Ellen DeGeneres says goodbye to two decades of television success under the shadow of suspicion

Coming out of the closet almost cost him his career in the late nineties, when he starred in a television series, Ellenin which her character declared herself a lesbian. Ellen DeGeneres, the person, did it soon after in the magazine Time, which led ABC to bring forward the end of the series, in addition to including a parental warning about the presence of a homosexual character in the titles. In the desert crossing that followed the confession, he gave voice to Dory in the animated film Finding Nemo while battling depression. But in 2003 she reinvented herself with an all-star morning talk show, with lots of fun, some music and prize money.

Ellen DeGeneres (Metairie, Louisiana, 64 years old) has said goodbye this Thursday to the audience -mostly female- with whom for 19 seasons she has shared dances, geeks and intimacies of celebrities as enthusiastic as her. Actress Jennifer Aniston, the guest of the first show at the height of friendsclosed the cycle this Thursday, in a chapter recorded weeks ago whose content was protected as a state secret: not even the YouTube channel of the program, which in recent days has published the stellar moments of it, released details of the final content.

With a background chroma key of a landscape of palm trees, which seemed to invite a golden retirement, DeGeneres hugged Aniston like a limpet, despite the rampant wave of the omicron subvariant throughout the country. He also duly swaddled Billie Eilish and Pink, the other two stars who last set foot on the Warner Studios set in Burbank, California. The presenter was excited and exultant, with that ex officio enthusiasm that so well defines the entertainment world in the US. And in line with her, she sang a song of compassion that seemed, in addition to a self-help manual tic , a deferred mea culpa for the scandal about the toxicity of the work environment in the program that was uncovered in 2020.

With the proper dose of syrup, DeGeneres, black suit casual and white sports shoes, this Thursday he toured the hall of applause from his collaborators. It was the end point to a journey of 3,200 episodes, since September 2003, with 30 personal Emmy awards plus many others awarded to the program, of the 160 nominations received. With the aforementioned blur as a corollary: the complaints about an atmosphere of intimidation and racism, and several alleged cases of sexual harassment by superiors. Not even his sympathy prevented the sinking of the program, although no one responsible for it has admitted that these complaints -investigated by third parties- were the beginning of the end. Neither does she.

The time elapsed since the first episode plans these days on the memories of the actress and presenter, as she told her 77.5 million followers on the social network Twitter: “When we started this program in 2003, the iPhone did not exist. Social networks did not exist. Gay marriage was not legal. We have seen how the world changed, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But no matter what, my goal was always for the show to be a place where we could all meet and laugh for an hour.”

She also tweeted to her followers: “Being invited into your lives has been the greatest privilege of my life and has brought me incredible joy.”

A pertinent question would be whether such good vibes can be sustained for two decades. The same motto of the program, be kind (be nice), that’s how he ordered it, in theory. But in 2020, as a result of the confinement due to the pandemic, the discomfort of many workers emerged amid laughter, also angry when they found out that to make the canned program, confined at DeGeneres’ mansion in Montecito, California, Warner had hired an outside team, bypassing all contractual regulations.

Allegations of bullying and racism, including retaliation against employees for taking medical leave or attending a funeral, lled Warner Bros to fire three producers of the show, as a firewall before DeGeneres, whose arrogance also came to light in some testimonies. But the damage was done and, in addition to its fame, the audience ratings immediately plummeted (lost a million viewers after the scandal was uncovered). It also didn’t help his reputation much to openly complain on Twitter about the “hell” that confinement represented, while posting a video of the vast garden and pool of his mansion, where he has a good collection of contemporary art with the occasional Basquiat.

DeGeneres herself, however, had anticipated in 2018 that she was tired of the routine of a daily program. Her wife, the actress Portia de Rossi, pushed her to leave, she told New York Times at the end of that year, while her brother encouraged her to continue in the limelight. In the need for a change she has again abounded recently, in statements to The Hollywood Reporter: “When you are a creative person, you constantly need challenges, and as good and fun as this program is, it is no longer a challenge.” “The truth is that I always trust my instincts. My gut told me it was time,” she added.

The fact of being the second highest paid presenter on American television (87.5 million dollars in 2018, according to the magazine Forbes), second only to her friend Oprah Winfrey, allows her to take her professional future in stride. “If anyone knows what it is to finish a veteran talk showthat’s Oprah”, reads the title of the video in which Winfrey, on the verge of tears, dedicates the most heartfelt farewell to her friend and rival at the same time. She also said goodbye to a program made in her image and likeness after 25 years on the air.

Even critics of the DeGeneres show acknowledge its merits. But the criticism began to crack the character, revealing the person, a polyhedral figure: icon of the LGTB community -although not too much of an activist, according to her critics-, communicator, comedian, actress, a money-making machine. She is also a Democrat -although with close friends such as former President George Bush-, and in short, a mature white woman who defies the codes of age in a world surrendered to transience like the one on TV. A textbook example of female empowerment… a wealthy and influential woman to the full extent of her; charismatic So much so that in 2016 she received the Medal of Freedom, the highest civil distinction in the country, from President Barack Obama.

“Twenty years ago, when we were trying to sell the show, no one thought this would work. Not because it was a different show, but because I was different,” DeGeneres said Thursday of the networks’ initial rejection of the pilot. His difference, the identity discourse that has become central to American public opinion, has been his brand image. Despite the fact that at the start of the 18th season he recognized the discomfort in the squadthis champion of sure causes has not been able to overcome the flight of suspicion.

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Ellen DeGeneres says goodbye to two decades of television success under the shadow of suspicion