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The year 2020 is doing & undoing a lot, and that includes the reputation of Ellen DeGeneres. Will Ellen keep her show? Here's what we know.

Where did it all go wrong for ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’? A timeline

The year 2020 is doing & undoing a lot, and that includes the reputation of Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen’s been often touted as the epitome of kindness & compassion, but it’s hard to imagine a person who’s giving by their very nature. Turns out, it’s hard to believe because such mythical creatures are also hard to come by – and irrespective of the image Ellen’s carried in our minds – she isn’t one of them.

The Ellen-Dakota skirmish

Remember when Dakota Johnson confronted Ellen? We all remember it as the most awkward moment in talk show history, but it was also a moment where the real Ellen made a peekaboo from her disguise of kindness. In her ugly powerplay, we saw her for who she really is – just another power-drunk celebrity who wouldn’t mind misusing her privilege. 

Ellen has the track record to show that she likes to pick fights with her guests, put them on the spot & say enough incriminating things in the name of comedy that they come out of the interview feeling near-bullied. That’s what she did with Dakota when she kept asking her why she wasn’t invited to Dakota’s birthday party. 

Dakota took it in good stead the first time, but she took the “fool me once, fool me twice” adage very seriously & stood her ground the second time. She played the same cards that Ellen does & told her she was in fact, invited the second time, but was out of town – referring to the Cowboys game Ellen was photographed at with former President Bush, for which she also drew a lot of flak on the internet.

At that point, she’d used The Ellen DeGeneres Show to address this – very likely upon being told by her PR team – in these exact words, “Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different.” The audience wasn’t convinced.

If we dig deep enough, it’s not hard to see why Ellen’s facade was so hard to keep. We could throw it back to 2018, when her Netflix stand-up special Relatable ruffled some feathers. 

Ellen’s not as nice as you think

Her personality in her special was so far off from her TV show personality that the difference created a dissonance strong & jarring enough that The New York Times ran the provocative headline “Ellen DeGeneres Is Not as Nice as You Think.” 

Thein January 2019, she used her platform to give Kevin Hart the public space to justify his homophobic comments. Her justification? She believes in second chances. That’s a genius way of keeping up with her facade of being a giving & forgiving person, but it hurt the larger sentiment, especially coming from someone whose coming out set a milestone for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Social media trial begins

The Dakota Johnson memes hadn’t died down yet. Neither had the narrative that Dakota had single-handedly shown how subtly exploitative these invisible power structures were to the guests in the show. 

In March this year, Kevin Porter made a call out on Twitter, asking people to share stories about how mean Ellen had been to them. Things snowballed pretty quickly from there, as people shared stories of her unkindness towards them either when they were waiting tables, or even when they were on the staff for her show – the very show that propagates kindness as her mantra. 

In February too, Dutch beauty vlogger Nikkie de Jager shared how she was mistreated when she went on the show. She was there to share her experience as a transgender woman after coming out – providing a platform for which seems like a noble pursuit on the surface – but she was given discriminatory treatment, including disregarding her need for a toilet.

The pandemic & privilege

The lockdown’s given us crucial insights into how privilege can protect you from a pandemic when you have a mansion to live in, so when Ellen posted a video sharing her feelings of being locked up in her comfortable mansion, it stirred a mountain of anger from people.

She compared living in quarantine to living in prison. She either has a crooked sense of humor or she’s just a sadist for making tone-deaf jokes in the middle of a pandemic when so many lives are benignly lost. She faced enormous backlash, following which the tweet was deleted & the Youtube video was made private.

Soon enough, news broke that her employees had received no communication over their pay during the shutdown, which was followed by an investigation into her workplace culture. None of this was a surprise to anyone.

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