It’s the year of holding Ellen DeGeneres accountable.
After accusations of racism behind the scenes of The Ellen Show, a clip has resurfaced of DeGeneres repeatedly ridiculing Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara for her accent.
The video posted on Twitter shows a compilation of uncomfortable interviews between DeGeneres and Vergara, who is Columbian-American, in which she tries to teach the actress an “English word of the day” and remarks that her accent is “getting worse."
it‘s the making fun of bilingual queen sofia vegara while being a monolingual american for me. cancel that show, i‘… https://t.co/NnXZ2pYcZR
People were outraged at DeGeneres’ comments. Some branded her "racist" and others called out Ellen's hypocrisy since she has never said she speaks more than one language, so presumably she only speaks English.
imagine only speaking one language and thinking it’s funny to joke about someone’s accent... https://t.co/i2DOJkTDAy
The video doesn’t even cover the full extent of Vergara being made the butt of a joke. In one appearance, DeGeneres dressed up as the actress for Halloween.
While many found DeGeneres’ comments offensive, others tried to dismiss it a joke, saying that it's “not that deep.” The pair have a long time friendship and have appeared in ads together for brands such as Covergirl and Pepsi.
But as many bilingual people in the Latinx community have argued, monolingual people don’t understand the struggle of being othered and ostracised for your accent. For immigrants especially who are repeatedly told to learn the language and assimilate, being persistently mocked for your accent is extremely discouraging.
@micablackers @divine_figure @jimincrave It’s the worst, my native language is Spanish and the worst thing you coul… https://t.co/bYPvsWfuY8
These jokes towards Vergara are indicative of the misguided belief that English proficiency is a sign of intelligence, and the entitled expectation that everyone should be fluent in English. Considering that Vergara studied dentistry before pursuing acting, you could hardly accuse her of being unintelligent. It’s simply just easier for her to express herself in her native language than English, and she should be applauded for her fluency in two languages, not mocked.
Modern Family even addressed this issue in an episode, as Vergara’s character Gloria spoke out about being ridiculed for her broken English.
— MORGANE À JUAN-LES-PINS ⓥ (@MORGANE À JUAN-LES-PINS ⓥ)
These resurfaced clips follow multiple accusations of a toxic work culture from employees of The Ellen Show, who say they have “faced racism, fear and intimidation”, according to an explosive article from Buzzfeed News. Several producers have denied these allegations, but the show is currently under an internal investigation.
In another tweet, comedian Kevin T. Porter asked his followers for stories about DeGeneres, calling her "one of the meanest people alive." Among the hundreds of replies, people accused Degeneres of instructing employees to not look her in the eye, as well as firing employees just for speaking to her.
@KevinTPorter @LAFoodBank Working for her, I was instructed that I can’t look her in the eye and never ever say hi… https://t.co/wpPxUoAwMe
— Maggie Klaus 🏄♀️ (@Maggie Klaus 🏄♀️)
DeGeneres hasn't commented on any specific allegations, but following the BuzzFeed report she did apologise in a written memo to staff and vowed to take steps to "correct the issues" going forward. She wrote:
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.
Still, if one thing's for sure, it feels like the backlash against DeGeneres isn't going anywhere.
indy100 has contacted Ellen DeGeneres for comment on the resurfaced clips.