Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Ellen's Next Chapter?

I thought at first I’d have a lot to say about Ellen’s announcement she’s ending her daytime talkshow with this its upcoming 19th season. But then a lot of smart women said a lot of smart stuff already. So I’ll keep it short-ish. My feelings about Ellen are, inevitably, tinged with nostalgia. But her career is a reminder that if our heroes don’t evolve along with us, we’re under no obligation to keep actively worshipping them. I’m not an Ellen hater per se. I recognize the incalculable good she did by coming out and mainstreaming acceptance of LGBTQ people. None of that should be forgotten. She helped change the world.

But, we’re all human. And good humans change because the world keeps changing and we should too. Ellen continued to believe her brand of non-nuanced niceness is the answer. She had made unquestioning kindness her brand. But just being nice won’t fix people who believe trans people should not be allowed to exist freely. And just being nice isn’t going to cause white supremacists to change suddenly their hearts. (Not to mention the reports of Ellen’s perhaps less than niceness in real life, and her show’s terribly toxic workplace. Weaponizing niceness to become obscenely rich and wrap oneself in unimaginable privilege while doing seemingly little to help those most currently vulnerable is, uh, not a good look.)

Still, like I was saying, we’re all human. We needed Ellen, and she came through for us at a time when only a handful of celebrities were actively out. She was the lesbian next-door, safe and non-threatening. Her likability and perceived kindness were ridiculously good PR for the mainstreaming of (let’s be honest, white-) gay acceptance back in the late ‘90s. And still she suffered for it, taking a few years to find her way back out of the wilderness after her sitcom got unceremoniously cancelled. Her return to and domination of an industry that once chewed her up and spit her out took courage and strength.

We all have struggles, and hopefully we all learn and continue to expand our minds and our hearts as we get older. That’s the whole wiser part, right? Heroes are only human too, and sometimes they might forget to look back and learn from their own struggles. Sometimes they continue to do the same thing that first made them revolutionary, but now just makes them rich. Then, yeah, it’s probably time to close that particular chapter.

But I truly hope Ellen has another chapter in her, one where her niceness (and wealth it helped her accumulate) can be used to continue the legacy she has already left of opening doors. True kindness is showing the most kindness to those who have experienced the least – not those who have gotten plenty already.

Well, shit, seems like I had at least a little to say anyway. Our icons are always complicated. The best take every opportunity to add to their legacies. I sincerely hope Ellen does just that.


Carmen San Diego said...

The level of perfection that we demand of people is unsustainable. She put herself through a meat-grinder, paid the price of losing her career, and found a way to come back and triumph. She has done a lot of good in the world
The allegations against her person were a mish-mash of uncorroborated trivialities, such as complaints that she didn’t visit this or that guest in the Green Room before the show or that she didn’t chat during the commercial breaks. There were one or two allegations of more serious rudeness, such as yelling at a waitress years ago, but there’s no evidence that those allegations are actually true. And there were allegations about misconduct by a couple of producers, but no claim that Ellen knew about it or engaged in any misconduct herself. She definitely didn’t deserve this kind of treatment.
I’ll always be grateful to her for having risked everything by advancing the cause for all of us.

Middle Girl said...

Yes to most of what you said. May she recover, evolve, and rise to continue to forge a path of kindness and support.