Back when I used to dream about my life as a lesbian and becoming a movie director, I would stay up all night to watch the Oscars that finished at 7 am Finnish time, then leave for school at 7.30. Now, since realising I will most likely not pursue a career in the film industry, I have foregone attempting to watch the Oscars live. I would just occasionally watch clips on YouTube of Ellen DeGeneres and Steve Martin hosting, respectively. I’ve watched them so many times I can practically recite the monologues, and so I was thrilled to see Ellen was set to host the Academy Awards again this year.
Her previous hosting experience is impressive; in addition to her talk show, running for its 10th year, she has hosted the Emmy’s and Grammy’s twice and the Oscars once before. Yet her hosting history, and her career in television, has by no means been an easy one. After coming out in the late 90s, she soon saw her first sitcom cancelled, and struggled to find work until getting her own talk show in 2003. She was on the cover of Time magazine one minute, and then forgotten the next. She was refused work in a clear signal from the industry that even if it was okay to be who you were, it could also mean the end of your career. As inspiring as her story was to many, and as thrilled as they were that someone in Hollywood was willing to be so honest, soon, as with anything in the industry, it grew old and the voices that cheered died out, only to be replaced by those who were less than happy to see homosexuality being more openly discussed.
When first trying to launch her talk show she was told that housewives and stay at home mums did not want to see a talk show hosted by a lesbian, that somehow Ellen would have nothing in common with these women who would be her core audience for a daytime show. However, DeGeneres proved them wrong. Her show is extremely popular, with an average of 4 million viewers per episode. To me that reads as perhaps the clearest debunking of a gay stereotype I’ve ever seen. The values Ellen represents are universal; honesty, kindness, generosity and compassion. Ellen runs her show in a way that appeals to a wider audience, because she didn’t let being gay become her entire personality, even if others tried to make it into that. Her priorities in hosting her show seem to be making people laugh, and giving them something light and entertaining to watch in the midst of a hectic day. And that makes her very relatable.
This is why I think, in times like these, Ellen is the ideal person to host the Oscars. She is what America needs in order to seem more sincere and compassionate, instead of arrogant and aggressive. Ellen has twice hosted award shows following a national tragedy. In 2001 she hosted the Emmys only months after 9/11. In August 2005 she hosted the Emmys again, three weeks after Hurricane Katrina.
Calling the situation in the US at the moment a national tragedy is a bit of a stretch, but regardless over the last year the US has managed to make itself look even worse in the eyes of the rest of the world. Drone attacks and haphazard policy in the Middle East makes the talk of human rights and democracy look like a joke. Further going after individuals such as Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning paints a picture of a bully state, that instead of fixing its own problems goes after the people who have exposed its weaknesses.
The last thing the country needs at the moment is an arrogant host to its flagship show, whose humour is based on ridiculing other people. They need someone delicate, someone who will remind the rest of the world that America still has some good people, and that perhaps underneath all the screw ups there are some good intentions that don’t get fulfilled because of a rigid system and clashing agendas.
Or maybe if that is too much to ask, and audiences are unable to see any good in the actions of the country, at least they can watch an entertaining show and perhaps be reminded of a past America that truly did believe in equality, freedom, honesty and helping those in need, and that there are people who still uphold those values.