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“I can’t even say the word. Why can’t I say the word? I mean, why can’t I just say…? I mean, what is wrong? Why do I have to be so ashamed? I mean, why can’t I just say the truth? I mean, be who I am? I’m thirty-five years old, I’m so afraid to tell people…Susan, I’m gay.” – Ellen Morgan (@theellenshow) to Susan (@lauradern), “Ellen,” “The Puppy Episode,” April 30, 1997.
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On April 30, 1997, twenty years ago today and two weeks after Ellen DeGeneres publicly acknowledged her sexuality, Ellen Morgan, lead character of ABC’s “Ellen,” came out.
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After the first three seasons of “Ellen,” producers were frustrated with a lack of focus and Ellen’s lack of interest in the stereotypical sitcom relationship; one producer suggested Ellen just get a puppy to show the world that a relationship was not in the cards, hence “The Puppy Episode.”
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During the fourth season, as word of the coming out episode spread, a backlash started; a bomb threat came, DeGeneres’ safety was threatened, sponsors (including J.C. Penney and Wendy’s) pulled out, affiliates refused to run the episode, and right-wing conservatives hurled anti-gay slurs (Reverend Jerry Falwell, for example, hurled the infamous “Ellen Degenerate,” to which DeGeneres responded, “I’ve been getting that since the fourth grade”).
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And, even after “The Puppy Episode” drew forty-two million viewers and won two Emmys, a Peabody Award, and a GLAAD Media Award, ABC still prefaced each subsequent episode of "Ellen” with a parental advisory warning.
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The show was canceled after its fifth season.
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“It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far,” President Barack Obama said when awarding DeGeneres the Presidential Medal of Freedom, “just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out…What an incredible burden that was to bear. To risk your career like that. People don’t do that very often.”
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There is no question that Ellen Morgan’s self-declaration marked a paradigm shift for queer representation in media. Never again would it be impossible to imagine a gay lead character, nor a supporting character that defied rigid stereotypes, in mainstream media. #lgbthistory #HavePrideInHistory #ThankYouEllen

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-And Kal? That’s my name.
-It is.
-I have so many questions. Where do I come from? Why did you send me here?