Don’t ask Ellen to dance. Seriously, she won’t do it — unless it’s to “Back That Ass Up” by Juvenile. For her, it’s the song she’ll still dance to when she’s 85 years old, just like mine will most likely be “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B. We’re the same person. Really.
These instances in Ellen DeGeneres’ life behind the scenes is one of the few that showcase her vulnerability in her first comedy special in 15 years, “Relatable.” It’s also one that emphasizes how, past the monetary circumstances of an individual, we can still all collectively experience deep fury at those who pronounce library, “libary.”
Released Dec. 18 on Netflix, the 67-minute special shows DeGeneres in her effortless style, with slim gray chinos and sneakers that make her more hip than 95 percent of college students. She’s embraced who she is, and she doesn’t care who knows it.
And why would she? To praising applauses from the audience, DeGeneres scoffs at her friend’s insinuation that she isn’t relatable while mentioning quirks only rich celebrities could understand. From her butler Batu feeding her in her sommelier to instructions for leaving her mansion including following the trail of awards she’s accumulated over the years that lead to the door, DeGeneres is more loveable than ever.
This only further speaks to her mastery of the art of comedy, as any sort of alienation experienced by the audience seems nonexistent.
Every joke is crafted carefully with the topics seamlessly easing into one another. With stories of the first time she lost someone she loved at 21 to the times she spent in a flea-infested basement writing poetry about what a phone call to God would be like, DeGeneres makes viewers sink into her deeply personal journey without betraying any sense of authenticity.
As she illustrates spending three years without a job after coming out on her sitcom or even how her dream of being the first woman stand-up comedian to be on Johnny Carson was eventually made possible, it’s easy to fixate on the timeframe. It took awhile for her to achieve the level of success that’s made her a reigning queen of daytime television, and I’m still sitting on my parent’s couch, unemployed.
She responds to my cries of mediocrity in a perfectly timed manner, as if urging us not to dwell on it. This is the beauty of DeGeneres comedy.
Even in explaining the difficult journey of someone who grew up so poor her father would fill only $1 of gas at a time, of someone who took years to embrace her sexuality and even more so, of a woman who transcended the predominantly male comedic industry, she makes viewers laugh throughout. The idea that “if Ellen can, I can too” rings in my ears throughout the special, and only further establishes her as one of the most powerful women of this generation, and perhaps ever.
This special doesn’t just reinforce what viewers think they know about her — it completely tears down all preconceived notions anyone’s ever had. In this, DeGeneres contradicts the idea that people know who celebrities are because of the scrutinization placed upon them.
With the acknowledgment that she’s established an empire based on kindness that prohibits her from doing the bare minimum in the art of road rage — in fears that honking her horn will leave the person who cut her off in utter confusion — and her first time ever saying “fuck” on public television, Ellen strips the TV show persona she’s developed over the years. And somehow, it continues to make her more likeable.
Even when she doesn’t mean to, the audience is visibly inspired. From a school teacher wondering how to inspire kindness among her second-grade students and a woman who lost her father a few months ago to someone curious as to how DeGeneres never gave up, the after-special leaves you hoping that the famed comedian has 60 more years under her belt.
Despite it being a comedy special, there are times tears well in your eyes, and not only from laughter. This is a woman who was once told no one would ever watch a lesbian on daytime television before becoming the most successful daytime TV show host in history, battling Oprah for her prized spot.
She was awarded the Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama and became the face of Covergirl in 2008. DeGeneres reminds us that even when we feel as though we haven’t progressed, she’s still here, proving everyone who ostracized her all those years ago wrong.
DeGeneres is a 21st century queen of comedy, women and LGBTQ rights and simply being a good human being, and her relatability in her newest special makes you wish you were in that audience, bowing down.
Contact Sabrina Moreno at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.