Vital Signs

The Queen Is Dead

Perhaps you heard that Roseanne Barr recently sang the national anthem at a Padres-Reds game in San Diego. If not, then you're one of maybe three people in America who missed it, so let me fill you in. Looking like she had just rushed over from an all-day garage cleaning, Barr took the field in Jack Murphy Stadium and proceeded to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" badly—aggressively badly, in-your-face badly. When she finished what she obviously had thought would be an endearingly awful performance—indeed, an ironic performance ("They knew they weren't getting an opera star," she said later)—she grabbed her "private parts," as some journalists phrased it, then spat on the ground. She was loudly booed, and two days of media frenzy followed, every minute of which I enjoyed.

One of the many interesting aspects of this episode was its context. Roseanne Barr was asked to sing the national anthem on "Working Women's Night" because the San Diego Padres management considered her an obvious and fitting representative of American working women. That made a certain kind of sense, since some very serious-minded people in this country also consider Roseanne Barr an obvious and fitting representative of working women, especially blue-collar women. What's more, such publications as the New York Times, the New Republic, and Time have certified...

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