DeGeneres or Degenerate? Darkness behind Ellen’s “be kind” mantra
Ellen Degenerate might be a more fitting title for the talk show host after the deluge of incriminating reports heaped on The Ellen DeGeneres Show over the summer. Even now we struggle to reconcile the news of mean behavior & a toxic work environment with the bright, chipper image we’ve come to associate with Ellen DeGeneres.
We learned to see Ellen as a force for good as on her show she continuously brought smiles to people’s faces and preached a pleasant manta of “be kind”. To many, Ellen was a bright light of kindness in a cold, cruel world. The realization that the light shining in our eyes covered up darkness behind it is a devastating dose of reality.
There have been clues that Ellen’s oasis of kindness wasn’t exactly the utopia we thought it was. The Ellen DeGeneres Show has displayed some questionable behavior from the host a number of times which we dismissed as her quirky sense of humor. Here are a few examples of Ellen slowly sinking to degenerate.
Humor vs. humiliation
We’ve seen it so many times on The Ellen DeGeneres Show: the playful, teasing segments like “Cash for Kindness”, “Starbucks Prank”, or “Ellen in your Ear” that toe the line between humor & humiliation. The point of the games is to create awkward, candid comedy – yet it more often devolves into painful embarrassment or outright stress.
Ellen frequently plays with the line of discomfort with her audience, her staff, and her celebrity guests. It’s been passed off as Ellen’s sense of humor, her comedic styling if you will. She enjoys scaring people, she enjoys teasing people, she enjoys watching people squirm.
It’s this reaction-based comedic that becomes uncomfortable after only a few minutes because it becomes clear those at the butt of the joke are not exactly consenting to this “duress for sake of entertainment”. After watching Ellen’s producer Andy scream his way through the Haunted House for the umpteenth time, we begin to feel that fine line between teasing & bullying.
Provoking vs. problematic
Awkward interaction isn’t just designated for comedy segments; Ellen often employs it when interviewing guests. Ellen’s quick, smart wit is often entertainingly effective in enticing a celebrity to show their feisty side and engage with Ellen. To make things even spicier, Ellen will often go the extra mile, slipping some innuendo, bringing up a past relationship, or encouraging a lapse judgment.
It might seem like a harmless bit of fun and we certainly see other hosts engage in awkward banter or comedy. Conan O’Brien is especially known for his brand of uncomfortable humor. However, the distinction between Ellen and Conan is Conan makes himself the butt of the joke whereas Ellen often puts that burden on her guests.
Perhaps that makes Ellen more likable though as she subverts the sycophantic fawning of hosts like Jimmy Fallon and tells it like it is – no Hollywood bullsh!* here. But the painful lesson we’ve learned over the past years is that straight-talking doesn’t equate to strong character. And watching Dakota Johnson or Mariah Carey struggle their way through an interview with Ellen shouldn’t be classed as entertainment.
Kindness vs. intolerance
On The Ellen DeGeneres Show, we often get to see Ellen tackling some noble issues whether it’s hunger, queer rights, or the opportunity for an education. Ellen has rightfully donated time & money to these movements and she should be acknowledged for that.
Yet, often her quest for kindness clouds other issues. Her controversy over a friendly photo with George W. Bush or her dismissal of Kevin Hart’s homophobic comedy comes to mind. Ellen addressed both issues by explaining she was trying to be kind and glossed over any meaningful conversation that also addressed the intolerance that played a part in both situations.
Illusion vs. reality
Perhaps the most damning blow against Ellen is that while her show gushed about kindness & compassion, behind-the-scenes in the staff room, there was little to be found. That fact is a slap in the face to the people who subscribed to that “be kind” message.
Now, Ellen DeGeneres has now become Ellen Degenerate because of the lie she created when the distinction was made between kindness in public & kindness behind closed doors.