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The Scene In Roseanne That Had Fans Fuming

The ABC series "Roseanne" spent 10 seasons refusing to pull any punches, even when some of the jabs were being aimed at its very own audience. This was especially the case with the Season 6 episode "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Released in March 1994, the episode included a scene that would go down as one of the series' most controversial. ABC had to include a viewer advisory because of it and even threatened to not air the scene, according to The New York Times. But titular star Roseanne Barr pushed back and demanded that the network allow it, according to the actors and writers involved.

Of all the people who were upset over the scene in question, it was religious conservatives that caused the biggest uproar. Some television markets in smaller towns and areas actually refused to show "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as a result (via The Hollywood Reporter). However, that didn't stop nearly 20 million people from watching it. So why the controversy?

The kiss heard 'round the world

In "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Roseanne wounds up being invited to a gay bar by her friend Nancy Bartlett (Sandra Bernhard), who shows up with her new girlfriend Sharon, played by Oscar-nominated actor Mariel Hemingway. What ensued was one of the most talked-about TV moments of 1994.

During the scene, Hemingway's Sharon leans in and kisses Roseanne on the mouth in what ABC reportedly described as a "violation" of the network's standards (via NYT). Women had kissed on television before — during a 1991 episode of "L.A. Law" — but never on a program as popular as "Roseanne" (via THR). Hemingway recalled the backlash in a 2018 interview with THR. "The religious right was very upset, and there were other upset people," she said. "When you're doing something...you don't realize the impact that it will have. But then, it was several weeks later, and they were about to air it, and it was so controversial."

Hemingway told THR that once everyone realized how innocent the kiss was they started to appreciate the braveness of it, especially at the time. "A lot of people stopped me in person and were like, 'Thank you so much. I know it was silly, but it meant a lot to me. It made me feel like I wasn't alone and it was OK,'" Hemingway said. "And some of those were actors and others in the entertainment industry who never felt like they could be themselves, so that was pretty profound." 

All 10 seasons of "Roseanne" are currently available to stream on Peacock.