There have been many unfathomable changes in the last month, but out of all of them, who would’ve thought that we’d all come out of quarantine thinking Ellen DeGeneres is a sh*tty person? Well, to be fair, I kind of thought that before, but over the past month, it feels like the floodgates on negative press about Ellen have sprung a major leak.
First, there was the viral Twitter thread, in which dozens of people shared their personal anecdotes of Ellen being a nightmare. Then, last week, Ellen got raked over the online coals for a tone-deaf joke about her quarantine being like jail. But while that joke was in poor taste, even more concerning is a new report about how poorly her TV show crew has been treated during this time.
Speaking to Variety, two sources from within the show shared how the core Ellen crew—around 30 people—were essentially ghosted after production shut down last month. According to the sources, the crew “received no written communication about the status of their working hours, pay, or inquiries about their mental and physical health from producers for over a month.” When pressed for more information, “Higher-ups in production would occasionally answer phone calls but reveal little” about what was actually going on. Considering that I start to freak out if my mom doesn’t respond to my texts within five minutes, I’m not even sure what I would do if my bosses stopped talking to me for a month. Especially now, we should all be communicating more, not less.
Today I learned Ellen makes $50 million a year and the show has been around for 18 years aaaand her crew isn’t being paid adequately. Hmm.
— roxane gay (@rgay) April 17, 2020
As if the lack of communication wasn’t bad enough, things got worse when the Ellen higher-ups did start communicating again. Last week, as the show resumed production from home, the majority of the crew was told to “brace for a 60% reduction in pay.” Normally, the crew works four 10-hour days a week, but after the first couple weeks of the shutdown, those were reduced to eight hours. Now, the crew have been told that their pay will be cut to two eight-hour days a week, which is… just not enough money. Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. Television, which produces Ellen, said that they “have made decisions first and foremost with [the crew] in mind,” but that seems apparently false.
In the past few weeks, production has ramped back up on Ellen, and DeGeneres is now doing a full five episodes a week from home. But while new episodes of Ellen are airing every day, the sources told Variety that only four of the core crew members are actively working on the at-home version. So it’s understandable that the rest of the crew was reportedly “incensed” when the show hired an “outside, non-union tech company” to handle the production.
While at the moment, it doesn’t sound like any crew members have been fired, hiring an outside company that isn’t unionized with the same skills as your long-time employees is a pretty major slap in the face. But above all this other nonsense, the sources say that the most upsetting part of all this is the “lack of personal outreach from show leadership to check on longtime employees” during this difficult time. I hate to say it, but this sounds pretty in line with some of the other stories we’ve heard about Ellen DeGeneres recently, no?
Obviously, this is a tough time financially for a lot of people, as well as a lot of businesses. Millions of people have been laid off or furloughed, and the entertainment industry is certainly not immune to this. But considering that Ellen DeGeneres makes $50 million a year from her TV deal, it seems like she could be doing a lot more for the people who work for her. When it comes to paying the crew, that obviously involves a lot of other people, but Ellen has the resources to actually do something about it. Variety reports that during Jimmy Kimmel’s initial shutdown, he paid his show’s stagehands with his own money. Obviously, not everyone can afford to do that for their employees, but um, Ellen can.
Or if she’s not going to give them money, you know, maybe a check-in phone call or a text would be nice? Just a thought! Gotta say, the last month has not done any favors for my opinion of Ellen DeGeneres. It’ll be interesting to see whether she cooks up some elaborate damage control PR campaign, but I have a feeling she’ll just go about her business like nothing is happening. The midwestern moms probably still love her, so that’s what really matters.
Images: David Crotty/Getty Images; rgay / Twitter