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The Critical Difference Between Ellen Page and Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen Page and Ellen DeGeneres

The two espouse very different philosophies about being queer in Hollywood.

How you feel about Chris Pratt will probably determine which white lesbian named Ellen you enjoy more. If you think the Guardians of the Galaxy star loves the gays and would rather shuffle his affiliation with anti-LGBTQ+ church Hillsong to the side, then you're probably more of a DeGeneres. If you think that Pratt's affiliation with Hillsong is bullshit and you're ready to go full scorched earth, then you're probably more of an Ellen Page. Though both Ellens have much in common, the past few weeks have shown the line between the two grow more pronounced.

DeGeneres has found herself in hot water with queer people more than once in the past few months. When the Oscars fired named host Kevin Hart ahead of its 2019 telecast, DeGeneres stepped in to try and mend fences. She invited Hart on her show and attempted to "convince" him to take the gig, often intimating that she knew what was in his heart and that, though he had joked about beating his queer son, he was no homophobe. Despite his association with Hillsong, Pratt appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week, where he lost the "sexiest Chris" title to Avengers co-star Chris Hemsworth. A promotional tweet about Pratt from DeGeneres' official account ended up getting ratioed -- the number of people replying was greater than the number retweeting or liking -- with several prominent queer Twitter accounts lambasting DeGeneres for playing sandbox with the action star.

DeGeneres espouses a benign centrism that tries to call everyone to the table, even if they harmed members of the LGBTQ+ community. Page, on the other hand, doesn't have the time. She called out Pratt on Twitter for his association with Hillsong, whose global pastor Brian Houston issued a statement on gay people in 2015 which said, "Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm lifestyles." Page threw shade at Pratt for associating with the church, saying, "If you are a famous actor and you belong to an organization that hates a certain group of people, don't be surprised if someone simply wonders why it's not addressed. Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren't two sides. The damage it causes is severe. Full stop. Sending love to all."

Taking Pratt and others to the mat is par for the course for Page. Time and again, the outspoken actress has called out the media rather than sided with Hollywood gatekeepers. She called out the media for its transphobic framing of media stories about trans people and in 2017 she accused powerful Hollywood director Brett Ratner of homophobic, abusive behavior on the set of X-Men: The Last Stand, saying he tried to out her with a sexual remark made to her on set.

Who earns each Ellen's allegiance speaks volumes. DeGeneres, whose comedy has lately focused on her inability to be relatable, has given Hart a platform where she pardoned Hart for his homophobic past. She believed so much in Hart's right to host the Oscars that she barely took him to task for the real harm his words had for Black queer people. DeGeneres wanted Hollywood's business as usual to continue unperturbed.

Page, meanwhile, is unafraid to put herself and those around her up for examination. When Page calls out the media for its transphobia, she also speaks of herself as a part of "the media." Same with calling out Ratner. Rather than play the Hollywood game of silence, where actresses are not supposed to talk about the machine writing their checks, she chooses to call attention to the deep issues in her own community so that other queer actors and actresses will not have to endure similar mistreatment.

DeGeneres' mere presence in Hollywood has forever shifted how the entire world envisions queer people. Her legacy is undeniable, even if her current actions seem antithetical to her once-radical presence as a barrier-breaking queer artist. The closest analogy to DeGeneres is RuPaul, a once-transgressive pioneer who now seems more interested in keeping gates than busting them down. The queen who once called out Milton Berle for being disrespectful at the MTV Video Music Awards now has no problem denying medically transitioning transgender women the opportunity to compete on RuPaul's Drag Race. (She made an exception for Gia Gunn in All Stars 4, though we've yet to see whether a medically transitioning queen who is brand new to the audience will be allowed on the show.)

What separates these two Ellens, then, is mostly a difference in philosophy. Like RuPaul, DeGeneres operates as a Hollywood elite who emphasizes decorum, "playing nice" to maintain a status quo in which she's found success. Page, though she is an Oscar-nominated actress, doesn't have DeGeneres's vast media empire and thus plays a different game. She has to be careful about who she pisses off. And yet, perhaps that's why Page's brand of activism resonates with so many queer people. For an out queer actress in Hollywood for whom the next gig is never really guaranteed, she has the most to lose. And yet she keeps going.

Related | The Problem With Ellen DeGeneres' Kevin Hart Interview

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Mathew Rodriguez