Producer Ellen DeGeneres attends Netflix's season 1 premiere of "Green Eggs and Ham" at Hollywood Post 43 on November 3, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Ellen Show Is Finally Being Investigated as a Hostile Workplace

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Has the time of reckoning finally come for Ellen DeGeneres? The talk show titan has been a fixture on televisions for decades and is an icon for LGBT representation, but … she’s also (reportedly) notoriously terrible to work for. This has come under more scrutiny in the past few months as the coronavirus shutdowns and America’s reckoning with racial injustice have brought out allegations against the host and the environment at The Ellen Show. Now, WarnerMedia has launched an internal investigation.

According to Variety, WarnerMedia’s own internal employee relations department is working with an outside firm to investigate things at The Ellen Show and it seems there are a lot of things to investigate. In general, it’s been a pretty open secret in Hollywood that Ellen is not a great person to work for. In April, when production on most talk shows shut down but many hosts kept paying their crews, Ellen hired non-union crews to film her at home and no one communicated to her workers what was going on.

For many fans who only know Ellen as a perenially sunny talk show personality, the revelation she might be a horrible boss was shocking, But to those who had been paying attention to the long-time rumors of Ellen’s behavior, it made perfect sense.

Not paying her crew during a pandemic and being a generally unpleasant person to work for is one thing, but allowing an environment of racism at her show is another. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed published a report alleging that The Ellen Show was a workplace rife with racism and retribution, where workers generally lived in fear of the host.

The BuzzFeed article is illuminating and horrifying, but sadly unsurprising. It should be clear that this isn’t just Ellen who’s a problem, but the people at the top of the organization as well, who are the subject of many allegations in the BuzzFeed report. It’s especially galling however given that Ellen has built a brand based on kindness, but it seems that she and the producers of her show are anything but.

“I think it is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to the show’s brand,” a former employee told BuzzFeed. “They pull on people’s heartstrings; they do know that’s going to get likes and what people are going to go for, which is a positive message. But that’s not always reality.”

What will happen now that WarnerMedia is investigating? It’s hard to say. Ellen is a powerful force and a major media brand at this point. Her show makes millions and has a massive audience. She’s probably scandal-proof herself, so it’s hard to imagine the show being canceled … but it also seems like she might be the kind of person to let others take the blame and get the ax.

What the real consequence of this should be is for audiences to be more critical and look more carefully beyond the images of the people they let into their homes every day. There’s racism and cruelty everywhere, and we need to deal with that, even when it comes from someone that sells kindness and laughter.

(via Variety, Image: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason
Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.