Chelsea Handler Interviewing Lea Michelle On The Daily Show Is Super Disappointing
So are we just going to forget her toxicity?
Since Trevor Noah exited The Daily Show, the program has been hosted by a new actor/comedian every week. Leslie Jones, Wanda Sykes, D. L. Hughley, and most recently Chelsea Handler have all brought their unique voices and takes to the show. Unfortunately, the Thursday, February 9th show featured a guest appearance and interview with Lea Michele. Which not only demonstrated that there are definitely some weak points to work out in The Daily Show, but also a larger willingness to overlook the controversy surrounding Michele.
Most 2010s teens will remember Lea Michelle from the hit show Glee on Fox. The show took the world by storm, made theater kids cool, and was the big break for many young actors/artists, including Lea Michele. Michele was a Broadway kid who was previously known for her role in Spring Awakening. But Glee marked her transition from a Broadway star to a household name. However, within the last couple years, horror stories have arisen about how Michele treated her co-workers and co-stars behind the scenes.
The Lea Michele controversy
Two years ago, shortly after the death of George Floyd, Lea Michele posted a tweet as a tribute to his death. Not surprising, as this was when the Black Lives Matter movement was beginning to become more accepted by wider (whiter) America.
However, what was interesting was the response. Michele’s previous cast members and co-workers immediately called her out for the post, due to her own history of toxicity and racism on set. They said she called extras “cockroaches,” told people she would “sh*t in [Samantha Ware’s] wig” if she could, and was verbally abusive to many of her co-stars.
It got turned into a bit of a meme, with many people noting how both in and out of the show, the other cast had tons of positive things to say about each other. But not about Michele.
Michele posted an “apology” that literally used the phrase “how my behavior towards my cast members was perceived by them.” How exactly is someone supposed to perceive being called a cockroach?
There was some backlash to her behavior. For example, Michele apparently lost a sponsorship deal with HelloFresh. However, since then, Michele has not only returned to the public but to the spotlight. She’s now playing the lead role in the revival of the musical Funny Girl.
There has been backlash to the casting. Michele had previously stated that she would only return to Broadway if it was to play Fanny in Funny Girl, so many fans accused the producers of rewarding Michele’s toxic behavior. Many also see it as excusing the behavior in the name of profit. (Tickets to Michele’s run cost almost ten times as much as they did for Beanie Feldstein’s run.)
The fact that Michele is making appearances on talk shows like The Daily Show further demonstrates how the public has apparently brushed aside the accusations.
Previous guest controversies
This isn’t the first time The Daily Show has hosted controversial guests. Tomi Lahren’s appearance on The Daily Show in 2016 was met with mixed reactions from people who felt that the Daily Show shouldn’t be giving her a platform.
The difference is that Lahren appeared on the show not only as part of a discussion, but also as a demonstration of how hard-headed a lot of conservatives can be, even when they sit down to talk with (supposedly) open ears and minds. Noah also talked about how some people who claim to be anti-racist / anti-sexist will weaponize discrimination against people they disagree with.
Lea Michele’s appearance on The Daily Show seems more like an advertisement for her run of Funny Girl. Chelsea Handler gushed over the magic of theater and the hard work it takes to put on live performances. No mention was made of Michele’s past toxic behavior, though she did take time to highlight the cast and crew that worked on Funny Girl.
Granted, we don’t know if this was a decision came from Handler or the show’s producers. It does feel notable that they did it on Chelsea Handler’s version of The Daily Show, and not on Wanda Sykes’ or Leslie Jones’.
How this controversy has unfolded seems to be in line with a larger pattern of famous people’s behavior: they get caught doing something bad, they “apologize,” they disappear from the spotlight, and then they return to sold-out shows as though nothing happened. We almost never see evidence of a change in behavior.
I do hope Michele has learned and grown from her past. But to me, the fact almost nothing is being said about what happened feels like people ignoring harsh truths in favor of a pretty show.
(Featured image: Comedy Central)
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