Ellen DeGeneres turned kindness into a brand. Now the brand may bring her down.

Ellen DeGeneres turned kindness into a brand. Now the brand may bring her down.

Hours after DeGeneres’s statement, further reporting from BuzzFeed added accusations of sexual harassment at the show. Former celebrity guests Brad Garrett and Lea Thompson noted the hollowness of her response and that, of course, the culture was created from the top down. Garrett even said he knew multiple people “treated horribly by her. Common knowledge.” Now DeGeneres reportedly wants out of her namesake show. That a TV show’s work culture is rotten or that a powerful celebrity is difficult or demeaning shouldn’t come as a shock in 2020. So why does the fallout here feel far more dramatic than in comparable cases? The depth of the offense lies in the gap between the marketing of “Ellen” and the accounts now coming to light about DeGeneres. DeGeneres’s persona is linked inextricably to kindness. She ends every episode of her show with the sign-off “Be kind to one another,” so when reports allege that her reaction to witnessing on-set abuse is to giggle and joke, they have an extra sting. A head writer allegedly propositioning employees for sex doesn’t comport with the uplifting stories of normal folks’ viral niceness that DeGeneres features. And racism and sexism would certainly be out of place in her Be Kind subscription box, which at $54.99 features DeGeneres-curated products she loves that also “do something kind for the world.” Even viewers who didn’t subscribe to the Be Kind box thought they were getting an equally curated product anyway: a show that offered them a place ...
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