Take a break from your phone for a few hours and you might miss a micro-scandal, a fresh set of memes and a handful of viral tweets. There’s so much information, all the time, that an afternoon without wifi is like being on a deserted island. Beyond the lightning fast news cycle there’s hashtivism, politics, fake news and hoaxes, not to mention the constant stream of #isoverparty names. But even within the clusterfuck that is 2020, a #RIP tribute to a super famous talk show host is a whole lot of “Huh????”
Here’s the gist: #RIPEllen is trending because of a rumour that her eponymous talk show will be cancelled. So is this tea or just a tepid glass of tap water? While the Ellen DeGeneres Show’s ratings have fallen during the pandemic, it’s a super challenging time for all TV productions. Kudos to all the hosts (like Kelly Clarkson, Trevor Noah and Jimmy Fallon, to name a few) for trying to do their job during a pandemic, but there’s only so much of an audience for celebs filming themselves in their living rooms and communicating with guests over Zoom. While digital-first shows like John Krasinski’s Some Good News have picked up in popularity, traditional talk shows have had to pivot to working from home with mixed results. (Some, like Jimmy Kimmel Live!, have opted to take the summer off instead.)
So yes, Ellen’s ratings have dropped, but she’s still a powerhouse and will likely continue on until she decides it’s over. (She’s hinted at retirement a few times.) What’s raising the temperature on that tea kettle is that Ellen’s personal reputation, like her ratings, has also taken a tumble. It started when Kevin T. Porter posted this on Twitter:
Right now we all need a little kindness. You know, like Ellen Degeneres always talks about! 😊❤️
She’s also notoriously one of the meanest people alive
Respond to this with the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean & I’ll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank
— Kevin T. Porter (@KevinTPorter) March 20, 2020
The thread has thousands of responses and those who have worked on the show or are Ellen-adjacent have stories for days—from the stereotypical bad celeb behaviour (you can’t look her in the eye) to the downright bizarre (she had a waitress fired for having chipped nail polish). The overarching theme is that Ellen is mean to the extreme, despite her “be kind” public persona. (Beauty blogger NikkieTutorial said she had a negative experience as a guest on the show, calling the staff overworked and Ellen “cold.”)
In addition to reports of the talk show host’s personal bad behaviour, a July 16 investigative report by BuzzFeed News found numerous employees who alleged being subjected to a toxic workplace environment on set of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. In the article, current and former staffers described being subjected to racist comments behind the scenes at the Ellen DeGeneres Show, being left in the dark when it came to compensation and job security at the beginning of the pandemic, and having unpleasant and downright cold interactions with the host. (In a July 30 letter to staff, which was leaked, DeGeneres apologized to anyone who’d been negatively affected).
The hit to Ellen’s reputation, combined with show’s lowest ratings ever, got people talking cancellation, which led to the #RIPEllen trend. So it’s a theoretical rest in peace to the show, not the person. #RIPEllen has now morphed into a joke for extremely online™ people. (Everyone else will find it slightly baffling.)
There’s Ellen as James Charles.
— erino (@Erin_MPD) July 7, 2020
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Ellen as her sometimes hair-twin, Justin Bieber.
— 𝕂𝕚𝕟𝕘 🍫 (@kxngmaraj) July 7, 2020
Damn, not Nemo! (Insert crying face emoji.)
— Talios Xexion (@ScaledShield) July 7, 2020
And a cut-and-paste angel Ellen.
— brianna 雪狼ᴺᴹ (@briaputa) July 7, 2020
Other celebs thrown into the meme-mix included Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Kathy Bates, keeping the hashtag trending for well over 24 hours.
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Tacky? Slightly. All in good fun? For the most part, yes.
The rumour inexplicably included the detail that she fell off a roof (maybe while dancing?), but since we’re being totally ridiculous, here’s another theory: Death by Dakota Johnson.
Update: On September 21, Ellen DeGeneres addressed the allegations of a toxic workplace environment and her own bad behaviour on-air during the Season 18 premiere of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, apologizing for “things that should have never happened.”
“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,” DeGeneres said of the allegations of a toxic work environment. Saying that the show had had a lot of “necessary conversations” over the last few weeks, DeGeneres declared: “We have made the necessary changes, and today we are starting a new chapter.” As for her own behaviour and reports that the talk show host is an unpleasant and rude person off-air, DeGeneres said: “The truth is I am that person that you see on TV.”