Ellen DeGeneres has in the news cycle for all the wrong reasons—many staff members have come forward to share their experiences of alleged mistreatment from DeGeneres. During the first episode of the talk show’s 18th season, DeGeneres addressed the allegations of a toxic workplace and apologized to those affected.
It isn’t just staff that have been treated poorly by DeGeneres. She has a reputation for being rude to famous guests on her show. We haven’t been able to move past how DeGeneres has mocked actress Sofía Vergara.
Vergara has bared the burden of many of DeGeneres xenophobic “jokes” over the years. DeGeneres continuously disrespects the Colombian actress by poking fun at the way she speaks. Vergara is bilingual and should be celebrated for her linguistic skills. A person’s accent isn’t a gauge for whether or not they’ve mastered a foreign language.
DeGeneres created a segment on her show to teach an English word of the day to Vergara. Vergara is visibly uncomfortable, but took the hurtful dig with class. She retracted by telling Ellen that she speaks English. On another episode of her national talk show, DeGeneres said to Vergara, “You’ve been on this show for ten years and your accent has gotten worse. How is that possible?” Vergara was on the show with Reese Witherspoon when DeGeneres said “your English has gotten better” and Vergara asked if the comment was directed to Witherspoon.
Vergara excused DeGeneres’s ignorant behavior and said she wasn’t a victim. Acclimating and leaning into the jokes people make about immigrants is all too familiar for the Latinx community. Some assume that Vergara exaggerates her accent and plays into Latina stereotypes as a part of her image.
Regardless, these instances are not comedic. The impact runs much deeper than an inside joke between friends. DeGeneres is belittling those who don’t speak with the accent she deems acceptable. A white woman in a position of power and privilege mocking non-native English speakers is a toxic microaggression. She’s showing viewers that it’s acceptable to treat English as a second language speaker as lesser than through her disgusting behavior. It’s deeply jarring to witness a marginalized person diminish someone from another marginalized group.