Los Angeles (AFP) – For nearly two decades, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and its blatantly lesbian host have graced American homes, shattering stereotypes while charming viewers with a clever mix of entertainment and celebrity interviews.
But after more than 3,000 episodes, the talk show, which had managed to compete with Oprah Winfrey, ended on Thursday in a bitter tone due to testimonies telling of a toxic work environment. Flagrant contradiction with its slogan, “Please” (please).
“When we started the show in 2003, the iPhone did not exist. Neither did social media. Homosexual marriages were not legal,” Ellen DeGeneres recalled last month.
“We’ve seen the world change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.”
The cultural landscape has changed dramatically since 1997, when the star who became famous as a comedian came out as gay – at the same time on TV as Ellen, her character in a sitcom of the same name, and in real life on the cover of Time magazine.
“Ellen” is the first main character in a TV series to “come out”, and if her interpreter is immediately driven to the status of a gay icon, the sitcom will be canceled a year later due to a return of the stick. This is the beginning of a crossroads of the desert that will last five years before Ellen DeGeneres reinvents herself as an animator.
“It was an event, a milestone,” but it also became controversial, says Mary Murphy, a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California.
“She led the way. She was probably – and perhaps still is – the most famous LGBTQ person in America.”
If Ellen DeGeneres has never hidden her sexuality, her address book filled with ultra-famous guests and her ease have made her successful, especially in the more conservative regions of the United States.
For 19 seasons, all of Hollywood has struggled to find a place on the host’s couch where they can comfortably promote themselves, without being pushed around by more than a little teasing.
Mandatory passage: the dance, at the beginning of each program. Barack Obama, then an ambitious young senator, outlined a few steps on Beyoncé’s hit “Crazy in Love” in 2007.
Some celebrities have come more than ten times. Actress Jennifer Aniston, the first guest, returns to finish the loop on Thursday.
“She’s one with the celebrities, she’s their friend. They know it. And she makes it all cozy,” says Mary Murphy.
“Maybe because she herself had suffered, she did not want to hurt other people. She did not try to get hold of them.”
But its plateau was not just reserved for stars: the public, or the latest sensations on YouTube, were regularly invited there to enjoy the glory of their neighborhoods, sometimes for crazy games.
“Ellen is this funny, silly, eccentric character who does not take herself too seriously,” said Jeetendr Sehdev, author of “Kim Kardashian Principle.”
“We had never seen a talk show host who looked like her, or behaved like her … She was the woman with the cut hair and the pantsuit while everyone else was blow-drying.”
But rumors of a less rosy atmosphere behind the scenes exploded in the light when Buzzfeed published a study of the show’s toxic work environment in 2020, including reports of sexual harassment, bullying and racism.
Three of the show’s producers had been fired. Ellen DeGeneres had been accused of not knowing how to manage her team, and of being much less sympathetic privately than in front of the camera.
Last May, when the end of the show was announced, she nonetheless denied any connection to these controversies.
“I needed a new challenge,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
But the controversy had only accumulated for the star, again at the center of criticism for his defense of comedian Kevin Hart, who had given up the presentation of the Oscars in 2018 after the resurgence of old tweets considered homophobic.
“Suddenly she fell a little into disfavor,” Mary Murphy analyzes.
She seemed “close to the celebrities, close to the public, but far from those who work with her,” she adds.
For Jeetendr Sehdev, Ellen DeGeneres has always been “full of contradictions”.
That is “part of the reason she attracted so many people” and “the reason why her integrity, credibility and authenticity were questioned,” he says.
© 2022 AFP