On Sunday, Ellen DeGeneres and her partner Portia de Rossi were in Texas, watching the NFL's Dallas Cowboys face off against the Green Bay Packers. They were seated in the owner's box, right next to former President George W. Bush. As images of this unlikely duo circulated, the response got interesting on social media.
DeGeneres is not the kind of person you might expect to see at a football game, let alone in the owner's box. Given her pioneering role in LGBTQ representation in media, many found it jarring to see her sitting beside President Bush.
President Bush's campaigns both included a promise to make a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the United States. He had many moments that angered the LGBTQ community, both in policy and in publicity, going all the way back to his career as Governor of Texas.
Anyway, bold choice for @TheEllenShow to hang out with GWB 2 days before SCOTUS (which now includes his former staff secretary Kavanaugh) will hear a case about whether it will be legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in employment.— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) October 6, 2019
In general, the community once regarded Bush as one of the most presidents to their rights in modern history. However, the presidency of Donald Trump has skewed perception of him markedly in recent years, and some who once opposed him can now be heard joking that they "miss" having him in office — at various degrees of sarcasm.
This weekend, the reaction to seeing the former president with DeGeneres was fractured into many different camps. All were a response to the optics of the two apparently talking, and even laughing together. However, according to a report by the Dallas Morning News, DeGeneres ended up next to the president by chance.
DeGeneres and de Rossi were reportedly at the game to tour the stadium's art collection. They were guests of the Jones family, who own AT&T Stadium, and as such sat in the owners' box. Still, to many fans that did not change the fact that DeGeneres was rubbing elbows with Bush, and apparently having a good time.
Here are some of the reactions Twitter had to this odd colliding of worlds.
I would absolutely watch this sitcom though pic.twitter.com/3v3V5Xz01N— Paid man gets bored (@cjzero) October 6, 2019
To some users, the sight of DeGeneres, de Rossi and the Bushes side by side was simply amusing, first and foremost.
Several users — including this one — joked that they would make for an entertaining sitcom, pairing opposites to see what happened.
On the other end of the spectrum were people condemning Bush in absolute terms. The former president sent the U.S. to war while he was in office, and his orders overseas have always been in question. Some, such as director Josh Fox, could not imagine sitting beside him after all of that.
Ellen Degeneres seems happy in the Owners Suite at Cowboy Stadium with the war criminal.. BIG Republican donors in that Box... pic.twitter.com/eTJeyLQ2SR— JCrongeyer (@JCrongeyer) October 6, 2019
Many people thought that the strange pictures said something interesting about DeGeneres outside of her attitude towards Bush. They noted that the owner's box was mostly full of people on opposite political footing from her, ostensibly, yet she still managed to get in among them.
It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight. Just untouchably rich.
And white, of course.— 🕷️spider 🕸️web rant 😱 2019 (@web_rant) October 6, 2019
They took this to mean that DeGeneres wields some cultural influence that even her opponents cannot ignore.
The public rehabilitation of George W. Bush continues.
Fans reacted on Twitter. Half a million dead Iraqis could not be reached for comment.https://t.co/tRjDA0Q2py— Spooky Nate (@BladeOfCreation) October 7, 2019
Others thought that DeGeneres was simply being used as part of an ongoing effort to "rehabilitate" President Bush's public image. They noted that, for casual observers, the image was one small, subtle step towards softening Bush's harsh reputation.
but also https://t.co/8JVZORgLXb— elseworld where the joker is from philadelphia (@lilpoolish) October 7, 2019
A surprising number of users argued that DeGeneres herself was no saint in terms of civil rights advancement.
While she is often remembered for bravely risking her mainstream appeal to come out as gay, some activists feel that she never went far enough. Seeing her next to Bush was no surprise to this crowd.
Ellen sitting up next to a man who started a war and destabilized an entire region. And possibly orchestrated 9/11 .
U looking at a ball of flesh that just might burst simply because of EGO.
AND !— Ivan Herringbone III (@NoEmptyTalk) October 7, 2019
Along the same line, some thought that Bush and DeGeneres have more in common than people were giving them credit for.
While their political posturing may be at odds, these people argued that their personalities were similar — and not in a good way. One user made the case that the two were aligned by their confidence and ego more than anything else.
Personally I love this. Exactly what we need now. And after Trump W looks like Einstein. https://t.co/PU4U01v2PA— Mitch Slater (@mpslater) October 7, 2019
Of course, a huge swath of Twitter users applauded DeGeneres for reaching across the aisle at a time like this.
They felt that she was simply showing good priorities, courting the friendship of an influential former president to further de-legitimize President Trump.
THIS!!! This is how you do it!🙌. Love them both even if I don’t necessarily agree with the political views of one of them. 🤷♀️. This is how mature adults interact with one another. Regardless of politics. I would have LOVED to listen in on their... https://t.co/g7Jh0smnVU— Brea Park (@MaizeyKitty) October 7, 2019
Even outside of today's political context, some users thought that DeGeneres was doing the right thing by catching up with President Bush all these years later. They felt that she showed "maturity" in listening to him "regardless of politics."
Can we talk about the real travesty here, that they’re both at a dallas cowboys game?! pic.twitter.com/CnhpYpwawF— RM (@drink_oat_milk) October 7, 2019
Finally, many Twitter users tried to undercut the tension of the whole debate by turning toward the real issue: football.
They joked that the real heartbreak here was seeing DeGeneres sit on the Cowboys' side of the stadium, espousing their own support for the Packers, or another team in the league.