In this historic 1997 episode of the ABC sitcom Ellen, Ellen Morgan (played by show’s creator and producer, Ellen Degeneres) struggles with coming out. In an earlier scene, Susan (played by Laura Dern) tells Ellen that she’s gay, while Ellen rejects the suggestion that she is also gay. After a series of interactions with other characters, playing up her heterosexuality, Ellen and Susan end up having an awkward exchange at the airport, as Susan is about to leave. Ellen has trouble actually saying that she’s gay, and when she finally gets the courage to do so, inadvertently broadcasts it over a microphone. This episode was historic and controversial, receiving backlash from politicians and advertisers as well as pressure on ABC to not air it. Nonetheless, it was the highest rated episode of the Ellen show to date, with many awards, follow up episodes that further explored Ellen’s sexual identity, and a renewal for another season. Ellen Degeneres also famously appeared on the cover of Time Magazine with the headline “Yep, I’m Gay.”
Why do you think it’s difficult for Ellen to say she’s gay? How do we see her struggle?
How does Susan’s react to Ellen’s struggle? How do the rest of the people in the airport react? What do these reactions tell us?
Why do you think this episode was so historic and controversial?
Do you think this episode is still relevant today? Why or why not? How does Ellen’s struggle relate to other coming out stories you’ve seen or personally experienced?