It's time to Cancel Ellen DeGeneres: Talk show host is just another hypocritical gatekeeper who's been exposed
While the talk show host essentially made her brand by telling the world to "be kind to one another", she gave a carte blanche to herself and her top executives to be as mean and abusive as they wanted to be. Ellen DeGeneres, the 'kindness patron saint' of Hollywood is paying for her hypocrisy.
Roll your eyes all you want at cancel culture but, let's face it, it gets the job done. We are in that moment of time when several factors have coincided perfectly, pushing on stress points, to reveal the prejudices and hypocrisy of our most-"loved" gatekeepers -- those who have used their platform and clout to make the world a more miserable place. None of them have been more significant than Ellen DeGeneres, the 'kindness patron saint' of daytime TV because it shows that people are tired of celebrities who preach what they don't practice.
What makes Ellen significant is that she built her own brand and fan following as someone who had once been treated unkindly. She has talked of her experience of being dropped by Hollywood after coming out as gay in 1997. After not working for three-odd years, she built the core of her brand and her show as a gay icon fighting back against homophobia and systemic prejudices against gay men and women in the industry. Her show, therefore, with games, dancing and the mantra "be kind" was in essence a 'cultural safe space' for the audiences who felt marginalized or ostracized by society. DeGeneres and 'The Ellen Show' boosted this audience perception by hosting giveaways, coordinating with influential and popular charities, and being the face of philanthropic projects.
Ellen weaponized her show's fan-following by becoming a gatekeeper of sorts. She could and has 'banned' celebs and people (just like she had been) for having opinions contrary to hers. She has also rescued friends like Kevin Hart by vouching for them on her show. She has also played victim when people or organizations were not willing to break the rules for her or do her a favor.
In addition to her platform as the most successful long-running talk-show host, she has also specifically cultivated a huge roster of friends who are either A-list celebs or powerful people in media and in politics -- from actors like Jennifer Aniston, celebrity media icons like Oprah Winfrey, singers like Pink and politicians like Hillary Clinton and controversially, George W Bush Jr. With this sort of clout, she would get away scot-free even when she was being snide to celebs she didn't like on her show like Dakota Johnson.
It is significant that no A-lister has spoken out about Ellen's nastiness before despite it being "common knowledge" precisely because of her status as a powerful gatekeeper who is "in the inner circle". Well, everyone except Brad Garrett, who responded to Ellen's belated "apology" memo where she pushes the blame for the toxic workculture on to her underlings. Garrett called her out in a tweet saying that the toxicity came "from the top", aka Ellen herself, and that he knew personally of people who had been treated horribly by her.
All concrete allegations against DeGeneres and the show are from staffers, present and past, and people who were less powerful than her, like YouTuber Nikkie and the bodyguard at the Oscars -- fuelled by democratic social media channels and then picked up by news outlets.
Most people would believe that someone who has been, as her memo stated, "judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am", would go out of the way to ensure others don't face what she had to. But as a gatekeeper she has done the exact opposite, betraying and misusing the power she was given as a gay role model.
In a stand-up routine, before the pandemic, she spoke of "being too nice" and subsequentlyin an interview with the NYT spoke about how people's expectations that she 'always' be nice were a bit tiring. The headline said it all: 'Ellen DeGeneres Is Not as Nice as You Think'. In the interview, she responded to allegations that she wasn't kind to those she worked with, saying: "The first day [on the show] I said: ‘The one thing I want is everyone here to be happy and proud of where they work, and if not, don’t work here.’ No one is going to raise their voice or not be grateful. That’s the rule to this day."
For fresh graduates looking for a foothold in the industry, being hired by a popular show like 'The Ellen Show' is a dream come true. Once they realized what a toxic workplace it was, how many of them would dare complain since the "Word" from the 'Kindness Saint' was that you either had to shut up and pretend to be happy or quit and lose your livelihood and possibly blacklisted? Staffers have emphasized that had they gone to Ellen with complaints about the top management, they would have been fired.
Toxic workspaces have come under intense scrutiny since the #MeToo movement managed to put Harvey Weinstein behind bars. Since then we've had a roster of powerful celebs and gatekeepers being questioned about the discrepancies between the values they espouse and what they, as authority figures, foster in the spaces they have power.
The Black Lives Matters movement and the ongoing pandemic layoffs and job insecurity have added several layers to the ongoing discussion of systemic inequalities and harassment tied to how certain people are more vulnerable than others to being fired, being paid less and subject to "thousand cuts" of being disrespected and verbally abused. With the true democratization of information, thanks to social media, allegations are crowdsourced. While there might be a lot of static noise, the truth will out. And that is the true power of cancel culture. It can bring down and has brought down people "too big to fail" when justice was denied repeatedly and power abused repeatedly.
The 'Bon Apetit' media empire for instance is now on shaky ground because it was revealed that the "diversity" they embraced in their popular YouTube Test Kitchen videos was a sham. While the videos did feature people of color, they were not paid for their time, unlike their white colleagues.
Similarly, Ellen's employees have revealed that it was not a "place of happiness" as Ellen claims. Instead, the lower-level staff was routinely abused and harrassed -- several of them have gone of record with tales of sexual assault while others cite systemic racism or being penalized for taking leave after a death in the family and other such toxic behavior. As staffers have pointed out Ellen was very aware of what was going on. But besides being the self-labeled "aloof and indifferent" person she is, she did nothing.
So while Ellen essentially made her brand by telling the world to "be kind to one another", she gave a carte blanche to herself and her top executives to be as mean and abusive as they wanted to be. Many idols and brands who had the entertainment and media biz in a stranglehold because of their enormous clout and their gigantic, well-oiled PR machinery have fallen because of their hypocrisy. Ellen DeGeneres has proved that she is no different and thus should not be treated any differently.