There are only a few months left before The Ellen DeGeneres Show is over for good, so many people are reflecting on the comedian's legacy. DeGeneres has been through more transformations in the public eye than most stars can ever dream of — for better or worse. Here's a look back on DeGeneres' reputation, how it changed over time and how it ended up as it is today.
Ellen DeGeneres stirred controversy in the late 1990s and early 2000s simply by coming out as a lesbian — a much more controversial admission for a famous person at the time. Since then, however, cultural attitudes have shifted so rapidly that many people question DeGeneres' commitment to the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. Meanwhile, some workplace scandals have seriously damaged her reputation for kindness above all. Throughout the summer of 2020, allegations of of "toxic workplace" behavior came out in a variety of venues. While most of these claims did not range into criminal acts, many did suggest that DeGeneres is a completely different person in real life than she acts like on screen.
DeGeneres has apologized for some of these missteps and has avoided addressing others, but she has only directly denied a few. She has now returned to work as normal — albeit with a slightly reduced audience if social media is any indicator. Meanwhile, some of her older, more obscure controversies have resurfaced as well.
DeGeneres' career began in the 1980s and has been through some infamous ups and downs. She was previously considered a champion of LGBTQ+ rights and a trailblazer for other young LGBTQ+ performers, though now she faces criticisms there as well. Her humble origins in Louisiana have also been eclipsed by her massive wealth and connections in high places.
DeGeneres told The Hollywood Reporter that her show would be ending in 2022 when her contract is up and her current season is over. She said that the controversies did not influence this decision at all, yet fans cannot help but look back at them on this bittersweet moment. To understand them for yourself, scroll down for the most common reasons people say they "hate" Ellen DeGeneres.
The latest batch of outrage at DeGeneres essentially began in April of 2020 when Variety reported on some disgruntled crew members. They said that they were not getting answers on their work status amid the coronavirus pandemic, including their pay, their employment and their hours. They were being paid at their usual rates, but for fewer hours at the time.
This helped open a can of worms amid crew members and producers, who began to share their stories about DeGeneres' behavior on set. In anonymous interviews with BuzzFeed News, dozens of employees said that DeGeneres has been rude or hurtful to them, and others said that she had turned a blind eye to sexist or racist behavior by her producers.
DeGeneres eventually apologized to her staff in an open letter, though she ignored some of their biggest complaints. Some fans have never recovered their respect for DeGeneres after this bombshell.prevnext
True story. It is.— Lea Thompson (@LeaKThompson) July 31, 2020
NOT RYAN PHILLIPPE SLYLY DISSING ELLEN 💀 pic.twitter.com/f4XRtgdEHq— Pig 4 Peppa (@MacArthurPerc) October 25, 2020
Around the same time, some stars began speaking out about DeGeneres as well, claiming that it was a bit of an open secret in the industry that DeGeneres is rude and condescending. This hurt some fans more than anything, as it completely contradicted DeGeneres' "be kind" mantra, which she espouses on her show every day.
One of the most famous examples was Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett, who tweeted in July that DeGeneres' off-screen persona is "common knowledge." Back to the Future star Lea Thompson agreed, writing: "True story." Finally, some stars seemed to corroborate this view later on in the year, including Ryan Phillippe who mocked DeGeneres' "be kind" mantra in an Instagram Story post in October.prevnext
When I was 15 @TheEllenShow was doing a contest of fans making a bust of her and sending it to her. I worked so hard on this and even wrote her a letter. Weeks later she used it as a prop in a game and gave it away to a random person with $500 attached to the bottom. pic.twitter.com/tcXg2ILcLc— Danielle Acevedo (@daniianita96) March 23, 2020
While insiders were sharing, some fans posted their own experiences with DeGeneres online that were equally unflattering. One user wrote about working hard for a fan art contest and sending in a bust of DeGeneres years ago, only to have the host mock her creation and use it as a punchline in a later segment. Meanwhile, podcaster Trisha Paytas said that she had been warned not to touch DeGeneres nor even look her in the eye back in 2010 when she appeared in an audience talent segment.
"When all that stuff started coming out [about Ellen], I was like, that makes sense because she was so awful. Literally, would not talk. They tell you... 'don't look in her eyes, don't touch her,'" Paytas said.prevnext
George W. Bush
DeGeneres was still shaking off some backlash from October of 2019 when she shared a private box at an NFL game with former President George W. Bush. During his presidency, Bush fought hard against same-sex marriage and other aspects of LGBTQ+ rights, and critics wondered how DeGeneres could be touted as a trailblazer and a role model for the LGBTQ+ community while spending time with him.
DeGeneres answered for this in a monologue on her show, where she said that she strives to have friendships with people whose political views differ from hers. This did not appease critics, who said that human rights are not vague political issues for disenfranchised LGBTQ+ viewers without DeGeneres' enormous wealth and resources. Many outspoken celebrities — including actor Mark Ruffalo — condemned DeGeneres for her friendship with Bush.prevnext
As all of this backlash boiled up, fans began recalling moments from DeGeneres' show that had left them uneasy, and one of the most popular clips to recirculate was from a November 2019 interview with actress Dakota Johnson. At the time, Johnson seemed to put DeGeneres in her place and refuse to play along with one of her jokingly passive-aggressive bits. The interview was lauded as a "cultural reset."prevnext
Two comedians having fun with each other to entertain. I was never a victim guys, I was always in on the joke. https://t.co/mjUjPNRHlb— Sofia Vergara (@SofiaVergara) August 21, 2020
Conversely, fans looked back at DeGeneres' many interviews with actress Sofia Vergara, feeling that Vergara had been teased and victimized by DeGeneres for too long. They were indignant about how many repetitive jokes DeGeneres had made about Vergara's accent over the years. However, in August of 2020 Vergara tweeted that she "was never a victim" and "was always in on the joke."prevnext
Finally, as lapsed fans dissect DeGeneres' actions and her legacy, it's worth remembering that some contingent of people out there still openly hate her for her sexual orientation alone. DeGeneres struggled through the 1980s without publicly revealing her sexuality, then faced harsh scrutiny from the media when she came out in the mid-1990s. She has shared the details of this struggle and the ensuing depression in her stand-up specials, as well as her memoirs. The newer allegations do not detract from DeGeneres' past struggles or vice versa.prev