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Television: It’s Ellen’s Turn

It’s never fun watching someone being ripped apart in the media, especially when the punishment does not seem to fit the crime. What has Ellen DeGeneres ever done to deserve the kind of angry rants against her on gossip blogs and in the mainstream press? The woman has never said a bad word about anyone, she has made great strides for gays and lesbians on television, she tells funny jokes and gives entertaining and occasionally insightful interviews, and the woman dances. She dances whenever she feels like it. You must have a hard-hearted soul not to be charmed by the woman. And yet, she’s found herself at the center of two so-called controversies.

Ellen’s troubles first began when she adopted a cute, scruffy little dog named Iggy. She was kind enough to fill out the adoption papers and give the little guy a good home. Sure, she could have gone to the pet shop at the Beverly Center and shelled out $300 for a purebred, but no, she took the little mutt and promised to give him a good home. When it turned out that Iggy didn’t get along so well at home, Ellen decided to give the pooch over to their hairdresser, who has kids and was looking for a puppy anyway. Again, a nice thing to do, no harm intended.

The Iggy thing mushroomed into a very big deal, by TV standards. Ellen cried on air, explaining her side of the story. She even cancelled the taping of two shows because she was so upset. It was understandable all the way around; the dog was ripped from the arms of a beloved family and given away to someone else. So it goes. They have to protect dogs from being adopted and given away, I get it, please don’t send angry emails. This particular situation, though, could have had a better resolution than the way it was handled. The family, for instance, could have been given the option of going in and filling out papers and yadda yadda yadda. Long story short, everybody came out a loser, especially Iggy.

Now that the Writers Guild is on strike, however, Ellen is back in the hot seat for keeping her show alive during the strike, when Jay Leno and David Letterman have opted to support the writers. Ellen took one day off, but then was threatened with legal action if she didn’t keep her show going and, as was pointed out, shows like Oprah are continuing to run new episodes every day, and they are in the all-important sweeps period.

Ellen, it seems, is being held to a different standard than Oprah? What’s that about? Apparently, Ellen will get a poor reception from the writers and will be treated like a scab for this. This story is being lumped in with the Iggy story, and all at once, Ellen is suddenly more controversial than ever.

Ellen seems like she’s poised for all-out media takedown for no other reason than she’s there. Ellen showed a sign of weakness, like a sick gazelle lagging behind the pack, and wham, she’s being hit from all sides.

What is it about the coverage lately that has become so cutthroat? Why do we relish the rise and subsequent fall of our heroes? Is it really just part of fame now? These are questions I don’t have the answer to. Perhaps Ellen did bring it on herself by airing personal information on her show or by showing a human side to her otherwise chipper persona. Maybe in so doing we all got a little too close.

Either way, here’s hoping this build-them-up/tear-them-down phase ends so that we can all remember how to not indulge our nasty sides.

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