnold

Publisher: Ballantine

Length, price: 249 pages, $23

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