These days Ellen DeGeneres is arguably considered America’s queer sweetheart. Her humor, wit, and kindheartedness can bridge generations and the entire family probably has something nice to say about her – but that wasn’t always the case.
It was a different time with a different social climate in 1997 when DeGeneres came out on national television during “The Puppy Episode” of her ABC sitcom. Though it can feel like the country and the world are reverting when it comes to accepting things like sexuality and gender identity, the portion of the population that accepted such things in the 90s was smaller and much quieter thanks to a lack of social media.
It’s during these times that DeGeneres recalls the extreme prejudice she was met with. “When I came out, I had death threats and there was a bomb threat, but they misjudged the time of the taping.” Said DeGeneres in a new cover story for Adweek, which honored her with their Media Visionary Award. “We had already finished, and thank God.”
Though her coming out episode earned the show record ratings, and Emmy, and a Peabody award, the sitcom was cancelled just a season later. “I knew there would be people that didn’t like it, but I didn’t realize my show would be cancelled,” said the daytime talk show host. “I just thought, ‘It’s going to be interesting.’”
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Though social media has helped spread acceptance and knowledge about socioeconomic issues and the LGBTQ community, it’s obvious to everyone how much of a double-edged sword seemingly limitless connectivity can be. “I try not to read. But I have to pay attention just a little bit, because I want feedback,” DeGeneres says of reading the comment threads on any of her social media accounts. “When you’re getting slammed by someone on your Twitter page or Instagram, you’re like, why are you following me if you hate me? And then I realized, well, they just do it because there’s so much anger in them. I don’t understand it. I don’t take it personally.”
Though it can be disheartening, any fan of DeGeneres knows that the negative feedback doesn’t stop her from taking on important issues like gun violence and sexual assault. “I hope people understand it’s not even a political thing,” she says. “It’s just about what kind of character the person has. I demand if somebody is stepping over the line [for them to be] a decent, honest human being.” Read the full interview, including Ellen’s thoughts on Trump, here.