“Relatable,” Ellen DeGeneres’ special, reveals a startlingly quirky version of herself while also parodying her own easy-going, down-to-earth image. It also gives us a glimpse into her mental state.
In marked contradiction to her public persona as everyone’s great friend who is always willing to listen, she portrays herself as comically aloof and ambivalent, trapped in a sheltered bubble, busting several wisecracks about her wealth, for example. When she brings up a seat in an airplane’s 10th row, she admits that the rear end is a puzzle, and she wonders if the seats go further.
This is dicey territory for a well-known talk show host. But it’s the jokes that undercut her track record for the generosity that are the most startling in this special. She surprises her audience with a curse after a long career of clean comedy.
In the series, Ellen’s an actual person with a dirty mouth. Perhaps the most sneaky and intriguing juncture in Ellen DeGeneres’ Netflix special is a simple list. It’s at the close of her opening scene, which is a long joke on the special’s title: She wonders if she’s still relatable enough to be a stand-up standup comic.
Does she still have a broad, wicked sense of humor now after being wealthy and famous? DeGeneres plays with the idea, visualizing a vision of herself puttering all over her vast, lavish home, worrying about relevance as her butler feeds her pineapple slices for breakfast. It is a joke and a nod to the elephant in the room.
Ellen says, “I am now wildly wealthy. But I can still giggle about the absurdity of living in a home so big that it has its own escalator. I can laugh at myself. “
It’s silly, and if there’s a sass beneath DeGeneres’ annoyance at the suggestion that she’s not relatable anymore, it’s deeply buried. She is flexing her muscles. Who can try blaming her, after all? Why get hung up on whether she’s still relatable or not when she’s brilliant at her job, as her voluminous résumé demonstrates articulately?
It’s been a brilliant way to start a special since 2003: It starts with a minimalistic portrait of her obscene wealth and wraps up with a finger in the eye to everyone who implies she’s lost her ability to be funny. She says, ‘Why would I care whether you think I’m still relatable.” she asks, “when there is overwhelming, impressive proof that I’m amazing?”
Ellen DeGeneres isn’t for everyone. As the show progresses, DeGeneres utilizes a few lines that feel like they were plucked from a monologue, particularly in a section where she displays short videos of animals behaving badly.
When DeGeneres rather scrambles with her thoughts about her celebrity and the concurrent gift and responsibility of her responsibility as a talk show host, the cleverest, most strongly felt material emerges. She discusses how she feels trapped by her identity as a host and as the world’s happiest person, how it’s limited her public behavior, and how it has become a heavy burden around her neck.
Ellen is fully cognizant of that character’s indisputable allure, and she can’t deny her fans — and how much she tries to satisfy them — even if she’s infuriated by their unwavering anticipations.