Disclaimer: At Hollywood Insider, with respect to our mission statement and values, we do not believe in or partake in ‘cancel culture’. This article is important as it discusses toxic work culture which needs to be eradicated from all workplaces in the world. But, we do not believe that ‘The Ellen Degeneres Show’ or Ellen herself should be canceled and are actually against canceling them. As this important issue of toxicity has been brought forward, we hope Warner Bros, the Ellen show, and Ellen herself will do everything to better the show and every individual on the show including the host so that it aligns with its motto of ‘Be Kind’.
Toxicity comes in multiple forms. America’s toxic corporate culture is nothing new and yet to be eradicated. The reason the Ellen show’s toxicity is such as shock is due to the fact that the motto of the show happens to be ‘Be Kind’ and the host herself has built a brand whose focus has been kindness.
On July 16, Buzzfeed reporter Krystie Lee Yandoli published a story about how Degeneres runs a toxic and abusive workplace. Yandoli spoke to one current and 10 former employees on The Ellen Degeneres Show, and none of them spoke fondly about the workplace. “That ‘be kind’ bullshit only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,” said one of the former employees. “I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.”
Ellen show – “Be kind” should be more than a motto
Of course, “be kind” is Ellen’s brand, supposedly the words she lives by. Sadly, a positive public image isn’t always entirely accurate of who the celebrity really is. Bill Cosby was dubbed “America’s dad” for years, and he ended up being a convicted rapist. This case with Ellen is another reminder that we should always take public personas with a grain of salt.
What makes Ellen’s case unique is that she isn’t the one directly abusing people, or at least hasn’t been reported yet. It’s actually her employees abusing each other. For example, a former Ellen show producer named Hedda Muskat explained in an interview with TheWrap how executive producer Ed Galvin was abusive to a female employee at a staff meeting. Instead of standing up to Galvin, Ellen seemed to be fine with it. And that is the problem, the fact that Ellen did not stand up to it.
Ellen enabling abusive behavior
“She crossed her legs up on the chair and she said, ‘Well, I guess every production needs their dog,’” Muskat said. “And from then we knew. Ed was going to be the barking dog—her dog. You could just see everybody’s faces go stiff. We’re professionals; we’re adults. We don’t need a dog to get us to do our jobs. … She was the only one giggling.” Ellen’s response is troubling on multiple levels. For starters, what does it mean to “need a dog?” As in every production set needs an abusive man to set the tone of the workplace? Why does that equate to anything essential or helpful for the collective group?
Secondly, this response gives off the impression that Ellen settles for a non-ideal work environment. It’s the type of attitude that settles for less than the best, because the best seems too unrealistic. Toxic environments are commonplace in society, but that doesn’t mean that improvement is impossible. It may not necessarily be a quick process, but it’s always worth the effort.
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Warner Bros. stepped in to eradicate toxicity from the show
Luckily, some changes do appear to be in order. Warner Bros., the distributor of the Ellen show, quickly launched an investigation into the matter. Specific changes have not yet been announced publicly, but a Warner Bros. representative released a statement about their efforts to improve the work environment.
“Though not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management. We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them. Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres are all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion. We are confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show.”
Let’s analyze their statement
The most encouraging part of this statement is “staffing changes.” Will that include demoting or replacing Galvin? Will that include punishing the person that told a Black coworker that they “only know the names of the white people who work here?” How about the person who told two Black employees “Oh wow; you both have box braids? I hope we don’t get you confused?” If these people keep their jobs, what’s stopping them from continuing to make racist and ignorant comments like that?
Ellen’s apology doesn’t add up
In a memo to her staff, she wrote “On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness—no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.” How can she be disappointed to learn that there was abuse when Muskat says she knew about it the whole time?
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Ellen continued in her apology, “My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.” I’m sorry Ellen, but growing the staff is not an excuse for not keeping track of what’s going on. Being imperfect is understandable, but it’s not okay to completely delegate these things to people below you. You may be above them in the staff hierarchy, but you’re not above anyone as a person. Isn’t it the boss’s primary job to “stay on top of everything?”
This situation is just another in a long line of troubling developments in Hollywood to get exposed in recent memory. Change is always a gradual process, and it’s good that Warner Bros. stepped in. However, it never should have come to that. The bottom line is that no matter how famous or beloved these people are in the public eye, they need to be held accountable. Hopefully, it will lead to more of them cleaning up their act after they see that their actions have consequences. Ellen’s “Be Kind” motto has to be prevalent on the screen as well as in real-life behind the scenes.
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