Our culture has a strange relationship with celebrities. Throughout history, there has been a cult of celebrity and the story is almost always the same. We raise someone up on a pedestal only to watch with sheer delight at their demise. If they're lucky, they can make a comeback. It's a pattern that continues time and time again.
But why do we continue this pattern? Why are we so unfair to celebrities? It seems as though we feel they're entitled and privileged to the point of being non-human. People seem to think that because celebrities have so much, they can handle any kind of judgment. The common belief appears to be it won't hurt them the way it would hurt us.
Money doesn't buy happiness and fame doesn't operate like a suit of armor. Celebrities are still human beings at the end of the day. So many celebrities are villainized across social media and the rest of the population. There is, it seems, no better example of this than Ellen DeGeneres.
The famous comedian turned actress turned talk show host has had quite a rough summer. DeGeneres has been at the center of several allegations concerning what many are calling a "toxic work environment." There have been allegations of racism, sexual harassment, and rude behavior, among many others. Some involve DeGeneres directly and some involve those who work for her.
In the aftermath, DeGeneres has spoken out in written statements. She also addressed the issue in the monologue of her Season 18 premiere, which aired on Monday. Three of the show's top producers were fired and the show's former DJ, Tony Okungbowa, agreed there was a toxic environment in an Instagram post.
The allegations made against DeGeneres and her team are serious. It is not right to dismiss these allegations as untrue when there is no proof either way. A sense of neutrality is key as a viewing public in order to take them seriously. This means that the conscious villainizing of DeGeneres is also not OK.
This is something we've been seeing a lot of over the summer. The talk surrounding DeGeneres has stretched far beyond the workplace misconduct allegations. People have even gone so far as to say she isn't the nice person she presents on her show. DeGeneres addressed this in her opening monologue, claiming she is nice, but she's also human.
This isn't the first time DeGeneres has addressed the toll her "be kind to one another" message has taken on her. In her Netflix special, "Relatable," she jokes about how she can't get upset if someone cuts her off in traffic because she's the "be kind girl." When you're a celebrity, you're seen as larger than life, and therefore can't make mistakes. It looks like something that started with good intentions became impossible due to DeGeneres' status as a public figure.
However, people didn't start saying DeGeneres was mean after these allegations blew up. This sort of backlash had been brewing for a while. It started when DeGeneres stood up for Kevin Hart, following the backlash he received for making homophobic jokes. DeGeneres dared to go against the mainstream narrative and, therefore, became a target.
It was further fueled when DeGeneres was photographed at an NFL game with former President George W. Bush. DeGeneres responded on her show, claiming she may have different views than Bush, but her message is to "be kind," which means, "be kind to everyone."
It sounds harmless and inoffensive, right? Well, not according to the lynch mob mentality of the public. Many claimed DeGeneres was supporting Bush's "war crimes" in Iraq by being nice to him. What exactly was she supposed to do at the game? Spit in his face and leave? It sounds like many would be happier if DeGeneres handled it that way. And she's accused of being the mean one.
Sometime after the quarantine started, a Twitter thread by fellow comedian Kevin T. Porter went viral. Porter called DeGeneres "notoriously one of the meanest people alive" and asked people to leave their bad experiences with her in the replies. Porter said that he will donate $2 to the LA Food Bank for every story.
The thread was filled with stories that can't be verified as true or false. Many of the accounts that replied were anonymous. Even with accounts that included a name and a face, there was no proof for people to be sure either way. It amounted to nothing more than rumors, yet many people were believing what the users were saying.
Prior to his tweet, Porter spoke out in a Medium article, where he condemned DeGeneres for hanging out with President Bush. It certainly looks like Porter already had a chip on his shoulder when it came to Ellen DeGeneres. This was apparently what set him off. Brad Garrett tweeted that he knew more than one person who was treated "horribly" by her but didn't go into specifics.
The hypocrisy coming from Porter is unintentionally comical. He claims to call out DeGeneres for her alleged fake niceness. Yet, his way of doing so involves matching charity donations for every bad comment someone can make about her.
Compare that to DeGeneres' history of charity work on her show. Through the years, she has partnered with Shutterfly and gave away millions of dollars to people all across the country. These were people in low-income neighborhoods, struggling school teachers, sick children, young people wanting to go to college, etc. She's given to people on her show of all ages, races, and backgrounds.
One certainly looks to be done out of the goodness of one's heart and the other looks like it's done with a vindictive agenda. And DeGeneres falls into the former category.
Whatever the truth is, Porter's viral tweet led to a BuzzFeed article, which blew the roof off the allegations against DeGeneres. The article featured allegations from several former employees which led WarnerMedia to conduct an investigation.
Again, the allegations should be taken seriously and not dismissed because there is no proof. However, as the outside public, we shouldn't be villainizing DeGeneres for the same reason. This message bears repeating.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. People began pulling out clips from DeGeneres' show left and right, looking for proof of her being rude. One clip featured Dakota Johnson correcting DeGeneres when she claimed not to have been invited to her birthday party. Could it have been possible that this was all just a miscommunication?
Another incident involved Mariah Carey's 2008 appearance where DeGeneres attempted to find out whether Carey was pregnant by offering her alcohol. When Carey became pregnant with her twins, two years later, she revealed she had a miscarriage during this time. Carey recently spoke to New York Magazine, saying she was "uncomfortable" at that moment, but didn't want to throw DeGeneres under a bus.
What many get wrong about this incident is the timing of Carey's miscarriage. The miscarriage occurred before the Ellen interview, not afterward as many are claiming. Some media outlets have been falsely claiming Carey had two miscarriages, one before the interview and one afterward. This simply isn't true.
It sounds like this narrative makes DeGeneres look worse in the situation. This could explain why many social media users and media outlets were running with this outline. As if DeGeneres has psychic abilities and was supposed to know Carey miscarried.
Some people on social media have been spreading another lie that Carey was forced to reveal her pregnancy after this interview. There was never a pregnancy announcement until Carey became pregnant with her twins in 2010. She was never forced to reveal anything.
It's also worth noting that Carey has made several appearances on the show in the years since. Even though the moment was uncomfortable, she obviously doesn't hold a grudge or take it as seriously as everyone else is doing on her behalf. It was clearly just a misguided bit.
Sofia Vergara's many appearances on the show were also brought to people's attention. Many were criticizing DeGeneres' mocking Vergara's accent, saying she couldn't understand her. Vergara herself clarified on Twitter that she was always in on the joke.
Vergara is one of many celebrities who came to DeGeneres' defense. The list included Katy Perry, Diane Keaton, and Kevin Hart, who supported Ellen the same way she supported him. The public was quick to call their defense of DeGeneres out of touch, claiming this was about employees being treated poorly. However, this went far beyond allegations of a toxic workplace. People were now accusing DeGeneres of not being a good person.
DeGeneres isn't the first celebrity to be the target of others' need to villainize her. In 2017, Kim Cattrall gave an interview with Piers Morgan where she said she wouldn't be acting in another "Sex and The City" movie. Cattrall claimed Sarah Jessica Parker "could've been nicer" to her and they were never friends.
After Cattrall's brother passed away, Parker offered her condolences on Instagram. Cattrall responded by telling her to back off and said Parker's reasoning for doing so was only to repair her nice girl persona.
Floods of comments on social media seem to echo Cattrall's sentiments. Many of them going so far as to claim Carrie was never their favorite character on the show, in fact, painting her as rather unlikeable. However, these people weren't on the set or around either of these two women. How can they be so sure Parker is the rude, mean woman Cattrall paints her to be?
Jennifer Lopez was also the center of such a controversy. In fact, this controversy still comes back to haunt her. In 2001, Mariah Carey was preparing to release her song "Loverboy" as the first single from her "Glitter" soundtrack. The song originally sampled Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Firecracker."
However, when Lopez's album, "J.Lo," was released that same year, it included the song, "I'm Real." "I'm Real" sampled the same song Carey had planned on sampling for "Loverboy." Since Lopez's album was released first, Carey was forced to use a new sample for the song's composition. The released version of "Loverboy" ended up sampling the song "Candy" by Cameo.
Many believe Carey's ex-husband, Tommy Mottola, knew of her plan to use the sample and got Lopez to use it before her. Mottola was the head of Sony Music at the time, which Lopez was signed to. Carey had since divorced Mottola and left his label, moving to Virgin Records. The publishers of "Firecracker" confirmed Carey signed on to use the sample first.
The rumors of sabotage returned recently when Irv Gotti claimed in an interview that Mottola asked him to create a song for Lopez similar to Carey's song "If We." The song "If We," from the same album, featured rapper Ja Rule. Gotti said that's when he created the "I'm Real (Murder Remix)" featuring Ja Rule.
If what has been alleged is true, then the only clear villain is Tommy Mottola. It's not entirely clear whether or not Lopez knew of his motives. Yet, many within Carey's fanbase and beyond, are convinced Lopez knew of the alleged sabotage. It's rather interesting how none of the same criticism gets directed at Diddy (co-writer of the song, whom Lopez was dating at the time), Ja Rule, or Irv Gotti.
Lopez is also the target of many online who claim she steals other people's songs and vocals. Many cite songs Lopez didn't even write, but rather were submitted to her. Other songs include background vocalists, who are credited as such, but some say should get a featured artist credit. These also extend to demo singers whose vocals were sometimes left on some of the songs.
One of these singers is Ashanti, who co-wrote and sings background on the "Ain't It Funny (Murder Remix)." It appears hard to believe Ashanti felt her song and voice was "stolen," as she appears in the music video. That doesn't look like someone who's upset or holding a grudge.
This is something that is done a lot in the music industry. If you listen to Cathy Dennis' original demo for the song "Toxic" by Britney Spears, you'll hear a lot of Dennis' vocals that remained in the final version. Are we going to start a hate campaign against Britney Spears now?
The point is, this modern form of villainizing celebrities isn't new. Sometimes it's clearly based on nothing whatsoever and other times, it's based on unproven allegations.
But the question previously asked here bears repeating, why? Why do we get such a rush out of pointing the finger at someone and treating them as a villain? It seems part of it comes from a place of jealousy. When we see someone who is in a much more privileged position than we are, sometimes there can be a twinge of jealousy. That could manifest in our need to tear those people down.
There's also a big sense of laziness coming from the critics of these celebrities. They don't want to do the actual work that's involved in being a good person, so they tweet. This sort of "keyboard activism" gets directed at so many people, celebrity or not. For some reason, others seem to feel like they're doing good by condemning celebrities they deem bad people. Instead of getting involved in charity work or becoming a real activist, they feel they're doing their part by tearing others down online.
Another part of it might come from a place of boredom. If people are unfulfilled with their lives, it's easy to fill it with juicy gossip about famous people, rather than doing something productive. This is especially true when it comes to our current circumstances. Even though some have gone back to work, many of us are still in quarantine. The kind of boredom that comes with staying home all day could lead to such a reaction.
As far as the allegations against DeGeneres and her team are concerned, WarnerMedia conducting an investigation is a good step. I'm glad they're being taken seriously. However, it's important for the rest of us to hold off on villainizing DeGeneres at the moment. It's not fair, nor will it lead to anything positive.
The same goes for any other celebrity. We shouldn't be so quick to judge without evidence. We shouldn't feel the need to fill our lives up by putting other people down. We may see famous people as untouchable beings who aren't capable of feeling pain. But they're human just like the rest of us.
If we're so intent on Ellen DeGeneres being true to her message, let's follow her example and be kind to one another.