From Ariana to Dakota: Body Language expert devours Ellen's painful interviews
The Ellen Show has undeniably become the most controversial programme of 2020 following alarming accusations from employees, formers guests, and even producers who have worked on the series which ironically champions the motto ‘Be Kind’.
According to an abundance of sources, the environment on-set was anything but kind – even if Ellen hasn’t been directly attached the accusations herself.
Following allegations of racism, intimation and fear among staff, The Ellen Show is now under an internal investigation by WarnerMedia.
In turn, many wince-inducing interviews from The Ellen Show have taken on a new meaning, such as when Dakota Johnson confronted the host on-screen for skipping her birthday.
Ariana Grande literally held her face in her hands but still couldn’t mask the anguish as Ellen took a deep-dive into the singer’s love life.
And then there was the time Celine Dion had to defend her son’s haircut when he was merely a little boy after the comedian rinsed his long locks in front of millions.
In 2008, Mariah Carey was pressured into revealing she was pregnant as the presenter offered her a glass of champagne.
While several of Ellen’s celebrity friends have come out in force to defend the megastar, there have been several interviews that have been notoriously painful to watch.
‘Ellen’s thing seems to be to go for her guests in a way that appears to confuse them,’ explains body language expert Judi James.
‘When she launches these “attacks”, guests will often use body language signals to suggest she’s going too far and they either want to throw in the towel, like Dakota’s vulnerable “cut” mime and her and Ariana’s face-hiding cut-off rituals, or they hint at a form of aggressive arousal, like the way Celine sits further upright and raises her head to increase her power signals.
‘Ellen has her own parameters that she seems to work to though, and neither an embarrassed nor an indignant response seem to affect her.
‘She seems to play with her guests, using her wide, bright-blue eyes to suggest innocence and awe as she flatters them first, then when you can see them purring, she goes in for the killer questions or points.’
We took a closer look with Judi.
‘With Dakota she’s the first one to play hurt when the actress calls someone else her favourite comic. The hand she’d placed on the arm of her chair in a friendship ritual moves away to hold her own leg instead and her left arm spreads away from Dakota.
‘She closes her jacket as though shutting up shop on the niceties and her “impatience” gestures begin with a metronomic tapping of her fingers and swinging of her leg, as though she’s now keen to get to the awkward subject.
‘This prompts the actress into apologetic mode but Ellen becomes relentless, asking her about Chris Martin using solid eye contact as Dakota squirms and avoids the question. Dakota’s head drops in a cut-off, suggesting a desire to hide and the tone gets much more serious after that.’
‘Ariana appears to ignore Ellen at first, looking around at the background until the comic taps on the arm of her chair to get her attention. Ariana then turns towards the audience rather than Ellen to answer her question so Ellen showboats beside her as she speaks instead, pulling a deadpan “no idea” face before a “shocked” blink and a wide-eyed expression of feigned innocence.
‘After taking the hit of being part ignored or upstaged by Ariana she wriggles more upright in her chair to change gear and regain status with the questions about Ariana’s love life that make the singer hide her face and squirm.’
‘With Mariah she uses their obvious friendship to bring up points about her shoes, saying “I know you, I know you” when Mariah tries to deny any points. Her style seems to be that of a relentlessly annoying, questioning child that won’t shut up.
‘It should be hard to work like this with people you really know and socialize with, but Ellen’s gestures of impatience suggest she’s keen to cut through all the celebrity spin for a few minutes.
‘Her fiddling gestures could suggest anxiety but her wide eyes and her prolonged, intense eye contact tell more about confidence and a lack of fear and these hand gestures could just suggest she’s revving up.’
‘Celine is probably the toughest response here. Basking in the adoration of the audience and Ellen she pulls herself up to a semi-regal pose when Ellen suddenly criticizes her son’s long hair.
‘Ellen might be feeling slightly less assertive here as she seems to flick through the magazine she’s referring to as she launches her comments.
‘Her fidgeting increases but her insistent “Aha, aha” suggests she’s impatient again to launch more comic attacks on her guest.’
What Ellen did say in her apology letter?
After months of staying silent as more and more allegations made their way onto social media, Ellen eventually sent out an apology to anyone who felt like they’d been mistreated during their time on The Ellen Show.
In a letter, she wrote: ‘Hey everybody – it’s Ellen.
‘On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness – no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.
‘I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t.
‘That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again. I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop.
‘As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or – worse – disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.
‘It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice. We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others, and I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention. I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow.
‘It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so. I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it. Again, I’m so sorry to anyone who didn’t have that experience. If not for COVID, I’d have done this in person, and I can’t wait to be back on our stage and see you all then.
‘Stay safe and healthy.
The Ellen Show is currently slated to return in September with NBC confirming that no-one is stepping in or taking over’ despite speculation that the host could be replaced.
Executive producer Andy Lassner told a follower on Twitter: ‘Nobody is going off air’.
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