To Know Ellen DeGeneres, Recall Her Sitcom Controversy

Jezebel piece: Homophobia nearly derailed her career, and she rebounded as 'nice' and 'bland'
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2020 12:53 PM CDT
Updated Aug 30, 2020 6:33 AM CDT
To Understand Ellen, Recall Her Sitcom Controversy
Ellen DeGeneres in early 2020.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

Ellen DeGeneres, long seen as the "nicest woman in Hollywood," is now facing big controversy amid allegations that she and show execs are anything but nice when the cameras aren't rolling. In a lengthy piece at Jezebel, Joan Summers suggests that the key to understanding DeGeneres lies in the controversy surrounding her Ellen sitcom in the 1990s. That was when DeGeneres and her character on the show came out as gay, which was a huge cultural phenomenon at the time that generated no small amount of anti-gay sentiment. In fact, Summers writes that it's clear now the show's subsequent cancellation can be chalked up to homophobia. DeGeneres had a few quiet years before rebounding as "the nice, soothing, patriotic host" of the Emmys in November 2001, soon after the 9/11 attacks.

The well-received show served as "her reentry into Hollywood's culture engine," writes Summers. Soon came a gig hosting SNL, then the premiere of her talk show in 2003. DeGeneres set the tone with her very first guest, Jennifer Aniston, and her unusually casual interview style. By then, "the host had embraced Hollywood conventions—blandness, uniformity, assimilation—instead of railing against them," writes Summers. This perception of "nice" Ellen lasted for a long time, until the first cracks began surfacing in the last few years. Things have spiraled downward on that front in 2020. "In hindsight," writes Summers, "there could be no better explainer of her alleged behavior offscreen than her quest to rehabilitate her public image as the most non-threatening gay person on American television." Read the full story. (More Ellen DeGeneres stories.)

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