On Saturday, the British newspaper The Sun reported that James Corden was thought to be “in line” to replace Ellen DeGeneres should she quit her namesake show.
It was the latest news in a maelstrom of bad press for DeGeneres that began when the Dutch beauty YouTuber Nikkie de Jager said in February that the host — long known for telling her audience to “be kind” — had acted “cold and distant” during de Jager’s appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Since then, crew members, celebrities, and media personalities have publicly spoken out about DeGeneres’ character and accused her of problematic behavior. Corden himself has also faced criticism following the news that he might be DeGeneres’ successor, leading to backlash on Twitter from people accusing the “Late Late Show” host of trying to lower young writers’ salaries or saying he acted in a similarly entitled way as DeGeneres has been accused of.
But regardless of your feelings about Corden or DeGeneres, the news that Corden could replace the longtime host points to a larger, more disturbing trend of talented women (especially queer women and women of color) consistently being sidestepped to pave the way for male comedians.
DeGeneres’ daytime talk show was once considered progressive and historic
When it first premiered in 2003, DeGeneres’ “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” was a huge move for network television.
As an out lesbian, DeGeneres was one of the few queer women (aside from Rosie O’Donnell) to host an entire talk show, and she quickly found an audience with people who loved her dancing, pranks, and goofy sense of humor.
But DeGeneres’ hosting gig came after a turbulent few years for her.
In 1997, while starring on the ABC sitcom “Ellen,” DeGeneres came out as lesbian during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. She followed up the interview with a groundbreaking Time magazine cover (featuring DeGeneres with the words “Yep, I’m Gay”), and even addressed her sexuality in an episode of her sitcom.
Titled “The Puppy Episode,” the plot focused on DeGeneres’ character Ellen Morgan as she confided in her therapist (played by Winfrey) that she’s gay. Numerous other celebrities, including Laura Dern, Demi Moore, and Billy Bob Thornton, also had small roles in the episode, which was reportedly viewed over by over 40 million people.
Unfortunately for DeGeneres and the show, “The Puppy Episode” garnered a significant amount of backlash from conservative groups, and the sitcom was eventually canceled in 1998. Increased focus was also paid to DeGeneres’ relationship with the actress Anne Heche.
A 2007 profile of DeGeneres in W Magazine said the backlash and media attention “left her stunned, angry, unable to find work for three years, and mired in depression.”
DeGeneres was able to make a comeback in Hollywood, voicing the character of Dory in 2003’s “Finding Nemo” and eventually becoming the host of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which has won numerous Daytime Emmys throughout its run.
Recent allegations surrounding DeGeneres and her show have now cast doubt on the host’s cheery public persona — but to ignore the groundbreaking nature of her work, as well as the optics of having an out comedian host a daytime talk show, would be doing a massive disservice to DeGeneres and her career.
Women, especially queer women and women of color, are still vastly underrepresented both in front of and behind the camera
A recent report by the Writer’s Guild of America found that in the 2019-2020 television season, only 44% of TV writers were women and only 19% of writers were women of color. And while networks like ABC, NBC, and CBS have a decently high percentage of female writers, there are still few women hosting late-night shows.
In fact, NBC’s Lilly Singh is the only woman hosting a nightly network talk show. Singh’s show, “A Little Late With Lilly,” premiered in September, making her the first queer South Asian late-night host.
Samantha Bee is the only other woman hosting a late-night program, though her show, “Full Frontal,” airs once a week.
That’s not to say there haven’t been female hosts previously. In the past, comedians like Wanda Sykes, Joan Rivers, Robin Thede, and Chelsea Handler have all hosted nightly talk shows, with varying levels of success.
But white men still dominate talk shows, especially those on late night. An ill-conceived feature by Vanity Fair in 2015 inadvertently highlighted the extreme white maleness of late-night TV show hosts.
Five years later, not much has changed. Women may be making slight progress in terms of securing writing jobs behind the camera, but if you tune in to a late-night talk show, chances are your host will be a white man named Jimmy, Stephen, or James.
Daytime TV features slightly more women (e.g., the ladies of “The View,” Winfrey, and “The Kelly Clarkson Show”), but it’s still nowhere near as equitable as it should be, and DeGeneres’ show is one of the few to feature an out female host.
On Twitter, some users want to #ReplaceEllen with female comedians of color
After news broke that Corden might be a leading contender to replace DeGeneres, Twitter offered up a variety of other celebrities who they said would make a better successor to the host.
People advocated stars including Laverne Cox, Tiffany Haddish, Keke Palmer, and Tabitha Brown to take over.
Imagine Laverne Cox taking over Ellen. Iconic.
— B I L L Y 🌈 (@BillyCullum) August 5, 2020
— S A M M Y (@samuelhmorrison) August 3, 2020
— A no Bullshit Account (@truth_stan) August 3, 2020
— rol magaña 八 🦃 (@rol_o) August 3, 2020
I would absolutely #ReplaceEllen with @IamTabithaBrown No one can bring a smile to my face as much as her. This woman has LIGHT in her. She IS America’s sweetheart: a kind, nice, lovely person. ♥️♥️♥️ #TabithaBrown #ReplaceEllenWithTabithaBrown pic.twitter.com/6uXJbgk51I
— Michael Gold, Psy.D. (He/Him/His) (@drmichaelgold) August 3, 2020
— De-escalate On His Dick (@EscalateOn) August 3, 2020
— StephC (@SteffClair) August 3, 2020
— Duane Paul 🍀☘️ (@theduanepaul) August 3, 2020
The “Flavor of Love” star (and frequent meme inspiration) Tiffany Pollard was also suggested by Twitter users.
— winntiiii🌙 (@prettybabyy69) August 3, 2020
— 🌺 (@tulsispears) August 3, 2020
DeGeneres’ show hasn’t been canceled, but it’s clear from the #ReplaceEllen hashtag that plenty of people are ready for a fresh host, especially if it’s a woman of color.
Replacing DeGeneres is a chance to move the industry forward — not backward
Andy Lassner, the executive producer of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” recently told a fan that “nobody is going off the air,” in response to a tweet about DeGeneres’ show getting cancelled.
And Corden’s representatives declined Insider’s requests for comment about the possibility of his replacing DeGeneres.
But still, the prospect of Corden, or another straight white man, replacing an out lesbian on a high-profile talk show isn’t just disappointing — it’s problematic. Queer women and women of color deserve a seat at the table and to have their voices heard both in front of and behind the camera.
DeGeneres’ talk show was once considered progressive and historic, but it shouldn’t be considered that radical anymore to have a woman of color or a queer woman hosting a TV show. And while no one should get handed a job on TV simply because of race, sexuality, or gender identity, the fact remains that these groups are consistently marginalized in Hollywood, even as progress is starting to be made.
So let’s stop giving white men a platform they don’t need and focus instead on giving one to those who truly deserve it.
Send your news and stories to us email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and WhatsApp: +447747873668.
Before you go...
Democratic norms are being stress-tested all over the world, and the past few years have thrown up all kinds of questions we didn't know needed clarifying – how long is too long for a parliamentary prorogation? How far should politicians be allowed to intervene in court cases? To monitor these issues as closely as we have in the past we need your support, so please consider donating to The Climax News Room.