Friday, December 02, 2016

My Weekend Crush

History has a funny way of rewriting itself. Sure, Ellen DeGeneres is America’s Favorite Dancing Lesbian™ now. But it’s easy to forget that just some 20 years ago, she all but disappeared from our screens. Because the truth is 1997 was a lifetime ago culturally. I was in college then. And I remember watching her show’s historic coming-out “Puppy Episode” then. And I remember how singular it was – as basically no one else on television at the time had the guts to lean into a microphone and say, quite simply, “I’m gay” then. But, yep, Ellen did. And then, just a year later, her show was cancelled. And then for years she was relegated to guest spots in things like “Pauley Shore is Dead” and roles like a butchy corndog-chomping detective in “Goodbye Lover” (though, admittedly, she was very funny in that). But then, thanks to “Finding Nemo,” people suddenly remembered she was great again. And that whole gay thing wasn’t such a big deal after all. And sure, they’d love to watch her dance around and smile every afternoon. See, we were OK with The Gay all along. And now here we are 19 years later and she is receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But alas, progress isn’t all dancing and awards and prizes hidden under your seat. It’s also the tough years, the stumbles, the regrets and the all-out losses. But we just keep swimming. We have to. Otherwise we don’t get to write our own history. Happy weekend, all.


Carmen SanaDiego said...

God, I love that woman
Hollywood's greatest come back of all time?

Anonymous said...

I remember vividly! And still have the Time magazine with her on the cover. It gave me such hope then and she still does now.

Unknown said...

I was 16 when that happened, and immediately forbidden from ever watching anything with her in it again. It didn't matter. For the first time in my very sheltered life, I'd seen someone put the label to the fact (as opposed to the gay = IV drug users = pedophile model my parents taught me), and suddenly I felt better about who I was. My father was dying (3 weeks after it aired), my family was full of in fighting, and my best friend (aka first girlfriend because didn't it always happen that way back then?) was away at college and all I could see was that finally, someone said the thing.

My family is still stupid and homophobic. My mother told me when I came out (at 19) that she was glad my father was dead to not be shamed by it (something his surviving family members all laugh at, because they say he wouldn't have cared and knew when I was about 10, before I did).

My baby sister was told to fear me and to not go near me alone. But she grew up in a much bigger world than I did. By the time she was 9, she was 'allowed' to know that big sister dated women. By the time she was 11, she was shouting down our mother for her treatment of me. At 13, she came out to me as straight, terrified she'd upset me because she wasn't like me. And now at 21, she called me excitedly the morning Ellen was awarded the medal, telling me she'd made all her coworkers shut up so she could watch it and cry.

This world hasn't grown enough. But it has definitely grown. And if it wasn't for Ellen, I don't think that it would have done nearly as much as it has in this time.

Helena said...

I'm from Ellen's generation and am so glad that she had the courage to help make it a little bit better for following generations. We had so few open role models than today and she played a big role in starting the changes. That episode really felt like a miracle for me. Thank you Ellen.