As a way to avoid news about the Orange Oracle of Obfuscation in the White House, I’ve been watching reruns of Ellen. The sitcom, not the talk show. This is a 20-year-old show that makes me laugh out loud every morning.
April will be the 20th anniversary of Ellen DeGeneres’s coming out on the cover of Time magazine and on her show. Even 20 years later, that show is still blazingly funny and timely. A lot has changed and a lot hasn’t.
We can get married now.
It’s still hard to come out to our parents.
And toaster ovens have gone from humble kitchen appliance to a coded message of the gay agenda and back to humble kitchen appliance.
If you think it was easy for Ellen. If you think her megastar success today was a seamless follow up to coming out. You’d be wrong. Sure, the show won lots of awards, but it also lost sponsors, she received death threats, and the show was canceled. Jerry Falwell called her Ellen Degenerate. Laura Dern didn’t work for a year and a half.
But then something happened. And I’m not sure what. Maybe it was that her mom stepped up as her biggest supporter. That Oprah stood behind her, and no one dared question Oprah.
Or maybe it was that people saw Ellen for who she’d always been, a funny, warm, kind-hearted woman, and her sexuality, as is true for everyone, didn’t change that. And people saw the meanness she faced and could only wonder why?
My point, and as Ellen would say, I do have one, is that there is a lot of backlash against the policies and pronouncements of the OOO in the White House. Right now feels very scary. America is slamming its door on the rest of the world and turning inward. Our so-called leaders and representatives are trying very hard to undo the many protections and progress we’ve made in social programs, education, the environment, basic civil rights. And some of us are for the first time marching and writing letters and emails and making phone calls, trying to be heard because we hadn’t had to do that before.
And maybe this is how my college roommate felt when Barack Obama was sworn in.
I get the sense this is different, though. Both sides are confused and concerned and unsure of what will come next.
But it’s in the very marches and protests and calls and emails that I find hope. The days of being able to shove bad laws through Congress in the middle of the night when no one is watching are over. The advantage of a 24/7 news cycle and social media and, yes, OOOs who tweet at 3 a.m. is that there is always someone there to see it. Shut up the senator reading a letter by Coretta Scott King and she’ll read it in the hallway and more people will hear Mrs. King’s words than would have if she’d just been allowed to on the floor.
All this is easy for me to say, a cis-gendered, middle-class white woman living in the U.S. Not so easy if you are fleeing barrel bombs in Syria. Or trying to use a public bathroom in North Carolina.
So write those letters, march in the streets, but also watch funny TV. When I came out in the early 1980s, I thought I’d have to lose my sense of humor, that lesbians couldn’t be funny. Then I found Kate Clinton and she made me laugh and made me realize that humor plays an important role in bad times. President Reagan had famously declared into a hot mic that he’d outlawed Russia and, “We begin bombing in five minutes.” Now we have the OOO in the White House openly courting Vlad the Putin.
We all have those moments when the choice comes down to laughing or crying. I choose laughing. And marching… And writing…
Watch Ellen on LAFF TV. Channel 25.3 over the air in Boston. Oh, but it’s on at 5:30 a.m. Set your alarm.
For those too young to get it :
The toaster oven explained (best begins at 3:15)
The toaster oven earned
Kate Clinton. The woman is seriously funny.
Photo: by me. Boston Women’s March, 1/21/17