Ellen DeGeneres, recently named ‘Most influential gay person in America’ by Out magazine, is an openly gay comedian and talk show host. She is also a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign’s Coming Out Project, and speaks out about numerous issues that effect homosexual people, on her show. Because she is so influential amongst the gay public, she has become a role model and is therefore a perfect and interesting example of gay identity in contemporary America.
The video I looked at in particular was ‘Ellen addresses Her JCPenney critics’ which involved Ellen speaking out against an organisation called ‘One Million Mom’s’ who disproved of Ellen being a spokesperson of the clothes store JCPenney. They stated that ‘By jumping on the pro-gay band wagon, JC Penney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over the years, The majority of the JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there’. The fact Ellen speaks out against the backlash she receives is an acceptance of the situation, and a statement of being proud of who she is. She refers to the ‘haters’ being her ‘motivators’ which I feel sends a message to Gay America, in that they are going to get ‘haters’ within society, that unfortunately discriminate against them because of their sexuality but it can be dealt with and used positively. I think this can be related to society through the growing number of people coming out as gay each year as opposed to the smaller figure of the past. This shows that gay people are seeing themselves reflected positively through celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, which gives them the confidence to come out. More than 100 gay parades and festivals take place in America every year, which shows people are proud of who they are, through the widespread celebration of sexuality.
The attribute of Ellen’s I found the most interesting was the humorous elements she gives in response to the backlash. For example in the video, Ellen mocks the ‘One Million Moms’, and making fun at herself at the same time, for example “If you’re just tuning in for the first time, its true I’m gay, I hope you were sitting down”. This shows her light heartedness at the situation, in no part does she become spiteful or aggressive which I think stands true for American Identity amongst the public. People watching the show will see Ellen as a positive role model, in her cool nature in the face of adversity and therefore strive to live by her example.
The video ends with Ellen stating the values she lives by, she says “honesty equality kindness compassion, treating people how you want to be treated and helping those in need, these to me are traditional values”. I think this is particularly insightful as she is showing the public she is just like anyone else someone who holds true moral values, despite some people thinking her sexuality is immoral. I think this shows the ridiculousness of the prejudice situation, in the fact that it shouldn’t matter what sexuality someone is, as long as they are a good person, which Ellen displays. This rings true for the American population who as a minority, are subject to many obstacles in their life such as having no right to marriage. When comparing two morally correct gay people in love, to say someone who has had numerous divorces and can still marry, it doesn’t seem fair. However the fact that these prejudice issues are being discussed openly like Ellen does, it allows the spread of awareness, therefore the level of acceptance and understanding of gay people should be increased.
All in All through Ellen’s strength through adversity it has made her into a gay icon one of which has influenced Gay America. Although we cannot generalise Ellen’s ‘gay identity’ to the general gay public we can accept that the minority is made up of a diverse range of people. However, we can appreciate Ellen’s influence she has over Gay America, through her dedication for gay rights and comedic value, which may cause gay people to aspire to be like Ellen.