2020 has been a year of reckoning for many people, and for many TV viewers, it was completely unexpected for Ellen DeGeneres and her talk show to get caught up in the middle of a large-scale backlash after current and former employees laid out a variety of toxic workplace allegations against the long-running program. Moves were made behind the scenes – such as producers being fired, among other things – but fans have been waiting a while to hear a proper response from DeGeneres herself.
That day has finally arrived, with The Ellen DeGeneres Show having recently recorded its first new episode of the fall season, following its summer hiatus. Having previously made apologies to her crew behind the scenes, DeGeneres looked a little nervous, and her voice was slightly shaky as she started her first monologue since the initial backlash kicked off. Here's how it all kicked off:
If you’re watching because you love me, thank you. If you’re watching because you don’t love me, welcome. How was everybody’s summer, good? Mine was great. Super terrific. I’m so happy to be back in the studio. There are a lot of things I want to talk about. I’ve been looking forward to addressing it directly, and unfortunately, talking directly to people has been illegal for six months, so I have a virtual audience here instead. . . . As you may have heard this summer, there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show. And then there was an investigation. I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people that were affected. I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show. This is The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I am Ellen DeGeneres, My name is there. [Points to signs.] My name is in underwear. We have had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, our workplace, and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes, and today, we are starting a new chapter. [Claps.]
To be expected, Ellen DeGeneres' apology and explanation to her fans came complete with some jokes and silliness, and I'm sure people's mileage will vary on how well those jokes landed. But true to her word, she spent more than just a few minutes addressing the notion that the buck stops with her, considering her name is what gives the show its power and popularity. And she seemingly renewed her vow to right the wrongs that had (allegedly) piled up over the years.
Even beyond just the behind-the-scenes issues, Ellen DeGeneres spoke directly to the claims that she doesn't have the same cheery and happy-go-lucky attitude in private that she does whenever the cameras are rolling. Having already spoken out about the "no eye contact" rumor, DeGeneres talked about her "Be Nice Lady" persona, saying:
There were also articles in the press and on social media that say that I am not who I appear to be on TV, because I became known as the Be Kind Lady, and here’s how that happened. I started saying ‘Be kind to one another,’ after a young man named Tyler Clementi took his own life after being bullied for being gay. I thought the world needed more kindness, and it was a reminder that we all needed that, and I think we need it more than ever right now. Being known as the Be Kind Lady is a tricky position to be in, so let me give you some advice out there. If anybody’s thinking of changing their title or giving themselves a nickname, do not go with the Be Kind Lady. Don’t do it. The truth is, I am that person that you see on TV. I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad, I get mad, I get anxious, I get frustrated, I get impatient, and I am working on all of that. I am a work in progress.
Not that Ellen DeGeneres was speaking to a live, in-person audience. Given COVID restrictions, the show supplemented its usual in-studio viewers with a bunch of vertical screens that allowed fans to appear virtually from their own houses. It would have been interesting to see if DeGeneres' demeanor would have changed had there been actual crowd members for her to apologize to.
Here, Ellen DeGeneres specifically apologized to those she may have hurt with her words and actions.
I’m a pretty good actress, but I don’t think I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you. This is me, and my intention is to always be the best person I can be. And if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt someone’s feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that’s ever the case, I’ve let myself down and I’ve hurt myself as well. Because I always try to grow as a person. I look at everything in life as an opportunity to learn.
Understandably, Ellen DeGeneres wants her show to be a place for laughs and good feelings. And maybe it can be that way again if this season goes by completely smoothly and without further controversies rearing their allegedly ugly heads.
So what do you all think? Is Ellen giving fans the real deal with that apology, or is that just something that needed to be said so that she didn't start off the new season with all kinds of bad blood puddling up on the floor of the studio? To be sure, DeGeneres has had plenty of celebs coming to her defense amidst all the naysaying, but clearly not everyone has been on her side.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show airs daily in syndication, so check your local listings to see when and where it's playing in your area. In the meantime, head to our Fall TV 2020 premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are on the way.