Ellen DeGeneres has spent no time pivoting to victimhood after announcing on Wednesday that her long-running talk show was ending.
Last August, DeGeneres apologized after detailed reports about the toxic workplace environment at her show (employees said they experienced sexual misconduct, racism, and more). It was impossible to know then how truly sorry she was. Now we know: not only is Ellen not sorry, she thinks the reports were a sexist conspiracy. Over the last two days, she has been on a self-pity tour that shows the extent of her bunker mentality. It also shows that, when you come down to it, Ellen is that most familiar of things: a wealthy boss who cares more about her image and her rich pals than she does about the people who actually work for her.
On Wednesday, DeGeneres kicked off the announcement that her show was ending by grumbling to The Hollywood Reporter about how the allegations had hurt her feelings. And today, she went much further in an interview with Savannah Guthrie at the Today show, flatly calling the whole thing “orchestrated” and “misogynistic.” She also professed surprise that she was supposed to know about the toxic workplace — how could she have known, she’s just the boss?
Yes, the real person who was harmed after a difficult summer for the Ellen crew was Ellen. My, oh my, has she been holding onto these feelings for quite some time! And what a perfect time to position herself as the helpless bystander, and not someone who had any hand in creating the environment that made these allegations possible.
DeGeneres’ first comments to the Reporter were significant, saying that the serious allegations from last year were “very hurtful to me,” and decrying the “joy” that people get from negativity, as if that was what fueled the allegations against her, instead of, IDK, the allegations themselves. She also didn’t believe the workplace allegations at first, and why would she! All her friends who came on the show had just a great time! And also cancel culture is bad. From the Reporter, emphasis mine:
And with the talk show, all I cared about was spreading kindness and compassion, and everything I stand for was being attacked. So, it destroyed me, honestly. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. And it makes me really sad that there’s so much joy out there from negativity. It’s a culture now where there are just mean people, and it’s so foreign to me that people get joy out of that. Then, on the heels of it, there are allegations of a toxic workplace and, unfortunately, I learned that through the press. And at first I didn’t believe it because I know how happy everybody is here and how every guest talks about, “Man, you have a great place here. Of all the talk shows I’ve done, everyone here is so happy.” That’s all I’ve ever heard.
So, there was an internal investigation, obviously, and we learned some things, but this culture we’re living is [is one where] no one can make mistakes. And I don’t want to generalize because there are some bad people out there and those people shouldn’t work again, but in general, the culture today is one where you can’t learn and grow, which is, as human beings, what we’re here to do. And I can see people looking at that going, “You don’t care about what people [went through].” I care tremendously. It broke my heart when I learned that people here had anything other than a fantastic experience — that people were hurt in any way. I check in now as much as I can through Zoom to different departments, and I make sure people know that if there’s ever a question or ever anything, they can come to me, and I don’t know why that was never considered before. I’m not a scary person. I’m really easy to talk to. So, we’ve all learned from things that we didn’t realize — or I didn’t realize — were happening. I just want people to trust and know that I am who I appear to be.
DeGeneres continued, saying that her kind persona was used for “clickbait” when people said she wasn’t kind to them. She also said something more vague, “I am kind. I’m also a woman and I’m a boss.” But what could it mean. What could it mean…
Ahh, right, that’s what it means: “Also, I have to say if nobody else is saying it, it was really interesting because I’m a woman, and it did feel very misogynistic,” DeGeneres told Guthrie on Thursday.
I do wonder if it ever occurred to DeGeneres that nobody else is saying it because it’s an excuse for female bosses who want the same power that their male counterparts do — to actively create a workspace that makes it difficult for lower-positioned staff to air their grievances and report harassment and misconduct, and then not be held accountable to do anything about it.
The entire interview is worth gawking at, if just to hear DeGeneres talk in circles justifying her own ignorance of the environment of her own workplace — she has hundreds of employees, folks, if she listened to everyone she’d be there all night! And she repeats more or less the same talking points as she did to THR — that she’s not ending the show because of the allegations, and that she’s a kind people pleaser, and that all her celebrity guest friends said nothing but good things about her show.
But what’s even more apparent through these interviews is the narrowness and narcissism of Ellen’s framework. All the reports were about people who worked for her going through hell—racism, intimidation, sexual misconduct— as well as about her own chilly distance from the toxic mess she presided over. But in Ellen’s mind, this added up not to something that required any reflection or humility from her. No: what it really was was a personal affront to her.
In her retelling of these events, DeGeneres is the real victim here because people said mean things about her and her show. DeGeneres isn’t the person in charge whose oversight these things happened under. She’s the woman who’s just trying to be nice, and it’s sexist to imply otherwise!
But the very obvious truth, is that DeGeneres was, at least, a boss who was less kind to her employees than she thought, who didn’t want to admit it, and at most, a boss who allowed a toxic workplace to fester, which in turn affected the lives of so many people who didn’t have the agency to do anything about it. Whether she wants the responsibility or not, DeGeneres has been in control this entire time, and her recent slate of course-correcting interviews are just another instance of that.
DeGeneres’ show is slated to end in 2022. If this is just the beginning of her reputation rehab tour during which she’ll slander anyone who’s ever had a bad opinion about her, or who has ever been too afraid to come to her with a complaint, I can only imagine what the next year will entail.