For nearly two decades, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and its openly lesbian host have beamed into homes across America, busting stereotypes and charming daytime TV audiences with a feel-good blend of quirky comedy and celebrity cameos.
But after more than 3 000 episodes, a talk show that came to rival even Oprah Winfrey’s in terms of its cultural impact departs on Thursday under a cloud, after allegations of a toxic workplace at stark odds with its “be kind” mantra.
“When we started this show in 2003, the iPhone didn’t exist. Social media didn’t exist. Gay marriage wasn’t legal,” DeGeneres said last month, after pre-taping the show’s final episode.
“We watched the world change – sometimes for the better, sometimes not.”
There is no doubt the cultural landscape has been upended since rising comedian DeGeneres came out in 1997 – simultaneously as her character on sitcom Ellen, and in real life with an interview on the cover of Time magazine.
DeGeneres was hailed as a gay icon, but her sitcom was cancelled a year later amid a backlash, and she spent five years in the wilderness before reinventing herself as a talk show host.
“It was a sensation, it was a landmark – and it became a political football,” said Mary Murphy, associate professor of journalism at University of Southern California.
“She led the way. She was probably – and may still be – the most famous LGBTQ person in America.”
The final episode. Tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/E3yKaLzHTd
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) May 26, 2022