On yesterday’s episode of Ellen, which is normally a rather cloying affair, although also entirely inoffensive and I don’t mean that in some kind of College Campus Misanthrope kind of way where “inoffensive” is the gravest of insults, I mean it in a straight-forward, dictionary definition way as in “that show couldn’t and shouldn’t offend anyone because it’s well-intentioned and has an overall spirit of positivity, which maybe the world could use more of”–(What dictionary am I using? The dictionary of MIND YOUR BEES)–Ellen announced that Prop 8 was overturned, which, by the way, Prop 8 was overturned, so that is GREAT NEWS! And then she addressed a minor but not unimportant controversy surrounding her recent appointment (nice euphemism) as the latest JC Penny spokesperson, which has outraged at least one conservative group due to Ellen’s homosexuality. Oh brother! That is what someone is mad about? That the latest JC PENNY SPOKESPERSON is gay? Not only that, but that the spokesperson is gay ELLEN? Who doesn’t love Ellen? I mean, going back to my “inoffensive” comment: it is very hard to “hate” Ellen. You might not care for her show, and you might find that she has slipped into an increasingly comfortable and unambitious slot of padding celebrity puff piece interviews with what could most generously be described as “humor” (but certainly not “comedy”), but that’s her business and her choice, and she is and has always been entirely likable in a way that at least FEELS very genuine and OK, I’m playing devil’s advocate and trying to be cynical here, which is hard for me because I am never cynical about anything, but OK maybe this “genuine” good vibe that she emits is just Hollywood smoke and mirrors and she’s as bitter and hopelessly disappointed with the meaninglessness of a life spent in pursuit of money and attention when death still awaits us all as the rest of us, but even if so: does it matter? I would argue that it doesn’t. The vibe she puts off is the vibe we receive, so who cares whether she does as many goofy dances at home? (But I bet she does! I bet she goofy dances all over that mansion!) But to get back to the issue at hand, and the people getting mad at her about JC PENNY STUFF: Ellen addresses these jerks in a way that is both funny and smart and morally correct and seems like an important and meaningful thing for a highly-visible and unthreatening celebrity to do on national television, but then is also a little bit complicated because of how at the end of the day she’s working very hard to defend a corporate sponsorship:
See what I mean? That was a good opening monologue! Ellen believes in all the right things and she stands up for herself and for gay rights and she does so with humor and confidence and compassion. But then also we are mostly spending 10 minutes applauding JC Penny? For hiring her? To be in commercials? That’s a little weird. But maybe we SHOULD be applauding JC Penny for hiring her to be in commercials, since clearly that’s a way more CONTROVERSIAL decision than anyone might have guessed. If a JC Penny spokespersonship makes people mad about homosexuality, then a JC Penny spokespersonship probably IS something worth fighting for. Ultimately, I suppose it probably IS some combination of daytime television hosts and low-budget mass market retailers broadcasting the message that homosexuality is acceptable that’s going to move the needle way more than some Capitol Hill speech on C-Span that no one’s watching but if they were watching it would make them so mad. Personally, this doesn’t make me any more inclined to shop at JC Penny (sorry, JC Penny!) but it does make me kind of want to watch more Ellen. I’m not going to do that either. But you know what I mean. Good for her. As they say, you go, girl. Bigger and better. Eye on the prize. The prize being the Dinty Moore Spokespersonship, I’m sure.