The Ellen Show, a cultural daytime television phenom that aired 19 seasons, more than 3,000 episodes, and led to countless viral moments before that was even a known phrase, officially came to an end on May 26. Unlike what you’d expect from an arbiter of early 2000’s television culture, however, the last episode wasn’t a teary, nostalgic celebration.
Instead, the internet’s response to DeGeneres’ departure was fairly subdued — more like the end of a slow, arduous bleed than anything. The show’s final two years were soured by accusations of workplace abuse that included allegations of racism and sexual misconduct by show runners.
DeGeneres’ response, as she returned to screens around the country for her eighteenth season in 2020, was what some saw as a half-hearted apology. “I know that I am in a position of privilege and power and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show,” she told the TV audience at the start of the season premiere.
The news and response spawned an internet-wide firestorm against the host, including viral memes and a deep dive into the strangest, sometimes problematic, moments from the show.
DeGeneres’ friendship with former president George W. Bush stoked jokes and ire alike, while her passive aggressive party-invite debacle with actor Dakota Johnson is still the core of many Twitter moments. Then in 2021, the host announced the next season would be her last.
DeGeneres’ new, more negative legacy runs counter to that of her creation’s. The Ellen Show’s pioneering cultural impact on television still reverberates through modern media consumption, and it made history as one of the first and longest running television shows hosted by an out lesbian woman.
DeGeneres’ personal identity as a member of the LGBTQ community was core to her television and comedic presence, with frequent visits from queer guests and artists who danced their way into the living rooms of middle and southern American homes. But the allegations made by women and people of color who worked for the show, criticism of the show’s ability to evolve with the times, and the host’s lack of modern social awareness, have tarnished that memory for many.
On Twitter, as viewers watched Ellen take to her show stage and hop into her armchair for the last time, the lackluster response was as it has been: memes, jokes, and a lot of Dakota Johnson.