No, it’s not a scandal. It’s not an open secret either. The fall from grace of comedian and television host Ellen DeGeneres is simply another symptom of the awakening of a society tired of the hypocrisy.
By now, Kathy Griffin must be sipping her tea with an indelible “I told you so” written on her face. The comedian was one of the first to bring DeGeneres’ true personality to light in her memoir Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-Ins: My A-Z Index, four years ago.
While social networks are filled with jokes about the moment when Dakota Johnson dared to tell Ellen “that’s not the truth” in an interview last fall, several articles published by BuzzFeed have given the matter a serious enough tone that forced Warner Bros. to launch an internal investigation.
No, Ellen is not “super nice,” nor is she the LGBTQ+ version of Oprah. Behind the scenes, her employees experience one of the most toxic work environments ever exposed in Hollywood.
“That ‘be kind’ bullshit only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,” one former employee told BuzzFeed News. “I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.”
After interviewing a current and 10 former employees of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, BuzzFeed has published accounts of unfair dismissals, racist comments, sexual harassment accusations, and “daily toxicity” in the study’s corridors.
Although producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner have shouldered the responsibility, DeGeneres has not been able to avoid being part of the problem.
Last March, comedian Kevin T. Porter opened a Twitter thread asking people to share “the craziest stories” they’ve heard about Ellen, collecting up to 2,600 responses.
During the pandemic, many of her employees told Variety they were “distressed and outraged” by the producers’ lack of professionalism and communication about their work future.
Even DeGeneres’ own bodyguard recalled his discomfort at seeing first hand the “degrading” treatment of others by the TV host.
“I think it is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to the show’s brand,” a former employee said. “They pull on people’s heartstrings; they do know that’s going to get likes and what people are going to go for, which is a positive message. But that’s not always reality.”
Employees of color who face humiliation, workers on the verge of a burnout who got fired, and the pressure on others to go public with aspects of their personal lives are just the tip of the iceberg of what it means to work on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“They hire people who maybe are inexperienced with how a functional, nontoxic work environment actually is, or someone who just wants to be in that atmosphere so bad that they’ll put up with it,” one former employee told BuzzFeed. “They kind of feed off of that, like, ‘This is Ellen; this is as good as it gets. You’ll never find anything better than this.'”
Not as Nice as You Think
In her interview with Jason Zinoman for a profile in The New York Times, DeGeneres opened the window to what it means to be in her shoes — not just as a producer, but as the name and face of one of the most profitable shows in the entertainment industry.
When asked by the reporter about the growing rumors about her bad character and second person behind the scenes, DeGeneres responded: “That bugs me if someone is saying that because it’s an outright lie. The first day 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.”
However, the voices began to whisper louder.
From her decision to endorse Kevin Hart as a host for the Oscars despite his record of homophobic comments, to her controversial photo with George W. Bush, to the infamous interview with Dakota Johnson, Ellen’s name has gradually fallen from grace.
The YouTuber NikkieTutorials, actor Brad Garrett and actress Lea Thompson confirmed the rumors on social media, with Porter describing her as “notoriously one of the meanest people alive.”
But amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the country’s awakening consciousness, why is the truth about Ellen DeGeneres important?
It’s no coincidence that the show’s employees have nicknamed their host “Talk Show Karen,” reminding us of Amy Cooper in Central Park, women demonstrating for the right to a haircut in the midst of a pandemic, and so many other cants that have been coming out since George Floyd’s death.
“Who would’ve thought that one of America’s most loved personalities would morph into America’s most famous Karen?’ production sources told the Daily Mail. “There’s no way anyone on staff wants Karen and her band of toxic executives to return.”