In order to understand why a Last Man Standing revival is the last thing our country needs right now, you need to understand the connection between Tim Allen's comedy, Roseanne, and Donald Trump. Before the Roseanne reboot was canceled, the sitcom was considered a series made for conservatives, by a conservative. Finely tuned to relate to "working class" Americans, the series thrived on digs at liberal America and the popularity of its controversial star, Roseanne Barr. Last Man Standing served similar jokes and became a form of "protest" against liberal entertainment for conservatives across the nation. One look at the Change.org petition to revive the series after it was canceled in May 2017 proves the show wasn't just something to watch at night. Instead, Last Man Standing came to be yet another catalyst for the battle between one group — "bleeding heart" liberals — and another — staunch conservatives.
The decision to reboot Roseanne, which originally aired from 1988 to 1997, can be linked to the rise of Donald Trump. After years of rumors, the reboot finally became a reality and was announced in May 2017 — the same month Last Man Standing's original cancellation was reported. News of the reboot met a US divided. The New Yorker noted an increase in incidents of "intimidation," or race-related conflicts in the week after Donald Trump became President. Suddenly, the KKK had a voice, and the first Women's March was organized to fight back against Trump's 1950s locker room ethos. Meanwhile, shows like Roseanne proved popular among Trump supporters for the same reason they fell for the real estate heir: They claimed to champion working class Americans. Not only was Trump in the White House but Roseanne, an outspoken conservative, was one of the most powerful and influential people on television. The reboot debuted to an impressive 18 million viewers and retained around 15 million per episode. Roseanne was back in action and her show became a huge success — until she ran into a brick wall of her own making.
In May 2018, Roseanne Barr compared former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to an ape. After much outrage and backlash, the show was canceled. The press release was brief and clear: "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show," wrote ABC president Channing Dungey. Barr claimed she had been exhausted and uninhibited by Ambien, but even before the Jarrett tweet, she was problematic. The day of the cancellation, Vox published a "semi-complete history" of her exploits. "ISLAMIC RAPE PEDO CULTURE!" Barr tweeted in response to a follower in 2013. "I hope all the jews leave UC Davis & it then it [sic] gets nuked!" she shared in February 2015. Barr — a far-right conspiracy theorist — was regularly dispensing statements like this for her hundreds of thousands of followers. Still, Roseanne's defenders were quick to accuse liberals of photoshopping the tweets, exaggerating the facts, and going full holier than thou. After years of mumbles and gripes about PC culture, their queen had finally been returned to her throne, only to be "unfairly" unseated shortly thereafter. In Trump's America, not even entertainment was a safe space.
With the upcoming reboot of Last Man Standing — which Fox picked up after being "emboldened" by Roseanne's success — the network has put us in the exact same position. If Barr was the TV queen of conservative comedy, Allen is the king. The only difference is, so far, Allen hasn't had his Ambien-induced moment... but he's come close.
During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Allen ruffled feathers when he said being a Republican in 2018 was "like 1930s Germany." He added, "You gotta be real careful around here, you know. You’ll get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes." Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center, condemned Allen's remarks in a Facebook post and said Allen had "lost his mind." He also offered up this reminder: "No one in Hollywood today is subjecting you or anyone else to what the Nazis imposed on Jews in the 1930s."
In addition to trivializing the genocide, the Home Improvement alum's comments perpetuated the idea that conservatives are oppressed in America — that their president doesn't sit in the White House crafting xenophobic policy, writing unhinged tweets, and alienating the US from the outside world. From what we've seen in the media, Allen's personal take is even more dangerous than the character he plays on the show — one whose xenophobic, homophobic, and problematic "jokes" are viewed as acceptable because they're delivered by his "likable" character, Mike Baxter.
In interviews, Allen has also poked fun at the transgender community and played in racial stereotypes. "I'm going to identify as a woman," he told Fox News. "We're going to be very PC. I'm going to identify as an Asian woman that wants to be a European man. "I stay where I am, but in my head, we will do the journey of what it's like to be an Asian woman in a European man's body. It's a very big twist but you won't really notice it. There will be a lot of ramen, it will be a lot Asian dishes it'll be subtle."
Hate speech isn't illegal in the US and Allen is not the same as his character. Surely, as viewers, we should have the ability to separate an actor from his on-screen role. However, Mike Baxter isn't doing much better. If you're unfamiliar with Last Man Standing, the original ABC series ran from 2011 to 2017 and starred Allen as Mike, a Denver sporting goods store employee with "traditional" American values and a Protestant background. When it was canceled, conservative viewers accused ABC of favoring more liberal shows, despite Dungey's statement that it wasn't financially rewarding.
In one episode, Mike's daughter, Kristin (Alexandra Krosney) wants to go to a school that teaches "sensitivity and tolerance" that Mike considers "hippie hippie rainbow." He goes on to say a kid shouldn't attend a school like that because it ends with "Boyd dancing on a float." The joke suggested boys who learned sensitivity and tolerance would end up flamboyant, artistic, and the type of people who would dance during parades.
In another, Mike gives a speech at his daughter's school that praises the right to carry an "awesome gun" and calls out the country's "whiny babies."
"To quote future Nobel Prize winner Lee Greenwood," he said, "'I’m proud to be an American.' Not just because I have the right to speak my mind or carry an awesome gun, but because it’s the land of opportunity. Some whiny babies might not think so, but in America, if you work hard, anyone can be successful."
However, for those concerned with the state of gun control and the policies Trump continues to push (or ignore), jokes like these aren't so entertaining. The media's influence on viewers has long been debated, but shows like Allen's perpetuate dangerous ideals. The petition to revive the show made its audience's intention clear: Last Man Standing was a conservative "protest." The Change.org page, which collected over 400,000 signatures, appealed to viewers to save the show that "extolled the virtues with which they can identify; namely conservative values."
"Appalling that this show was canceled, yet we have so many TRASHY SHOWS that should be canceled," wrote one signee. "Liberals are disgusting. Why should everything go their way."
"ABC has sold out conservative values in America today on every level," wrote another. "We must be aware of this and fight to stop its continued liberal agenda."
"Great show and sends a powerful message to all the 'politcal correct' people out there in tv land," shared Michael Borowiec.
On the heels of Roseanne's undoing, one would hope to see fewer shows like it, not more. Last Man Standing, another show that's thrived by exacerbating the divisive ideologies that are damaging our country, needs to go. I can't believe I have to write this, but homophobia and racism should not be the norm on television. Instead, responsible networks should turn the cheek to tempting, controversial series that bring in the big bucks and focus on programs that bring viewers of all backgrounds together in their love of entertainment.
Tim Allen might be the Last Man Standing, but if he wants the show to last, he should take a seat.