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Last week the rebooted Roseanne show drew 18 million U.S. viewers; an incredible achievement in our fragmented media age. I’m not surprised as the original show ended while it was still good, and so many people are nostalgic for the 20th century (before the internet, fear of terrorism and neocon wars dominated American life)
The original Roseanne show ran from 1988 to 1997. One of the reasons the show worked was the chemistry between Roseanne Barr (her character is Roseanne Conner) and her TV husband Dan Conner (played by John Goodman). They made a great couple because even though Roseanne was a big woman, Goodman was such a big guy he made her look small.
John Goodman and Roseanne on the original Roseanne show
It was hard for Roseanne to land a sitcom because TV execs didn’t think anyone wanted to watch a fat woman on TV, but then someone must have noticed that the then overweight Oprah was setting record ratings on daytime TV, and decided to take a chance on Roseanne.
The show became a huge hit, because seeing a working class family on TV was a novel concept and unlike other sitcoms where everyone was perfect, the Conners were overweight, blue collar, and had kids who dropped out of high school (as did the real Roseanne and her real life kids) .
As two plus sized women from working class backgrounds, both of whom suffered sexual abuse, it was only natural that Roseanne became one of Oprah’s most frequent guests, but the first time they met Oprah thought “Who is this WHACKED woman?”
But then the second time Roseanne appeared on Oprah she was promoting her book, My Life as a Woman, and Oprah was blown away by the insights.
“You are so smart,” Oprah would later tell her circa 1998 “And have been empowering women in ways that we don’t consciously recognize, but all those years when we would not miss one single Roseanne show, what you were really saying is no matter who you are, what your circumstances: YOUR LIFE MATTERS!”
But shortly after that exchange, Roseanne who had for decades loved Oprah, suddenly became hostile. It started when the two women arm wrestled on TV and Roseanne bizarrely thought Oprah cheated.
Things got worse as Oprah started doing shows about new age spirituality, which Roseanne felt had no relevance to working people.
But what really set Roseanne off was when Oprah endorsed Hillary over Obama in the 2007 Democratic primary. Roseanne felt Hillary was better and smarter than Obama and felt Oprah should be supporting an intelligent woman over a flashy man.
And then when Obama bailed out wall street bankers who had looted the U.S. treasury, Roseanne went absolutely ballistic on her blog, calling Obama a black man owned by white bankers, and stating: “NOW I WANT TO SEE THAT DAMN BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!!!!!!!!!!”
During Oprah’s final season in 2011, she invited Roseanne back on her show to clear the air:
When Roseanne later visited Oprah’s cable network OWN she remarked “I like that everyone here’s a woman. That way you don’t have to deal with any ASSHOLES!”
In the years since, Roseanne’s politics have changed a lot: she went from loving Hillary to hating her, from hating Israel to loving it, and she’s become a huge Trump supporter, even making her TV character Roseanne Conner a hard-core Trump supporter too (much to the horror of her many liberal fans). Naturally Trump called to congratulate her on the show’s success.
There are entire working class towns where you have to drive miles before finding a single person who didn’t vote Trump, so it makes sense that Roseanne Conner, as the iconic working class white, would be a Trump supporter too.
It must have been sad for Hillary to not only have lost the presidency to Trump, but to have a working class feminist hero like Roseanne celebrate Trump’s win on the highest rated sitcom in years.
But so many working class white women would scream “LOCK HER UP! LOCK HER UP!” whenever Trump mentioned Hillary at his rallies. Perhaps on the rebooted Roseanne sitcom they will have an episode where the Conners are watching TV and Hillary comes on, and Roseanne and Dan chant “LOCK HER UP! LOCK HER UP!”
While such a scene would add dark realism, it would ailienate Hillary fans, and many are already angry enough about Roseanne’s Trump support.
As a working class Jewish girl surrounded by Mormons in Salt Lake City, Utah, Roseanne Barr felt like an outsider growing up. She also claimed she was abused at home:
My mother abused me from the time I was an infant until I was six or seven years old… She did lots of lurid things. She hurt me psychologically and physically…My father molested me until I left home at age 17. He constantly put his hands all over me. He forced me to sit on his lap, to cuddle with him, to play with his penis in the bathtub. He did grotesque and disgusting things: He used to chase me with his excrement and try to put it on my head. He’d lie on the floor playing with himself. It was the most disgusting thing you can ever imagine.
At 16, she was hit by a car and suffered traumatic brain injury. Her behavior changed so drastically she spent time in a mental hospital.
But it was while working as a waitress that Roseanne finally found her calling. Customers were amused by her witty comebacks and as her fan base grew, she was encouraged to try stand up comedy, which eventually led to a sitcom.
So what is her IQ?
I’m not aware of Roseanne ever taking an IQ test, and little is known about how she did in school. Her speaking style doesn’t sound very intelligent but that could reflect her working class roots or be feigned to fit her working class persona.
I find it interesting that she’s a Jewish high school dropout, because Jews appear to be about 0.66 standard deviations more educated than non-Jewish Americans. So while a high school dropout in Roseanne’s day was about -0.66 SD less educated than the average American (normalizing the education distribution), a Jewish high school dropout was 1.32 standard deviations less educated.
If there were a perfect correlation between IQ and education among U.S. Jews, you’d expect Roseanne’s IQ to be about 20 points below the Jewish mean of 110, but since the correlation is 0.57, we’d expect it to be around 0.57(20) = 11 points below 110, so 99.
On the other hand, Roseanne is rumoured to be worth around $80 million thanks to the success of her sitcom. That puts her lifetime earnings way above the 99.9 percentile for her generation (self-made low decamillionaire), but way below the 99.99993 percentile (self-made billionaire). Normalizing the distribution of self-made money, she’s somewhere between +3.1 SD and +4.8 SD. Splitting the difference, let’s say +3.95 SD. However because the typical U.S. Jew is about +0.73 SD on a normalized income curve, we might subtract 0.73 SD to very crudely guess how Roseanne compares to U.S. Jews. She’s perhaps about +3.22 SD.
If there were a perfect correlation between IQ and lifetime earnings, we’d expect Roseanne to be 48 IQ points above the average IQ 110 U.S. Jew, but since the correlation is about 0.48, we’d expect her to be 0.48(48) = 23 points higher, predicting a 133 IQ.
So who is the true Roseanne? The average woman implied by her education, or the genius implied by her income. One can only guess, but a brilliant Promethean long ago told me that when using two or more variables to predict a third, I should use multiple regression. Since education and income correlate 0.57 and 0.48 with IQ respectively, and about 0.44 with each other, the predictive power of education and income (independent of each other) are 0.42 and 0.3 respectively. Thus:
Roseanne’s IQ = 0.42(education) + 0.3(life time income)
Roseanne’s IQ =0.42(-0.66 SD from the Jewish mean) + 0.3(+3.2 SD from the Jewish mean)
Roseanne’s IQ = -0.28 SD + 0.96 SD from the Jewish mean
Roseanne’s IQ = +0.68 SD from the Jewish mean
On a scale where white Americans average 100 with an SD of 15, Jews average about 110 and probably also have an SD of 15, and so if Roseanne is +0.68 SD, that would put her at:
0.68(15) + 110 = 120
Of course this doesn’t tell us Roseanne’s IQ. At best it tells us the average IQ of Jewish high school dropouts who amassed an $80 million fortune. However even within such a narrowly defined demographic, there’s enormous variation (or would be if the demographic were large).
According to a 2016 Pew poll, 44% of U.S. Jewish households earned $100 K+ a year, compared to 19% for the general U.S. population. Normalizing the income distribution, that’s a difference of 0.73 standard deviations.
Only 2% of Jews are high school dropouts, compared to 10% of all U.S. adults. Normalizing the education distribution, that implies Jews are 0.66 SD more educated than the average American, however dropping out was more common in all demographics during Roseanne’s youth