Monday, April 23, 2012

"be kind to one another"

Ellen has become one of the shows that we watch on a regular basis. I usually DVR it and we catch it later, as we're not usually home when it airs — plus I really hate to watch commercials if I don't have to. I have always liked Ellen DeGeneres and her laid-back, goofy style of comedy.  I liked (most of) her goofy misfire romantic comedy, Mr. Wrong (it's hard not to like a psychotic Bill Pullman). I regularly watched her sitcom Ellen, which co-starred Joely Fisher, Arye Gross, David Anthony Higgins, Clea Lewis, and Jeremy Piven. When Ellen came out I remember how big of a deal it was in the media, but I don't remember being surprised. Her sitcom struggled a bit after that. Sometimes her character's sexuality seemed a little forced into the plotlines of the show. But the characters and Ellen were still funny, and I was sad when it went off the air. I vaguely remember her dating Anne Heche, but I'm much clearer about Steve Martin's reference to their relationship in Bowfinger (supposedly Heche dumped Martin for Ellen).

I have really come to love Ellen through her talk show. It's not just that she has on guests that I want to see — Brad Pitt, Lenny Kravitz, Cee Lo Green, Colin Farrell, Idina Menzel, Squeeze, etc. It's Ellen herself. She's still goofy, the queen of the rambling digression, and still very funny. But what she also is, is kind. Multiple times a week Ellen will feature a school, or a family, or a person in need and then do something to help them. She is fortunate that she has some great sponsor tie-ins and the bankroll to actually help. But Ellen also inspires her viewers to do what they can — random acts of kindness — to each other, and to animals.

Ellen is also open about being vegan. A recent guest on her show was the President of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, who was not just there to hawk his new book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, but to talk about the conditions that chickens in chicken farms are subjected to. It was a straightforward and emotional segment, and I'm sure a lot of people watching started to question where they purchase their groceries, if they never had previously. I doubt I could ever become a vegan, or even fully vegetarian. My Italian girl background is too attracted to the occasional salami, and I love to eat chicken salad and fried chicken from time to time. But I sure as heck could stand to be more aware of where any chicken I purchase comes from.

Her honesty about being gay and her marriage is another thing that I love her for. So many celebrities are guarded or phony when they talk about their lives. It's understandable, but still seems kind of ridiculous, considering they have placed themselves in a public forum to talk about themselves. Ellen's honesty is not just refreshing, it's who she is. She talks about how she is a homebody, her life with Portia de Rossi, her love of animals. When she talks about herself it never seems forced, or even intrusive. Apart from their net worth and celebrity, their marriage seems rather typical. What better example of marriage equality does anyone need?

Ellen loves to dance on her show — here she grooves with First Lady Michelle Obama
When Ellen helps a family build their first home, or a school buy computers, or visits Brad Pitt in New Orleans to show the audience what building projects he has been up to lately, she inspires. She also reminds us that we don't have to only participate in one-time big disaster-relief telethons. We can do a little bit every day to make our lives and the lives of others better. My daughter calls her Ellen Generous. I agree.

Ellen has become a major force, through her show, her website, her merchandise, her sponsors, her easy, breezy Cover Girl-ness. Much like Oprah, I suppose, but there is something gentler about Ellen that I like more. It's a testament to her likability that after recently becoming a spokesperson for J C Penney, a company that to many may seemed a bit dated, she not only helped revitalize its image, but she and JC Penney soon took a stand against bigotry. A group calling itself One Million Moms protested Ellen being a representative of the company and threatened a boycott — and then almost as quickly backed down when there was a huge outcry. That is how to deal with bullies.

But mostly I like Ellen's parting words at the end of each show, "Be kind to one another." It's a wonderful sentiment, and hopefully the many people watching will try to do just that.
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