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Former Ellen Show Employees Describe “Toxic” Work Culture

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  • Several current and former employees of the Ellen Degeneres Show claim they experienced racism, fear tactics, and a toxic culture while working for the show.
  • One Black staffer claimed that on top of dealing with microaggressions, she was reprimanded for bringing up representation issues. Other staffers said they were fired for requesting time off after dealing with mental or physical health issues, or a death in the family.
  • While some say that Degeneres allows this to happen, many others said that producers and managers are largely responsible for cultivating this culture.
  • Three executive producers for the show, Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner, said they were “heartbroken” by this news and vowed to do better going forward.

Allegations of Racism and Intimidation

On her show, Ellen Degeneres is known for massive giveaways, pulling pranks on America’s favorite stars, and preaching kindness to her viewers. However, behind the scenes, her employees paint a less positive picture of Degeneres and her team.

According to a report from BuzzFeed News published Thursday, some of the show’s current and former employees say they experienced racism, intimidation, fear tactics, and a toxic culture. The staffers said that much of this culture is created by the daytime talk show’s managers and producers.

A former Black employee told the outlet that she experienced microaggressions and other racist comments during her year and a half working for the show. She claims one writer told her she only knew the names of white co-workers. She also said that a senior-level producer told her and another Black employee, “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.”

When she brought up issues of representation and discouraged people from using terms like “spirit animal,” her co-workers started to isolate from her. One person allegedly called her the “PC Police.”

In another instance, she said she found out a recently hired employee was making twice as much to do the same job as her. She asked about a raise, but after months of waiting, nothing happened. She alleges that when she brought up complaints about this, as well as discrimination and representation, she was called to a meeting with executive producer Ed Glavin, who reprimanded her. She left that meeting and never returned to the show. 

Other former employees claimed they were fired for taking necessary time off. One checked into a mental hospital for a month after a suicide attempt. When they returned to work, they learned they lost their job.

“Some of the producers talk openly in public about addiction and mental health awareness, but they’re the reason there’s a stigma,” they said to BuzzFeed. “They definitely don’t practice what they preach with the ‘be kind’ mantra.”

Another former employee said they were fired after being in a car accident and experiencing two deaths in the family within a year. The accident required them to take three weeks of medical leave, one funeral required two days working remotely, and the second required three days off to travel to the funeral. Requesting time off for these reasons was allegedly difficult. 

Executive Producers Respond

Executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner issued a statement saying they were heartbroken from hearing these stories.

“Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment,” they said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us.”

“For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us,” they added. “We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”

While some blamed producers, others thought Degeneres herself should be doing more to make sure her office is as positive as she is on camera. 

“If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on,” one former employee said to BuzzFeed. “I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, ‘Things are going great, everybody’s happy,’ and she just believes that, but it’s her responsibility to go beyond that.”

History of Complaints at the Ellen Show

Rumors about Degeneres being rude or creating a hostile work environment have swirled around Hollywood for a long time. Just this year, word of this behavior has started to bubble over. An April report from Variety alleged that show staffers were left in the dark when it came to their working hours and pay during the coronavirus pandemic. Frustrations were exacerbated when the show hired an outside crew to help Degeneres film remotely.

Eventually, most crew members were told to expect a 60% cut in their pay despite the fact that the show was still airing. At the same time, other talk show hosts like Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, and James Cordon announced that they would be paying some of their staff out of their own pockets. 

In May, a bodyguard assigned to protect her at the 2014 Oscars told Fox News that Degeneres was “cold” and “demeaning.” The Internet has also been collecting their own stories about Degeneres. A viral Twitter thread asking for peoples’ “most insane” stories about her has 2,600 replies and almost 5,000 retweets with comments. 

According to BuzzFeed, when it comes to those working on the show, there is a strong division between those who want to call out the toxic environment, and those who “drink the Kool-Aid.”

Those who work long days without a complaint and ignore how higher-up employees treat everyone else tend to be more liked by producers. They are also allegedly incentivized and get leftover show swag like iPhones and JetBlue gift cards. Those who speak out don’t get their contracts renewed.

“People focus on rumors about how Ellen is mean and everything like that, but that’s not the problem. The issue is these three executive producers running the show who are in charge of all these people [and] who make the culture and are putting out this feeling of bullying and being mean,” a former employee told the outlet. “They feel that everybody who works at The Ellen Show is lucky to work there — ‘So if you have a problem, you should leave because we’ll hire someone else because everybody wants to work here.’”

See what others are saying: (A.V. Club) (USA Today) (Entertainment Tonight)

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N.Y. State Senate Passes Bill Championed by Jay-Z That Would Restrict Use of Rap Lyrics in Court

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A companion bill currently sits in the state’s assembly.


“Rap Music on Trial” Passes Senate

The New York State Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would curb prosecutors’ ability to cite rap lyrics and other creative works as evidence in legal battles.

Dubbed “Rap Music on Trial,” the bill aims to “enhance the free speech protections of New Yorkers by banning the use of art created by a defendant as evidence against them in a courtroom,” according to a statement from State Sens. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-Queens).

“The legislation will protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors,” the statement continued. 

Right now, all forms of creative expression, including rap lyrics, can be used as evidence in criminal cases. Rap lyrics, however, are more likely to be weaponized against those who wrote them in trial, experts say. 

The use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system,” Bailey said in a statement. 

Hoylman agrees that there is a double standard.

“Nobody thinks Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, or that David Byrne is a psycho killer, but routinely rappers have their lyrics used against them in criminal trials,” he tweeted. 

The bill would not fully ban the use of rap lyrics in court. If made into law, prosecutors would need “clear and convincing proof that there is a literal, factual nexus between creative expression and the facts of the case” in order to use these works as evidence.

Major artists including Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Kelly Rowland, and Robin Thicke previously signed a letter in support of the legislation.

A companion bill currently sits in the New York State Assembly. 

Rap Lyrics in Court

The use of rap lyrics against their artists is not an uncommon tactic. Earlier this month, an indictment charging Young Thug, Gunna, and two dozen others over alleged gang activity and conspiracy to violate racketeering laws used lyrics of the aforementioned artists. 

While the case is in Atlanta and would not be impacted by the New York bill, the use of their lyrics has stirred controversy. In a motion requesting that Gunna be released from jail, his lawyers argued that it was unfair to cite these works.

“It is intensely problematic that the State relies on song lyrics as part of its allegations,” his lawyers said in court documents. “These lyrics are an artist’s creative expression and not a literal recounting of facts and circumstances. Under the State’s theory, any artist with a song referencing violence could find herself the victim of a RICO indictment.”

​​Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis defended the indictment’s use of the lyrics and argued it did not violate the artist’s free speech. 

In the letter signed by numerous recording artists, the authors said this kind of tactic “effectively denies rap music the status of art and, in the process, gives prosecutors a dangerous advantage in the courtroom.”

“Rather than acknowledge rap music as a form of artistic expression, police and prosecutors argue that the lyrics should be interpreted literally — in the words of one prosecutor, as ‘autobiographical journals’ — even though the genre is rooted in a long tradition of storytelling that privileges figurative language, is steeped in hyperbole, and employs all of the same poetic devices we find in more traditional works of poetry,” the letter, which was written by Jay-Z’s lawyer Alex Spiro and University of Richmond Professor Erik Nielson, said.  

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (Pitchfork) (Complex)

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YouTube Touts MrBeast and Mainstream Appeal in First Upfront Presentation

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According to Nielson, over 230 million people in the United States used the video service in just one month. 


YouTube Presents at Upfronts

During its first Upfront presentation on Tuesday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the company said it was joining staple broadcast and entertainment companies “because YouTube is the mainstream.”

“Viewers have more choices than ever about what to watch or where to watch it,” Wojcicki said while speaking at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. “And they continue to use YouTube.”

The company had previously done its Brandcast presentation at the NewFronts. This was the first time its pitch came alongside television competitors during the busy Upfronts season.

Many of YouTube’s primary talking points were highlighted in a company blog post. In its address, it marketed itself not just as the future of media consumption, but as the modern-day leader, too. 

It said that over 135 million people watched YouTube on Connected TVs, representing every age demographic from toddlers to viewers 55-years-old and up. It also cited Nielson data that said YouTube has over 50% of ad-supported streaming watch time on TV screens. 

Nielsen also found that YouTube reached over 230 million people in the United States in just one month. 

YouTube Offers Up Its Talent

MrBeast, one of YouTube’s top creators, attended the presentation. The company boasted that if MrBeast were his own streaming service, he would “would have more subscribers than the next three most popular ad-supported streaming services.” In other words, with 95 million YouTube subscribers, MrBeast is ahead of HBO and HBO Max’s 77 million, Paramount’s 33 million, and Hulu’s 54 million in the United States. 

Or course, subscribing to a YouTube channel is very different from subscribing to a streaming service, as YouTube subscriptions come at no cost. Viewers can subscribe to as many or as few creators as they please for free, while each streaming service has a monthly or annual fee to gain access to its content. 

YouTube didn’t only show off its homegrown talent. Popstar Lizzo also took the stage to sing her praises of the company, along with a few of her biggest hits. 

But the company’s most important appeals came from the strengths it offered to advertisers. It claimed that 2020 Nielson analysis showed that YouTube on average had a 1.2 times greater return on investment than television.

It also announced a frequency optimization tool for advertisers that would allow companies to control how many times viewers see their spots in one week. In its blog post, YouTube said this allows for “more efficient” spending and “a better experience for viewers.”
It touted this optimization as “a solution only YouTube can provide.”

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (TubeFilter) (Variety)

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“Saturday Night Live” Faces Backlash for Sketch Mocking the Johnny Depp Amber Heard Trial

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Many fear that jokes about the case could hurt the everyday domestic abuse survivors that see them.


SNL Mocks Trial

After “Saturday Night Light” parodied the ongoing defamation trial between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in its cold open this weekend, many are criticizing the show — and media at large — for making a mockery of the case. 

Ever since the trial began in April, there has been an onslaught of TikToks, tweets, videos, and other posts turning the happenings in the courtroom into clickbait content. Most of the posts use Heard as a punchline as the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp narrative prevails online. 

Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” While she never mentioned Depp by name, many believed the piece referred to previous abuse allegations she had made about him. Depp, however, alleges that Heard was actually the abuser and concocted the claims to ruin his career. She countersued for $100 million. 

In its most recent episode, “Saturday Night Live” aired a sketch starring Kyle Mooney as Depp, Cecily Strong as the judge, and Aidy Bryant and Heidi Gardner as lawyers in the case. The sketch took place in the courtroom as the involved parties discussed allegations that Heard defecated in her and Depp’s bed. They then watched “video evidence” of house staffers, played by Kenan Thompson, Ego Nwodim, Melissa Villaseñor, and Chris Redd, finding the fecal matter. 

At various points, Strong’s judge said they should continue watching the video “because it’s funny” and she and Mooney’s Depp both said they find the trial “amusing.”

“This trial is for fun,” the judge proclaimed at one point.

Many online did not see the humor in SNL’s parody, arguing that a case involving domestic abuse accusations should not be a punchline. Some said the sketch was “disgusting and desperate.”

“Domestic violence is not a joke. Rape is not a joke,” writer Ella Dawson tweeted. “Abusers using the legal system to continue to terrorize their victims is not a joke. Abusers using accusations of defamation to silence their victims is not a joke.” 

“In twenty years people are going to look back at this trial and all of the media coverage and be disgusted,” Dawson continued. 

You’re free to have absolutely no opinion on the Depp/Heard trial, but thinking it’s ‘for fun’ is for someone with a diseased heart and brain,” Meredith Haggerty, the senior culture editor at Vox, wrote.

Many felt that regardless of how someone feels or who they support in this case, those making fun of Heard are “making a joke of victims everywhere.”

Criticism of Media’s Trial Coverage

Others argued this sketch was part of an overall disturbing trend in the media’s coverage of this case where serious allegations were being played up for laughs. 

The hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp has trended on Twitter several times throughout the trial as fans defend the actor. Many also use it to mock Heard, share clips of her crying, and in some cases, spread misinformation about her courtroom claims. The tag is also popular on TikTok, where it has been viewed over 11 billion times as of Monday morning. 

Many of the videos involve jokes about the case, memes, fan cams, and other content meant to belittle Heard. On TikTok, the tag #AmberTurd has raked in over 1.6 billion views. Some videos involve animated renderings of courtroom videos meant to make Heard look careless or dumb. Others use audio of Heard alleging that Depp hit her along with silly imagery to make those claims look like a farce. Many involve people making fun of the way Heard has cried on the stand.

Experts have told numerous media outlets that by ridiculing Heard, Depp’s supporters are potentially harming abuse victims that may come across these posts. 

“I can’t imagine what this might be doing to someone who may eventually want to seek safety and support,” Ruth M. Glenn, the chief executive officer of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told NBC News. “Whether it’s Amber Heard or Johnny Depp, how dare us make fun and make light of someone who is sharing something very personal — no matter how we feel about that person.”

The trial is being broadcast live so interested parties can watch it unfold in real-time. The viral clips have allowed the case to become a massive entertainment spectacle.

Public discourse of the trial has sorted people into either “Team Depp” or “Team Heard,” and just a quick glance online will show that Depp has so far won a good portion of public favor. Still, no matter how one views the trial, many think jokes at the expense of Heard’s claims are a bridge too far.

“In the commentary, it’s almost as if people are forgetting that this is real life, that this is not a show that we’re all watching,” Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, told USA Today. “Many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault will go into a courtroom at some point and have an experience that is largely outside of their control, in a setting like this.”

“There’s such a strong desire in the public discourse for [Heard] to be the villain, for her to be the example of the fact that there are victims who have ulterior motives, that there are victims who are not telling the full truth,” Palumbo continued. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of folks thinking critically or wanting to understand the nuances of abuse or of unhealthy relationships.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (USA Today) (Rolling Stone)

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