Life joins art as TV lesbian comes out

Mention the name "Ellen" to the media-wise (that is, the massed ranks of US television-viewers) this week and it means just one thing: Ellen Morgan, the winsomely self-deprecating central character of ABC's weekly comedy show Ellen is "coming out" as a lesbian.

And, in a country where art (as in television) and life have a habit of blurring, the real "Ellen", the writer and star of the show, Ellen DeGeneres, has also "come out", ending protracted rumour-mongering about her homosexuality.

Having decided to go public about her private life - several months after the show was planned, but only weeks before it is screened - the real Ellen is making the most of it. She was on the cover of Time magazine two weeks ago; she had an interview in ABC television's main personality slot, 20/20, this weekend and appears today, shortly before the crucial episode goes out, on the Oprah Winfrey talk show.

Most daring of all was her arrival at one of Washington's chief social events of the year - the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday - with her friend, the rising Hollywood star, Anne Heche, on her arm and occasionally around her neck.

Ellen Morgan's "coming out" on this evening's special hour-long episode of ABC television's Ellen is almost as star-studded - Oprah Winfrey plays the role of a psychotherapist and the openly lesbian country and western singer K.D. Lang is also featured.

To some, the popular response to tonight's programme will be "a kind of national referendum on the acceptance of "homosexuality" in America. But television is being cautiously smaller than life, caught in a melee of conflicting trends.

On the one hand, ABC television is both generating and revelling in the publicity. Ellen is currently running 35th in the viewing ratings, and going down. A boost is confidently expected from all the vast media fuss surrounding tonight's episode.

However, some of the local stations responsible for carrying ABC programmes to "heartland" America see Ellen's "coming out" as morally reprehensible and fear it could lose them ratings. A number have refused to carry the programme. Advertisers are facing similar problems.

Although television critics have counted as many as 35 gay characters appearing in shows down the years, this is the first time a female lead has acknowledged that she is homosexual and risks remain.

For ABC, there is the risk that ratings for Ellen may decline after the first flush of interest. For Ms Degeneres, acknowledged as a gifted writer and comedienne, there is the risk of being pigeon-holed as a "gay" star.

For gay rights campaigners, who have planned a series of "coming out" parties to coincide with the show, there is the risk of a backlash. As for Anne Heche, people are saying that, at 27, her Hollywood future may be doomed.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn