‘Ellen,” the hit ABC sitcom, may reveal this season that its title character is a lesbian, a move that is certain to generate enormous controversy.
The producers of the 3-year-old sitcom, which stars Ellen DeGeneres, are reportedly lobbying for her character to come out of the closet - and they have paved the way for this revelation in the season’s first nine episodes, TV Guide reports in its upcoming issue.
Should the lesbian story line become reality, the Walt Disney Co., which produces the series through its Touchstone subsidiary and also owns ABC, is certain to come under sharp attack from conservative groups.
Because of its long history as a proponent of traditional family values, Disney has been criticized by Christian conservatives in the past year for what they claim are anti-family films it has released through its subsidiary, Miramax, for the unofficial “Gay Day” celebrations at Disney World and for the recent extension of health benefits to same-sex partners of employees.
Says a Hollywood director who has made a couple of films for Touchstone and asked not to be identified: “The early line out here is 3-1 against Disney tampering with ‘Ellen.’ But if this does come to pass, it means (Disney Chairman Michael) Eisner has decided to bring the studio all the way into the ‘90s and will thumb his nose at the right-wingers.”
He adds that Disney may agree to bring Ellen out of the closet because it has already told agents and producers, quietly, that it wants to see proposals for new a TV series with a major gay character.
The Hollywood Reporter also says in its current issue that Ellen’s producers are pushing for the change.
Alan Klein, communications director at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said the gay community is “very excited about this because it’s a milestone in American TV. To the best of our knowledge,” he added, “this is the first time a lead character in a major network sitcom is scheduled to come out of the closet. It’s welcome news.”
DeGeneres, whose manager, Arthur Imparato, said she will not comment on the reports, has been the subject of speculation about her own sexuality in and out of the gay community, but she has refused to discuss it.