Since her talk show premiered in 2003, Ellen DeGeneres has cultivated an image as America’s fun aunt, playing pranks on celebrities and making adorable children go viral. It seems like everyone loves Ellen, but her reputation in the entertainment is actually a lot more complicated than that. Over the years, there have been many stories and rumors about her behavior when the cameras aren’t rolling—more on that in a minute. But first, let’s get to a viral moment from Ellen last week that has made my messy bitch side come alive. Enter, Dakota Johnson.
Last Wednesday, Dakota went on Ellen’s show, and one of the most awkward television interviews ever began when Ellen brought up Dakota’s recent 30th birthday. Ellen said she wasn’t invited to Dakota’s birthday, and all of a sudden, a switch flipped in Dakota. She responded, saying “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen, you were invited. No, last time I was on the show, last year, you gave me a bunch of sh*t about not inviting you, but I didn’t even know you wanted to be invited.”
AND I F*CKING OOP. I didn’t know Dakota had this in her, and I’m a little bit in awe. Ellen responded, asking why she wouldn’t want to be invited to a party, to which Dakota said “I didn’t even know you liked me.” LOLLLLL. Both of them seemed pretty unhappy at this point, and the tension was…a lot. They went back and forth a bit more, which included Dakota asking the Ellen producer to verify that she was invited, and the producer confirmed it, saying Ellen didn’t go because she was out of town. (What’s even funnier is that this was the same weekend Ellen got sh*t for watching that football game with George W. Bush. There are so many layers here!) Here’s the full video, so you can feel the awkward vibes for yourself:
Reactions online to the interview have been mixed. While a lot of people have applauded Dakota Johnson for standing her ground and not letting Ellen walk all over her, others weren’t as pleased. Many felt like Dakota kind of ambushed Ellen on her own show, and that her response felt unnecessarily icy. I see both sides of this, but personally, this is the kind of interview I want to watch. If Dakota had gone on Ellen and just told some lame story about her birthday party, I most likely wouldn’t have watched, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing this article about it. Watching Dakota grill Ellen about why she didn’t come to the party felt like a Real Housewives confrontation unfolding in real time, and well, I love Real Housewives.
Dakota Johnson might be one of the first celebs to publicly push back with Ellen, but this is likely just a peek at the behind-the-scenes issues many people have with her. Let’s start with the obvious. If you’re familiar with Ellen’s show, you probably know that she loves to scare her celebrity guests. Obviously some people are more into this than others, but sometimes it just feels mean. In 2017, Sarah Paulson went on the show, and her nightmare started when Ellen snuck up on her in her dressing room. Then, during her interview, she was ambushed by clowns two different times, ultimately crawling under the coffee table. It felt like a little much, and Sarah definitely wasn’t having a good time.
Another time, Ellen hosted the teenage boys from the Stranger Things cast on her show, and they played a dumb game where they had to pull teeth from a giant monster’s mouth. The boys were laughing and having a good time, and the segment would’ve been fun, except for the fact that Ellen looked like she was ready to cut a bitch the whole time. Maybe she was just having a bad day, but she did a really bad job of hiding it. It came across like she was fed up with her guests, which isn’t a great look for a talk show host.
Having some minor awkwardness with her guests is one thing, but sources have claimed that she’s downright cruel to many of the people who work for her. In 2016, someone who had worked at the show told Radar Online that on set, “She’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She’s so nice to celebrities, but Ellen demands that junior staffers don’t speak to her, touch her or even look at her.” Another source agreed, saying that Ellen “treats staffers as if they are her peasants,” and that “Staffers never know what she’ll go off on, or who she’ll target.” Another former member of her writing staff in the early 2000s wrote that she treated her writers “like sh*t.”
Judging from those quotes, it seems like Ellen DeGeneres fits all the classic traits of a toxic boss, and if these stories are true, they’re a far cry from Ellen’s warm and friendly TV persona. No one can be expected to be bubbly and fun 100% of the time, but this kind of behavior really isn’t acceptable when it’s coming from an employer.
At this point, Ellen is basically an American institution, and I doubt that one uncomfortable moment with Dakota Johnson is really going to damage her sparkling reputation. But I guess my bigger question is why her reputation is still so sparkling in the first place? While gossip sites and blogs are full of rumors and sources detailing Ellen’s troubling behavior, mainstream publications have largely steered clear of criticizing Ellen. Because the average soccer mom isn’t digging through gossip blogs, it makes sense that their beloved Ellen remains untarnished. I don’t know how long this will last, but it’s always interesting when a crack in the façade appears for a brief moment. And for that, Dakota Johnson, I thank you.
Images: Shutterstock; TheEllenShow / YouTube (2)