“Be kind to one another.”
It was the catch phrase she finished every show with, and the words that would then become her undoing, when it was revealed that Ellen, America’s Sweetheart, maybe wasn’t as sweet as we all thought.
The rumours had been swirling for years, but the allegations ramped up in 2020, that the Ellen Degeneres Show was a toxic workplace, and that Ellen herself had a nasty side. It’s important to note, and a detail that gets glossed over, that the majority of these allegations, were not made about Ellen as an individual. They were about other executive producers on the show, who have subsequently been fired.
“Some former workers said they don’t think DeGeneres is aware of the scope of what goes on behind the scenes because she doesn’t spend enough time in the office or interacting with the staff to have a strong sense of the culture. They also said executive producers “insulate” her from details and control the narrative on set.”
After a genuine apology, and the sacking of Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman, and Jonathan Norman, why is everyone still out with their metaphorical pitchforks demanding blood?
Sure, ex-producers have come out and said that Ellen isn’t really as she appears on the show. But I ask you this; just because Ellen may not always be that extreme level of kind that, let’s be honest, no one is, does that automatically make her a bad person? Is there not a spectrum between Ellen’s persona on the Ellen Degeneres Show, and the devil incarnate?
A former producer (who worked on the show 18 years ago) appeared on Sunrise for the second time yesterday, and attacked Ellen for not always liking her pitches. She claims Ellen “showed no interest”, and would question “what am I going to talk to them about?”. As someone who has worked in television productions, these are very normal questions to ask. They can certainly be hard to hear when you’re in a vulnerable position, as pitching is, but if that’s the worst Ellen did, why is she being so demonised?
“I don’t know where it started. Please talk to me. Look me in the eye. It’s crazy, it’s just not true, it’s not who I am.”
Many say that it is because of her “brand”, that these stories were so shocking. She has been labelled as a fake. We expected her to be this extremely kind person we have seen on our screens for years, and were disappointed when we found out it wasn’t true 100% of the time. Does that mean we can excuse the behaviour of others if they don’t “act” kind to begin with? That logic is completely lost on me. I would prefer someone publicly put good will out into the world, and make a positive difference to people’s lives, wouldn’t you?
How have we allowed this controversy to cloud the good that Ellen has done? The millions of dollars she has donated, the people whose lives she has changed. The people she has brought joy to, including myself, when I would come home after school as a young girl, and watch her show. If you really believe she is this horrible person, just remember that has made such a positive impact on this world, far beyond what most of us ever will.
Being a woman in the workplace is hard. Being a woman who is a boss in the workplace, is harder. Even as a regular employee, you are constantly scrutinised at a level no man would be. If you stand up for yourself, you’re a bitch. If you’re a bit stressed out, you’re being hysterical and maybe you just can’t handle the work. If something makes you mad, you’re having a tantrum. If something makes you upset, you’re too emotional. These just aren’t the standards we hold men to. So when I hear that Ellen is a bitch, I have to wonder, is she? Or is just a professional woman whose image is on the line, and who knows what she wants? If the worst she has done, is not be overly-friendly at work all of the time, I don’t think she deserves this new title of public enemy #1. We simply don’t expect the same from men.
Ellen is also someone who has experienced significant trauma in her life. From being molested as a teenager by her mother’s husband, to receiving death threats and falling into a depression after coming out on her sitcom, at a time when being gay was not as largely embraced as it is now. She is a self-proclaimed introvert, as I myself am too. I very much understand the struggle of just keeping to yourself being interpreted as being cold or standoffish. Life is not always sunshine and rainbows, and Ellen shouldn’t be expected to act as if it is, just because it is what we expect and want of her.
Yesterday, Ellen announced that she would be ending her talk show after 19 years. If this announcement was made five years ago, the reaction would have been very different. Instead of an outpouring of love for someone who, let’s not forget, came out as a lesbian in 1997 and thought she would never get a job in TV again, she was largely mocked, and people celebrated. I, for one, will be watching this final season with love in my heart for someone who defied the odds, who brought joy to millions, and who has been a big part of my life.
Was I disappointed when I realised Ellen wasn’t the patron saint I had exalted her to be? Sure. But all I had to do was remind myself that she was a human being, and my one-sided relationship with Ellen was hunky-dory again.
Is Ellen perfect? No. Are you?