Something strange is happening in the reporting of the crisis that has plagued Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show for a long time. Reading about it now, you might get the impression that the crisis is all about DeGeneres’ image collapse as the nicest, kindest star next to Tom Hanks. She closes each show by telling us, “Be kind to each other,” a motto she monetized with her “Be Kind by ellen” merchandising brand that sells seasonal boxes “filled with Ellen’s favorite products, hand-selected, ”claiming that“ each box spreads kindness and defends brands that do the same! “
Contrary to this image, a flurry of accounts from employees and guests is a testament to the fact that she’s not so nice behind the scenes.
This is good gossip, although not surprisingly in an industry that relies on images of artificial stars that are often at odds with reality. What is lost is the root cause of the scandal. It was a labor dispute that got the ball rolling, especially DeGeneres’ revelation that rocked his longtime crew during the COVID-19 crisis. According to a Variety story that erupted on April 16.
The main stage crew of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, made up of over 30 employees, have not received any written communication regarding the status of their working hours, wages or inquiries about their mental health and from the producers for more than a month, said two sources, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. Senior production officials would sometimes answer phone calls but reveal little, one of the sources added. The crew were further angered by the recent hiring by the broadcast of an outside non-union tech company to help DeGeneres record remotely from his home in California.
In other words, DeGeneres picked up his show with a low-rate non-union crew, while his own many-year-old union crew waited at home in a state of great anxiety, calling the producers and being shot, wondering when they would one day return. work, where their next paycheck came from and whether they had to claim unemployment.
Eventually, it emerged that four of the thirty-person crew were still working, participating in the shoots now taking place at DeGeneres’ home. Producers told the remaining crew to prepare for a 60% pay cut “even if the show continued to air,” and the filming schedule was reduced from four days a week to five.
This contrasts with the employee experience on other talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Last week tonight with John Oliver, and Full frontal with Samantha Bee, which were fostered by transparent communication throughout the end of the pandemic and a return to full compensation as soon as the broadcasts returned to the air. It has been reported that Jimmy Kimmel paid the machinists out of his own pocket during the downtime.
There’s no financial reason why Ellen DeGeneres couldn’t have done the same. She is one of the highest paid stars on television, earning more than $ 50 million a year from her show, according to Variety. His total net worth is $ 330 million.
It’s a shocking story anyway, but it’s particularly shocking if you know the working conditions of film and TV crews, who are usually locked in very tight, intimate spaces with on-screen artists, aka “talent”. Even when you consider Hollywood’s obsession with status and hierarchical trends in Hollywood, it’s hard for “talent” not to befriend at least the key members of the movies and shows crew. of TV.
A long-running show like DeGeneres means years of frequent daily interactions with, say, the cinematographer, the gaffer, the costume designer, the hairstylists and makeup artists, the sound people, the prop – all vital experts. in their field that DeGeneres depends on to make it look and sound great. And many key members of the DeGeneres team have been with her since the show’s pilot aired seventeen years ago.
Under such circumstances, a sense of respect and camaraderie had better develop if you don’t want your working life to be a long misery. When you hustle these people, you are probably hustling people you know well.
But that’s where the initial scandal that revealed that Ellen DeGeneres was anything but “nice” began to drift away from the real issues of the job. Behind the scenes, it was revealed DeGeneres was a cold and distant boss, delegating interactions with the team to her producers, whom she quickly blamed for all the abuse that had taken place.
“I’m so sorry for what has become,” DeGeneres reportedly told staff during a video call announcing the firing of three producers accused of abuse. “I left that to be a well-oiled machine, and I realize that it’s not a machine… it’s human beings.”
The producers, presumably trying to keep their jobs, have contacted the press to take all the blame. In a joint statement to BuzzFeed, three executive producers said, “We are very sorry and sorry to hear that even one of our production family had a negative experience. […] For the record, the day-to-day responsibility for the Ellen show is entirely on us. We take it all very seriously and realize, as many around the world are learning, that we need to do better, we are committed to doing better, and we will do better. “
However, heads turned when three big producers – Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman – “split from the show” following an internal investigation by WarnerMedia…. All have been accused of sexual misconduct by former employees, with Leman and Norman denying the charges and Glavin making no statement to the press.
The wave of accusations over the allegedly hostile work environment The Ellen DeGeneres Show included many explosive charges of racism and sexual harassment. Entertainment magazines began publishing recaps or slideshows of the many and diverse developments in the Ellen DeGeneres scandal that were rumored to be causing irreparable damage to her career.
What is remarkable about these detailed accounts is how the initial labor dispute tended to disappear. Many accounts did not mention it. A supposedly full August 17 American magazine piece titled “Ellen DeGeneres’ Talk Show Drama: Everything to Know,” claimed the whole scandal started on July 16 – three months later Variety shattered the history of the labor dispute – with the so-called “first allegations” published by BuzzFeed News, stating that “11 employees – one current and 10 former – reported experiencing racism and intimidation on the show’s set.”
One of the few publications that gave the labor dispute significant space was the British newspaper, the Independent. He provided a fairly comprehensive account of the labor dimension of the scandal – in addition to citing DeGeneres’ offensive and deaf comments on a YouTube post, comparing the lockdown in his lavish California home to jail.
the New Yorker briefly describes labor disputes, outlining how each phase of the scandal was subsumed into the next, with accusations of sexual harassment capturing most of the attention and then overwhelmed by the wave of celebrity statements defending Ellen DeGeneres in describing her kind and respectful treatment towards them. , as well as the many charities of DeGeneres.
Other celebrities boiled the pot by doubling down on revealing DeGeneres’ so-called ‘nasty streak’, as comedian Kathy Griffin called it, when she was out of public view (Brad Garrett, Lea Thompson ). This gave entertainment reporters new opportunities to spin the tale, with several noting that famous people claiming DeGeneres often treated their celebrity colleagues well barely countered accusations that DeGeneres cared little for the non-famous people who worked for. she.
More recently, the narrative seems to be heading in a new direction familiar to anyone from dealing with long-term disputes in entertainment journalism: a godly series of stories striking the tone of understanding and ‘let the healing begin’. This takes the form of reporters showing sympathy for DeGeneres’ attempts to recover from the scandal.
A great piece appeared on August 23 in the Atlantic concluded with expressions of concern for DeGeneres, hoping she could find a way to recover from her fall from grace, and explaining her blatant behavior in terms of how she had to fight anti-gay bigots and misogynistic:
Maybe in time DeGeneres will make amends with everyone she’s hurt and explain herself honestly. Maybe the show will transform (already staff members have been told they will have more free time). Or maybe she will find a new outlet for her talents, one that allows her to display her advantage without hurting others.
Yet even now it is clear why DeGeneres had to forge an image of overdetermined joy to get to where she is … She scrambled so intensely, her entire career, to ward off fanatics who would reflexively assume her. like a monster. Hollywood history makes it clear that no group has a monopoly on bad behavior. But now looming the sad possibility that having its facade ripped apart, one of pop culture’s greatest pleasures has finally given the worst portions of its audience what they always wanted.
The disappearance of the original story of the labor dispute in more recent accounts of DeGeneres’ career issues is a prime example of how serious work abuse is erased from so many American reporting. There is no doubt that the charges of racism and sexual harassment are very serious.
But work abuses are just as serious – taking people out of their wages, taking job security out of their lives, undermining decent union jobs with what amounts to recruiting scabs – and it is sinister to them. see systematically minimized or ignored.
And focusing on poor Ellen DeGeneres’ woes as she tries to repair her image actually means identifying with an abusive and irresponsible employer, rather than holding them to account. While this is a decision familiar to entertainment journalists, it remains a bad one.