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Behind the “Be Kind” Mask: Discussing ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ Dilemma

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

By Ashly McNally

When Ellen DeGeneres came out in 1997, “it sent shockwaves through the television industry.” Her stand-up and television career would be damaged for years. It wasn’t until 2003 that she broke through with her award-winning daytime talk show and voicing of the character Dory in Finding Nemo, that she became a household name for all the right reasons.

Now, some 20 years later, allegations of abuse of power, racism, and more have come out against not only some of the producers but the host herself.

When DeGeneres came back on the air in 2003, her talk show was known for its upbeat and entertaining style. In 2020, fans - the ones who have stayed - say the show isn’t what it used to be. The show’s refreshing style and mantra of “be kind,” in addition to welcoming the first openly gay talk show host, drew “an average of 4.5 million viewers” per episode. Now with the copious amount of scandals knocking at the doors of the WarnerBros studio in the midst of a politically-charged climate, the show may not survive much longer.

Hollywood now has shows like Modern Family, Euphoria, I Am Not Okay With This, Warrior Nun, and She’s Gotta Have It catering to the LGBTQ+ audience. Although they’re still learning how to properly portray minorities without using stereotypes, there are more portrayals than just DeGeneres’ talk show now. The freshness and fun of her show are dimming down now that American society is becoming more inclusive. In addition, there’s more competition for the top daytime talk show in 2020.

The Kelly Clarkson Show came out in September 2019, and since then has risen to the top 4 category of daytime talk shows. Clarkson’s show includes a “Kellyoke” segment and discusses current issues plaguing American society today, such as white privilege and racial tensions. Her show retains the upbeat, fun style of predecessors like Ellen, who she does find inspiration from, but is also completely interactive for the audience. One Google user, Alvone Scott, says the overall show and guest interactions are “unique,” “empathetic,” and “thought-provoking”.

DeGeneres’ show still retains most of its original style but may be on its way out. In the past few years, there’s been a backlash against Ellen’s friendships with people who have previously made homophobic comments.

Chelsea Hassi from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, (and a previous fan of DeGeneres) says, “If her queerness is going to make her this much money, and if she is a public figure, by choice, then she should be supporting it in her everyday actions.” Hassi doesn’t directly name it, but the idea of “cancel culture,” largely fueled by “politically progressive social media,” has potentially contributed to Ellen’s loss of viewers.

This could very well be the end of an era. Especially with the rise of the internet, viewers want someone they feel is like a friend and someone they would want to invite into their home; meaning the person also has to be “unproblematic.” The internet doesn’t want a host with a fake “persona,” but to be honest to who they are, transparent with viewers… and to have a stable and decisive voice in the ongoing societal discussion. As per Hassi’s quote, not many feel DeGeneres has that voice.

For now, however, The Ellen Degeneres Show has been renewed for three more years, and DeGeneres has numerous other projects with WarnerBros.

Written by writer Ashly McNally

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