Class and gender as a laughing matter? The case of Roseanne

Alessandra Senzani 1
  • 1 Florida Atlantic University


The aim of this study is to investigate the role of humor in challenging hegemonic discourses on social class and gender, as they are reproduced in the popular sitcom format. Mindful of sitcoms' entrenched role in the audience's commodification process, the study explores whether a form of critical humor on social class and gender can emerge in the TV palimpsest. For this purpose, the study will look specifically at the sitcom Roseanne and at the public persona of Roseanne Barr. The study adopts a “multiperspectival approach” that considers all three elements of production, text and reception. First, Roseanne will be historically contextualized to understand the contradictions with which working-class representations are fraught. Secondly, a textual analysis will be performed to assess the extent to which class and gender are used as sources of humor and for which functions; finally, metatexts and viewers' responses will be analyzed considering the tensions between hegemonic and oppositional meanings attached to the sitcom. The case study of Roseanne will show that, in spite of obvious containment strategies—often through the secondary plotline and the metatexts, the sitcom provided its audience with critical humor to challenge hegemonic representations of class and gender.

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