From now on, celebrities accused of treating people badly should learn an important lesson from Ellen DeGeneres’ situation: Getting your famous friends to speak up for you might not help and could make things worse.
As DeGeneres, the self-described “be kind lady” returned for her show’s 18th season, she needed to combat accusations that she was really a “mean” person and tolerated her show’s hostile workplace environment. For the season’s premiere in September, she publicly apologized to the “people affected” and talked about “lessons learned.”
Viewers tuned in to see how DeGeneres would address the allegations, but then they tuned out, according to the New York Times. The once-sturdy “Ellen DeGeneres Show” has lost more than 1 million viewers since September, according to the research firm Nielsen. The show has averaged only about 1.5 million viewers over the last six months, down from 2.6 million in the same period last year.
The Times said the decline came at a time when workplace behavior in Hollywood and elsewhere has come under intense scrutiny against a backdrop of protest and social change. DeGeneres’ situation shows that no one is immune to scrutiny, even DeGeneres, who was at the forefront of social change in the 1990s when she announced she was gay while starring on a prime-time sitcom, the Times added.
“Observers believe the accusations may have weakened DeGeneres’s relationship with her audience,” the New York Times reported. “The host built her show as an oasis from the outside world, a place of goofy dancing, light jokes, cash giveaways to surprised audience members and high-wattage celebrity guests.”
Some of those high-wattage guests stepped up to vouch for DeGeneres’ character before the season premiere — in an obvious P.R. ploy to rehab her reputation and her show’s connection to its fans.
Katy Perry, Diane Keaton, Ashton Kutcher, Jay Leno, Kevin Hart and Kris Jenner all took to social media to say “I stand with Ellen” or to otherwise praise her for being kind, honest and courageous.
But many people on social media weren’t moved by the celebrity endorsements. In another possible sign of changing times, they were overwhelmingly annoyed that celebrities would think anyone would be moved by famous people’s testimonials about how DeGeneres was nice to them.
The endorsements also probably served to remind the public of the allegations against DeGeneres. As people on social media decried celebrity “privilege,” they shared news news reports about how multiple current and former employees told reporters that DeGeneres oversaw a show that was rife with sexual misconduct, racist incidents and demeaning treatment of employees, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. These allegations had gained traction over the summer due to longstanding rumors that DeGeneres is not really the nice, generous person her “be kind” facade would have people believe.
Katy Perry came in for some particular angry replies after she tried to defend DeGeneres by tweeting about her “positive takeaways” from her time on “Ellen.”
1/2 I know I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience besides my own but I want to acknowledge that I have only ever had positive takeaways from my time with Ellen & on the @theellenshow. I think we all have witnessed the light & continual fight for equality that she has brought
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) August 4, 2020
“You’ve only had positive takeaways because you’re one of the biggest artists on the planet Katy. That’s why,” tweeted one person, whose comment received more than 7,000 likes.
“Because you’re a rich white women with a strong influence she is nice,” read another well-liked tweet. “I love you but the fight is not about you. It’s about the mistreatment that workers who are barely getting paid are facing. Please get out of the ‘she’s nice to me so she couldn’t have done it’ mindset.”
“Girl I’m so sorry but a white woman supporting another white woman who’s in the wrong… sit this one out pls,” tweeted a third.
When Kutcher tweeted that DeGeneres and her team “have only treated me & my team w/ respect & kindness,” a popular reply was: “Oh she treats … A list guests well? You don’t say.” When Kutcher tried to defend himself by saying that DeGeneres’ kindness extended to people “outside” his team, he was met with even more skepticism.
“This sort of feels like cops protecting cops,” one person replied. “Celebs protecting celebs. Either that or Ashton is very out of touch on the issue. The concern is how ELLEN’s staff that roll down from HER are treated. Of course anyone on his personal team would be treated well by Ellen’s team.”
Certainly, DeGeneres’ show faced production and other challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic that hurt viewership, the New York Times said. Her rivals faced similar challenges.
Nonetheless, “Ellen’s” 43 percent decline in viewers was a much steeper drop than any of her rivals, with “Dr. Phil” only down 26 percent and Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest’s show only down 3 percent, the Times noted.
The Times noted that “Ellen,” the winner of dozens of Emmys since its start in 2003, is now “no longer in the same league as traditional rivals like ‘Dr. Phil’ and ‘Live: With Kelly and Ryan,’” which have 2.5 million and 2.7 million respectively.
The Times story concluded by saying that “Ellen” now sits “more uncomfortably close” to shows hosted by Maury Povich (1.4 million), Kelly Clarkson (1.3 million), Rachael Ray (1.2 million), Tamron Hall (1.1 million) and Jerry Springer’s former security guard Steve Wilkos (1.1 million).
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