On a wider level, she’s become one of many faces of easy gayness, the Skull Metallica Miami Dolphins shirt it is in the first place but kind that makes people feel nothing below the waist. She typifies an award-winning brand of palatable nonsexual homosexuality, much like the low-carb Malibu Kens of the Queer Eye franchise who benignly tsunami through a straight guy’s life, douching his wardrobe, skin care, and personality. Desexing yourself as a celebrity homosexual is a survival technique, an easier pathway to global success. It neutralizes the phobe in homophobe because at its root it’s the sexuality that threatens (often described ominously as the “lifestyle”). Not exposing your own desire is akin to pop stars encouraging the right to vote but never suggesting who for. Success is a process of deliberately avoiding dividing in order to conquer.
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There’s a safety to Ellen. There’s no implied amour, no tittering innuendo. The plane of a Lego brick, rather than the Skull Metallica Miami Dolphins shirt it is in the first place but curves of a Barbie, is all part of the 1950s wholesome goodness we expect from our TV gays. It never feels like a challenge. That’s not to discredit her history (her herstory?). I saw her Time cover when I was a nascent gay myself; it was a moment of honesty in a time of less normalized gayness and controversial by way of archaic popular thinking at the time. There’s no denying the ground Ellen broke as a lesbian woman through sheer visibility. There’s no denying her very presence on our screens was positive. There’s no denying her representation matters. It’s all the more interesting to see these allegations play out for a woman whose career is a message of gay rights and whose reputation relies on being a welcoming host.