Openly gay Oscars host Ellen Degeneres has been lambasted by a few critics for her Liza Minelli joke. In essence, Degeneres poked fun at Minelli – who has often been the subject of many drag queen impersonators – and basically said she was the best looking Minelli impersonator, complete with a “thank you, sir” at the end. While Liza Minelli would have every right to be a bit put out – her friendship with Degeneres aside, as well as the fact that Minelli looked elegant and a little edgy with the royal blue streak in her hair – the response that has erupted as a result of the joke has only shown that society has become so myopic to every single potential slight that there is too much political correctness. Ellen Degeneres is not transphobic, as some critics have said – she simply made a bad joke.
Degeneres has been one of the staunchest advocates for LGBT rights and acceptance of LGBT relationships with her belief that love is love; no one turns anyone heterosexual any more than you can “turn” someone gay. To say that Degeneres is transphobic because of her bad joke is really a stretch; for starters, it completely misses that Degeneres was making a joke. Secondly, while Minelli was rightfully hurt – that could be seen plainly on the legendary singer’s face – Minelli is not transgendered, as far as anyone knows. In addition, there is a distinct difference between being transsexual or transgendered and being a drag queen. To say that Degeneres is transphobic is completely stretching the definition of what she was doing Sunday night.
The joke was mean. Period. To say that Degeneres is transphobic because of a mean-spirited joke that was intended as funny is showing that society is completely myopic when it comes to simple matters like a joke made at someone else’s expense. True, it is definitely not nice to make a joke at someone else’s expense, but particularly on Oscar night, whoever is hosting the big show is going to skewer every actor and actress as though it was a Friar’s Club Celebrity Roast. While Degeneres is one of the best-liked people in Tinseltown, she has a job to do and it will likely involve some jokes that directly target Hollywood’s finest.
People have a tendency lately to look at any given situation and try to determine exactly what sort of major offence to tag someone with; there is no dismissal of someone else’s mistakes. There is only the simple notion of having to drive someone’s reputation into the ground by accusing them of a far more extreme crime than they really committed.
Ellen Degeneres made an error in judgment when she came out with her joke about Liza Minelli. Minelli has been impersonated by drag queens the world over, and while the joke was likely no surprise to many, it was still a misstep for Degeneres, who is usually known for her lighthearted, observational brand of humor. She is not transphobic; she is simply human and flawed just like the rest of society. The attempt to label her as transphobic only speaks to a society that has become so myopic that it has forgotten that people do simply make mistakes sometimes.
By Christina St-Jean