‘Ellen’ Was Cancelled, Despite Great Ratings, Because of Societal Homophobia

TV in the ’90s is significantly different from TV today. While both eras take society’s thoughts into account when determining where shows go down the road, it was much more common in the ’90s for society to adhere to homophobia and racism, whereas society calls for cancellations for the exact opposite today.

Unfortunately for Ellen DeGeneres‘ iconic sitcom Ellen, the show fell victim to societal homophobia despite having high ratings prior to her publicly coming out as gay. This would lead to its inevitable cancellation that was unwarranted and fueled by hate.

The premise of the sitcom ‘Ellen’

(L-R): Carrie Fisher, Ellen DeGeneres, and Joely Fisher perform in a scene from 'Ellen' at Disney Studios, Burbank, California, November 1, 1995.
(L-R): Carrie Fisher, Ellen DeGeneres, and Joely Fisher perform in a scene from ‘Ellen’ at Disney Studios, Burbank, California, November 1, 1995. | Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

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Following the main character Ellen Morgan (played by creator and actor DeGeneres), viewers watched the funny sitcom about an LA woman dealing with her many vibrant friends (Paige Clark, Adam Green, Spence Novak, Joe Farrell, and Audrey Penney) and overbearing parents (Lois and Harold) while navigating her own personal and professional struggles in her 30s. 

She starts off living with her roommate Adam and then her cousin as she grinds through her job at the local bookstore “Buy the Book.” However, we see the character grow into her own success by season two as she buys her own house and even the bookstore.

She’s quirky, quick to please, and completely awkward when it comes to her shyness and embarrassment, but she was still a very likable character for viewers — that is until the character came out as gay in season four following DeGeneres’ coming out in real life. This would lead to other struggles surrounding her sexual orientation.

How long it aired and when it got cancelled

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After five seasons long of airing successfully on ABC and high ratings to back its success since its premiere in 1994, Ellen was cancelled in 1998. This came shortly after the main character came out as gay, which followed the actor coming out as gay.

Being an influential — although highly controversial — topic, the Ellen sitcom still made an impression on gays who were afraid to be themselves in an unaccepting society.  Out Magazine reported one person, in particular.

“In 1997 when Ellen’s sitcom was at the height of its popularity, I was in my mother’s basement lifting weights in front of the mirror and thinking ‘Am I gay?,'” Kate McKinnon said in an emotional tribute at the Golden Globes, “And, I was, and I still am.”

Why the show got cancelled 

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The reason for this highly-rated show getting cancelled is beyond shocking to people today, but you’d be even more shocked with people’s responses to the show following Ellen’s announcement that she is gay.

“Ellen had come out about her sexuality in season four, which made global waves. But after the media frenzy died down, the show had to deal with the severe backlash from anti-gay organizations, concerned parents, and it had to add a parental advisory,” Screen Rant reported. “The show also received flack for focusing too much on gay issues, which is baffling for obvious reasons and something that would never happen today.