Roseanne Barr’s long-awaited revival series hasn’t aired even one episode yet, but it is already making headlines for a controversial new character. Ever since the announcement that Darlene Conner’s (Sara Gilbert) nine-year-old son, Mark, will be portrayed as “gender creative,” social media has been buzzing. But now that ABC has released an official cast photo of the child, some are officially outraged.
Back in its 1980s/’90s heyday, Roseanne was one of the most popular shows on television. Twenty years later, the Roseanne reboot is being labeled as politically driven due to Barr’s no-holds-barred support of Donald Trump, an opinion her Roseanne character will also share. But that’s small potatoes compared to what is being said about the child character played by child actor Ames McNamara on the show. Some Roseanne fans are confused by the new character, while other outraged viewers are slamming Roseanne for “child abuse.”
Last fall, TV Line revealed that Ames McNamara had been cast as Mark, Darlene and David’s 8-year-old son, in the Roseanne reboot. The casting breakdown for the character described Mark as: “Sensitive and bright, Mark occasionally likes to wear girls’ clothing.” The character, described as displaying “qualities of both male and female young child traits,” will be a first for primetime network TV.
Months later, Roseanne star Sara Gilbert’s recent interview about her TV son, coupled with ABC’s recently released photo of McNamara dressed in a skirt and a leopard print vest, has sent some social media users into a frenzy. Some are calling out the Roseanne reboot for “child abuse,” while others are praising the show as “progressive.”
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Roseanne star Sara Gilbert addressed the controversy over Ames McNamara’s character, revealing that Mark is just a little boy who happens to like wearing girl’s clothing.
“He’s based on a few kids in my life that are boys who dress in more traditionally feminine clothing,” the Roseanne star explained. “He’s too young to be gay and he doesn’t identify as transgender, but he just likes wearing that kind of clothing and that’s where he is at this point in his life.”
Gilbert also revealed that Mark’s clothing preference is not a major storyline in the Roseanne reboot. While McNamara’s character dresses in female clothing throughout the show, there will be just one episode that addresses it and focuses on it more heavily. Gilbert described both the Mark character and Ames McNamara as “amazing, creative,” and “brilliant.”
And for those who are concerned that Ames McNamara is being subject to child abuse by being forced to wear female clothing on the Roseanne set, Gilbert, who also serves as an executive producer on the revival, says the “inspiring” young actor is wise beyond his years.
“Some people are born with abilities beyond their years,” the Roseanne star told TV Line. “Ames is one of those people.”
Roseanne returns to ABC for a nine-episode run on March 27.