Saturday, 3 March 2012

Contemporary American Sexual Identity

The Youtube clip I have decided to analyse is located at and is entitled 'Ellen DeGeneres stands up to one million mums. After a long search I came across this very simple video presenting popular Lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres identifying her 'haters' and talking about what she stands for. Although what she speaks about is important and worth listening to, it's the way in which Ellen speaks and acts which I find so revealing about contemporary gay American identity. The fact that Ellen is so popular and identifiable, arguably the most influential gay figure in America today, assured me that using her as an example of modern gay identity in America can be somewhat representative of the whole homosexual community.

Ellen's approach and attitude when presenting herself is very calm and controlled. This is very different to many gay and lesbian talk show hosts both in the US and in the UK, as they tend to assume a very extroverted, stereotypical homosexual nature. The fact that people find it so easy to associate with Ellen suggests that her natural approach reflects the true identity of many gay people in America. The overt superstar image that is also often distinguishable with gay and lesbian talk show hosts often gives a sense of detachment between the audience and presenter, but Ellen is very down to earth. This is evident through language like "if you don't know me well" and "if you're just getting to know me". Ellen's welcoming nature breaks down many images of gay identity created by tv personalities which are bitchy and contraversial. This offers us a more true and believable view of gay American identity.

The comedic elements to Ellen's personality gives us a further insight into why she is so influential, and this can be analysed closely with sexuality in mind. Ellen is seen joking that her new endorsement with JC Penny will give her much needed discount in the store. This approach shows how Ellen doesn't take herself too seriously, whilst maintaining a clear sense of optimism. This reveals a clear positive nature in American homosexual identity. Ellen spends the majority of the piece tlaking about one of her biggest critics 'One Million Mums', a group which are almost militant in their opposition of homosexuality, particularly in the media. The criticisms made against Ellen by this group are very harsh and frequent, but Ellen's cool reaction in this example stands out. This relaxed, calm nature, you would imagine, resonates with gay and lesbian people in America who watch Ellen and may well, therefore, reflect contemporary American gay and lesbian identity.

How far can Ellen DeGeneres's show and ideas reflect modern American gay and lesbian identity as a whole, however? There is no doubt that she is an influential figure for both hetro and homosexuals, with comments like "I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people how you would want to be treated and helping those in need". But it is impossible that this noble nature represents all American homosexuals, and as I have mentioned it is clear that many gay men and women in the media use their sexuality to create an over-emphatic character that displays homsexuality in a different way. And despite Ellen's influence, the influence of these characters, such as Perez Hilton, is also very strong, leading us to assume that in order to understand modern American homosexual identity, we must understand that it is very diverse.

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