Depending on whom you ask, 2020 has been a whirlwind of ups and downs. For the entertainment industry, which (for the most part) shut down due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, celebrities took to social media, which put them on the public radar, with an unusually close eye by the public.
But with movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and other monumental, cultural transformations, our favorite celebs have often acted in ways that perhaps weren’t always the best representation of what our culture is (or what their own values are).
This year, daytime talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres was put on blast ahead of the premiere of the eighteenth season of Ellen, for the alleged mistreatment of staff. Heavy lies the crown, indeed, for TV’s biggest players, revealing that even the industry’s largest empires can still be dethroned when toxic behavior comes to the surface.
In response to accusations, Warner Bros. began investigating her show in July. As a result, three top producers on the show were ousted. As more and more instances came to surface, DeGeneres took to social media to make two public statements addressing the accusations: one apology was reserved for her staff, in a filmed format, and the other was for the first episode of the Ellen DeGeneres Show’s 18th season.
“As you may have heard, this summer, there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show, and then there was an investigation. I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected.”
She was at risk for losing everything. Rightfully so. But her choice to rise up and face the hard reality that included those who helped put her on her stage, is a perfect representation of how others moving forward should choose to address injustice. Many believed that DeGeneres’ future on television (and in the industry) was entirely dependent upon how she reacted to these accusations. In the video call recording, she was described as being “emotional to the point of tears, as she promised changes on set,” according to The Washington Post.
DeGeneres certainly took the difficult path here, risking the potential for cancellation and a huge loss of viewers, but her ability to humanize the injustice that has unfortunately plagued us all this year seemed to resonate well with the public. You can watch her apology in her monologue at the beginning of the first episode of the 18th season:
“I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show,” she continued.
Moving forward, the industry certainly will be more conscious about flagging toxic work environments, where those with power are held accountable for their behavior. No more can Hollywood hide behind the red carpet and stature.
“I got into this business to make people laugh and feel good. That’s my favorite thing to do. That and Jenga,” she said. “And now, I am a boss of 270 people. Two hundred seventy people who help make this show what it is. Two hundred seventy people who I am so grateful for. All I want is for every single one of them to be happy and to be proud to work here.”