2020 has been an unkind year to most people, and no one knows that better than Ellen DeGeneres. In 2016, she was receiving the President Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama. By 2020, people were making charitable donations at the expense of her reputation.
Americans are no strangers to “cancel culture:” when public figures have all of their past actions and statements scrutinized to destroy their reputation. In the fights against racial injustice and sexual misconduct, many celebrities have been rightfully cancelled. Ellen, on the other hand, hasn’t been so heinous. Instead, her behaviors are akin to a Hollywood diva rather than a beacon of kindness. These behaviors are very contrary to the message preached by her talk show, but many of her actions occurred behind the scenes of that very show.
Of all the people in the world, Ellen was one of the last people I expected to fall from grace. Not because I am shocked that she’s temperamental, but because I thought everyone already knew. During her talk show, she’s often be making joke at the expense of guests or audience. Her gestures were thinly veiled attempts to capitalize on viral trends, and I was often under the impression she just wanted to buy happiness. Of course, this is fairly standard of daytime talkshows, but the accusations against Ellen were in line with my existing perception of her.
What Exactly Did Ellen Do?
While some people had spoken out regarding Ellen, her cancellation seemed to rapidly accelerate due to a Twitter thread started by Kevin T. Porter.
If you comb through the thread, you’ll quickly see some recurring trends. Apparently, has no regard for the wellbeing of her staff. She’s very particular, has a strong objection to any odors, and is a controlling vegetarian. She’s rumored to fire people who made small requests, and she’s cultivated a working environment fueled by fear.
Her behaviors are further highlighted by her interactions with the guests on her show. She’s been accused of setting up guests, like the time she gave away free merchandise just to scrutinize a woman to took multiple freebies. She ignored the invitation to Dakota Johnson’s birthday party, then tried to shame Dakota for not inviting her while a guest on her show. Perhaps worst of all, she tried to force Mariah Carey to reveal her pregnancy by drinking a glass of champagne. Mariah later revealed she did not want to make an announcement because she was so early into her pregnancy; a pregnancy that would result in a miscarriage.
More damming claims include Ellen’s use of racial slurs and microaggressions. There are also claims of sexual misconduct among the staff. To be clear, Ellen is not the perpetrator here. However, it is suggested she knew there was abuse in her staff and just didn’t want to deal with it.
While Ellen received all of the praise and glory, her staff suffered. She made jokes at the expense of others while preaching kindness. Many people had their lives negatively altered and this wasn’t even a blip on Ellen’s radar. These aren’t just a few isolated incidents, it’s part of the system of Ellen’s success.
I’ve come to realize, the one worst crimes she’s committed is betraying the trust of the youth. The people who grew up idolizing Dory, The Ellen Show, and an activist for LGBTQ+ right are now seeing a monster. This is going to establish a sense of mistrust, and can change their perception of businesses and Hollywood alike.
With Every Angel Comes a Demon
We live in a time when people want to hear the voice of the “little man.” The Ellen Show is known for rewarding unsung heroes, yet the Ellen placed no value on the cogs in her machine. Assistants were known to get fired for making minor mistakes or simply speaking to Ellen.
Young adults don’t see themselves as Ellen Degeneres, at least not yet. They seem themselves as interns or members of the production them. This is part of the reason Ellen’s downfall resonates so many people. They can’t feel compassion for Ellen because they don’t see themselves represented in Ellen. Rather, they seem themselves represented in the employees who made sacrifices only to become forgotten casualties in the process of building Ellen’s brand. This is a grim reality, but a burden that will weigh upon young adults as they seek employment.
A Lot of People Sit Back and Do Nothing
It seems Ellen’s employees have struggled for years. We’re only hearing these stories now because there’s volume in numbers. These stories were once brushed under the rug to avoid controversy. While it nice to see some stories being told, these individuals didn’t receive help when they needed it.
For every guest who had a bad experience, there were multiple people behind camera filming their discomfort. For every staff member who felt abused, there were multiple coworker standing next to them. These people let others struggle in the pursuit of their own success.
Reading these stories, a lot of people get a laugh at Ellen’s expense. Really, they should be thinking of the warning signs and the ways they could have intervened.
You Reap What You Sew
With all of the accolades Ellen received throughout her career, it seemed she was untouchable. Even if her talk show crumbled, she would still have roles have a voice actor, comedian, and award show host.
It only took one tweet, and an army of prior employees spoke out. This didn’t destroy the talk show, at least not yet. It destroyed her reputation.
When you wrong someone, you never know when it will come back to haunt you. For young adults, this is a lesson that’s better not to learn the hard way. If they’re smart, they’d use Ellen as that example. Many of the people who used to work for Ellen didn’t have a platform to tell their story during the time of their incident. Now, they have a platform and company.
Filters Aren’t Just for Pictures
For younger people, particularly the Finding Dory fans, they’ve never known a world without Instagram and Snapchat filters. They’re familiar with the concept of using digital enhancements to appear better to their followers, but that concept has always been part of the Hollywood lifestyle. Even in a world where celebrities can be spontaneous on social media, it’s all an attempt to polish reputations.
As tales of Evil Ellen emerge, young fans will come to the realization that they’ve only been seeing a portion of her personality. The person who sits in front of the camera is very different than the personality we see on the screen. This is becoming increasingly clear as more stories emerge about Ellen.
This may be a good thing for younger fans, as they will learn of Hollywood’s trickery. Many people receive praise from critics, only gain an inflated sense of self-worth.
She is Still Part of the LGBTQ+ Community
In 1997, Ellen came out publicly on her sitcom and on the cover of TIME Magazine. We still don’t live in a world that’s perfect for our LGBTQ+ population, but there are huge differences between 1997 and 2020. Without doubt, Ellen’s visibility pushed the movement forward.
Despite all of the allegations, she has cemented a spot in LGBT history. Her identity is now more complicated, but her role in social progress cannot be erased.
We’re also fortunate to be in a time where there is much more representation from LGBTQ+ individuals. While Ellen may have tarnished her reputation, she is likely to be viewed as an individual. This means her actions won’t have the same impact on other LGBTQ+ celebrities that it would have had in 1997. She’s challenged her status as a celebrity, but she hasn’t slowed progress for other LGBTQ+ individuals.
Is Ellen DeGeneres Really Evil Ellen?
Removing my opinions toward Ellen from her current situation, this appears to be a common tale. A celebrity gets so big that she only cares about her status. She doesn’t care about her staff and she will step on anyone who gets in her way. With that mentality, she’s just another unpleasant celebrity: not fun to work with, but not unusual.
Then you look at the content of her career. Her pushes for social progress and her focus on kindness have all been a ploy to advance her status. Again, this is not unusual in Hollywood, but it’s an ugly wake up call to her young fans. Ellen viewed her staff as expendable and been a bystander while people were being abused. With all of these elements, it’s hard to let her off scot-free.
There are many factors to consider when you talk about Ellen and her reputation. One thing is for certain, social media has allow off-camera staff to have a voice. This is something that she couldn’t have expected in the earlier days of her career, but it could end up being her downfall.
As it stands now, I don’t think Ellen is the worst person to come out of Hollywood. Many people have recovered from worse scandals, and she will probably maintain her career. Still, these stories will haunt her for the rest of her days on air. She’s not a truly evil person, but she’s not the face of social progress. Even if she maintains her career, her show will change. We live in a world where we need to encourage others to be kind, but Ellen isn’t the right person to deliver that message.