I give apologies seriously, not carelessly. I’m not a fan of saying sorry ‘just because’, which is why I took an interest in Ellen’s first show since the accusations surfaced this summer of a toxic workplace environment.
It all started, mean spiritedly enough, in March with a tweet from podcast host, Kevin Porter soliciting horror stories about DeGeneres:
This is Twitter, so there’s no way to sift through what’s real, what’s saltiness dressed up as social justice and what’s simply a lie.
A few fell into the category of discernibly believable:
Only two are first-hand, the others are something that happened to someone else🙄. Based on the virality of the post, you might have been left with the impression there were hundreds of juicy replies. This tweet, after all, triggered something much greater…but no. The vast majority were the written version of rubber-necking and a very slim minority were people confusing being likable (how you are with people) and being kind (what you do for people).
It’s normal to think that someone’s persona is who they actually are, but what it seems like and what it is are two different things. Ellen, or anyone for that matter, should not be tasked with being everyone’s friend. Behavior which we engage in to protect ourselves or draw boundaries, might not be perceived as nice by outsiders. What should we do then?
I don’t know Ellen DeGeneres personally, but I do know that a little over twenty years ago, she took a tremendous professional and personal risk by coming out. Perhaps that experience shifted how she deals with people. Whether it’s right or wrong isn’t really the point. It comes down to who has she hurt? If the Buzzfeed articles are to be believed, no one.
One ex-staffer is quoted as saying: “People focus on rumors about how Ellen is mean and everything like that, but that’s not the problem. The issue is these three executive producers running the show who are in charge of all these people [and] who make the culture and are putting out this feeling of bullying and being mean,”
A few even stated that ‘they don’t think DeGeneres is aware of the scope of what goes on behind the scenes because she doesn’t spend enough time in the office or interacting with the staff to have a strong sense of the culture‘.
It turns out the best thing that’s come out of this situation is the ousting of a handful of executive producers: Ed Glavin, Jonathan Norman and Kevin Leman, who were mentioned in nearly all the accusations of inappropriate and/or toxic behavior in Buzzfeed’s articles. The next best thing is Ellen taking responsibility for the workplace environment. She is in the best position to change the culture because this is her show. She addresses everything pretty clearly in the season opener:
The peanut gallery has complained that she’s joking and that’s inappropriate and that the apology was insincere and that she’s not addressing what she’s done that’s hurt people, but I would argue that she wisely stayed away from that. Apologizing to people would open a Pandora’s box of randos coming out of the woodwork to demand redress from slights from years prior. Genuine harm is worth addressing. She admittedly erred in not cultivating relationships with all her staff and isolating herself from the culture at her own show, but she committed to changing that. We’ll see…
(Side note: I do think Twitch’s promotion was pandering a bit, but I’m not going to go hard on black man getting a huge opportunity.)
Reflecting on Ellen’s situation, I thought about the last time a host had to make a public apology:
The behavior is 100% more repugnant, but was received with hardly any backlash. I wonder why?