Ellen DeGeneres Is Ending Her Show. Let's Trace the Timeline of When It Fell Apart.
After 18 years on the air, Ellen DeGeneres has announced that The Ellen DeGeneres Show will be dancing off television screens for good in 2022. The official announcement came on Wednesday, followed by a Today show sit down with Savannah Guthrie on Thursday. DeGeneres says the show is ending because she's bored. But, after more than a year of allegations and controversies surrounding DeGeneres and her show, the host’s new narrative feels a lot like spin.
"When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged—and as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore," DeGeneres told The Hollywood Reporter when explaining why her show was coming to an end.
Ellen maintains that she did not decide to end the show after an explosive report by BuzzFeed News report alleging that her employees "faced racism, fear, and intimidation."
In the interview on Thursday's episode of Today, Ellen opened up about the controversies throughout the last year, including the allegations in the BuzzFeed report.
"It was too orchestrated. It was too coordinated. And you know, people get picked on, but for four months straight for me," DeGeneres told Guthrie. "Then for me to read in the press about a toxic work environment when all I have ever heard from every guest that comes on the show is what a happy atmosphere this is and what a happy place it is.” That's parroting sentiments from last year (along with the celebrity guests who were shocked), but DeGeneres—purveyor of nice and daughter of the South—knows that when you bring someone into your home, you don't show them the messy room you didn't clean.
Her flippant response and reliance on celebrity testimonial is, in part, what makes DeGeneres' image so much less palatable. Once a daytime darling, DeGeneres' bright-eyed and cheery demeanor has dulled a bit in light of, well, several big mistakes. Though she offered an apology when the show returned following the reports from staffers, the damage was measurable. Her audience, which once logged 2.6 million viewers a day, dropped nearly in half to 1.5 million following the allegations.
What moments that chipped away at the exterior of daytime’s darling? And which domino might have been the one that knocked over the rest? Let’s take a look.
The New York Times Profile, December 2018
The headline read "Ellen DeGeneres Is Not as Nice as You Think." It was the first time that anyone legitimately considered that Ellen's off-screen persona does not particularly match the sunny on-screen personality she'd become known for over the past 20 years.
In her standup special that the piece ultimately was promoting, she makes tongue-in-cheek jokes about her wealth and not knowing what the back of a plane looks like. It landed somewhere between sarcastic and incredibly removed from the rest of society. The profile rightfully separates the human woman that is DeGeneres from the character who is Ellen, but it also shined a damning light on just how removed DeGeneres is from the real world.
Kevin Hart, January 2019
When Hart was named as the host of the 2019 Oscars, internet sleuths unearthed old, anti-gay tweets of his along with homophobic jokes from old stand up sets. The Academy swiftly made the decision to remove him as host, but in early January, DeGeneres had Hart on her show to make an announcement: she had called the Academy to ask them to reverse their decision. The call did not work.
But on her show, after an impassioned speech from DeGeneres about the internet and its loudness, Hart was allowed to say how the unearthing of his own homophobic past was an attack on him. It sounds an awful lot like 2021 Ellen talking points. No matter the side you stand on, it was (at the time) a rare moment from DeGeneres: one that prioritized fanning the drama, seemingly missing the larger point about kindness winning out.
George W. Bush, October 2019
The internet strikes again! After posting a video of herself at a Cowboys game, DeGeneres faced backlash for who she was sitting next to in the owner's box. None other than former president George W. Bush. Online response was swift, with fans calling out the president's track record with anti-LGBTQ policy and the baggage of the War in Iraq.
DeGeneres, again, made the unexpected move of addressing the video, explaining that despite their differences the two are friends. She ended her monologue that day with "When I say be kind to one another, I don't mean only the people who think the same way that you do."
Dakota Johnson, November 2019
The sweetest of them all: Dakota Johnson's guerrilla warfare. In what seemed like a totally innocuous holiday season interview, DeGeneres asked Johnson how her birthday in October was, quickly noting that she wasn't invited. That's when Johnson says it:
Actually, no, that's not the truth, Ellen.
It's oddly appropriate considering the larger timeline. At that point that Johnson revealed she had invited Ellen and that she ignored the invitation. Then she told DeGeneres that Tig Notaro was her favorite comedian because Dakota Johnson knows no bounds. DeGeneres was clearly thrown by Johnson's candor and the moment became a hilarious meme, representing an unexpected heel turn from DeGeneres.
Ellen, herself (mostly in 2020)
Through it all, the real culprit is DeGeneres herself. Last July BuzzFeed reported that Ellen harbored a toxic work environment, with allegations spanning from racism to general brashness from the host herself. DeGeneres responded with shock, alleging that she had no idea any of this was going on behind the scenes of her namesake show. But her comments on Today make it all the more apparent: DeGeneres said, "And also I have to say—if nobody else was saying it—it was really interesting because I’m a woman, and it did feel very misogynistic." This is presumably in reference to people suggesting she was not kind to them.
Allegations of workplace issues date back much further than the BuzzFeed reports. Rumors of poor treatment on Ellen had been swirling for a while. A tweet thread from Kevin Porter went viral earlier in 2020, asking for stories about how awful she had been in the past.
Official complaints that were documented by Ellen executives date back to 2018, meaning that either DeGeneres was purposefully kept in the dark or willfully ignored them.
But the fact of the matter is, most of this has to do with celebrity friendship alignment and DeGeneres' perceived inability to know what's going on below her own pay grade. Yes, any of the above moments could have been the smoking gun for Ellen. And sure, the deal may have been solidified way before now, but when it comes to public perception of Ellen, there's one thing in common with each instance: the woman herself and her proximity to those who fall most closely to her tax bracket.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.