Last night during the People's Choice Awards, history was made. And no, we don't mean Fifth Harmony walking the red carpet without their fifth member or Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War going head-to-head in the Favorite Movie category.
Ellen DeGeneres won three awards, including Favorite Daytime TV Host and Favorite Animated Movie Voice (Dory for the win!), giving her a whopping 20 People's Choice Awards; a new record. As presenter Justin Timberlake pointed out, it is the most wins of a People's Choice Award by any human, ever. He hinted at the brevity of the situation in his speech, saying about the Ellen show host, "She's a trailblazer, a rule-breaker, a relentless philanthropist, a presidential medal of freedom winner and one of the funniest and most talented people on the planet."
But truly, this is about so much more than that.
The People's Choice Awards tend to get a little bit of a raw deal; after all, it's hard to take seriously the award show that chooses Blake Lively's performance in The Shallows over the likes of Amy Adams, Julia Robertsand Meryl Streep. No shade to Lively, of course, as we deeply appreciate The Shallows, it's just...Meryl! Julia! It's a hard result to stomach. When the American people hold the power of the vote in their hands, it becomes a bit more of a popularity contest than its more high-brow counterparts, sometimes to a laughable extent.
But in the case of Ellen DeGeneres, it's the popularity contest that has warmed our hearts.
You see, for those of us of a certain age, the memories of Ellen's breakthrough into Hollywood are still very real—and raw. The comedian got her start performing stand-up, and it was that onstage career that eventually formed the inspiration for her ABC sitcom, aptly-named Ellen. The real-life DeGeneres famously came out on The Oprah Winfrey Show in February 1997, and shortly afterwards her onscreen character followed suit (to her onscreen therapist, played by Oprah, natch).
Despite the coming-out episode being one of the series' highest rated, ABC quickly cut back on promoting the show. Without pointing fingers, it's worth mentioning that its widely believed that the network was uncomfortable with the series' new subject matter. Not coincidentally, Ellen's ratings began to drop, and by the following spring the show was cancelled and DeGeneres was out of a job. It might be hard to stomach the idea of a show (and a star) being punished for coming out, but it's even harder to ignore the patterns.
It would be a long five years between the cancellation and the premiere of the talk show we all know and love today, and we can't help but mention that The Ellen DeGeneres Show debuted alongside several other celebrity-hosted daytime shows, none of which are still around today. They shall remain unnamed.
Now sure, DeGeneres' talk show isn't going to compete, critically-speaking, with all those prestige dramas and highbrow dry comedies that dominated award season, but it has won dozens of daytime Emmys. And, of course, the now double-digit People's Choice Awards. When the American public goes to vote, they're voting not only for her particular brand of lighthearted humor and dancing skills, but they're endorsing her very special brand of love and acceptance.
People respond to Ellen because she is so unapologetically who she is, whether it's addressing during her monologues or refusing a guest spot to a notoriously homophobic gospel singer. And they keep responding year after year. We may never get to go back in time and make up for the cancellation of the original Ellen sitcom, but continuing recognition for, and acceptance of, who she is might be a pretty good second.