The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, better known as GLAAD, has organised a national «Coming Out With Ellen» campaign, with TV parties being held in New York, Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Washington DC — where Bill Clinton beamed at Ms DeGeneres and her affectionate friend, actress Anne Heche, at a function last weekend. (The President, still recovering from his knee injury, is thought to be more concerned about working out than coming out.)
Meanwhile, it has been reported that more than 30,000 invitations have been sent out by gay activists in America across the country and all the way to Finland and Japan, inviting recipients to be gay and proud: «If Ellen Morgan can come out to the world, you can come out to your family, friends and co-workers.»
The New York Post, a paper in which pictures of same-sex people cuddling are usually found only in the sports pages, reports that one gay financial adviser in Manhattan has been staggered by the response to her at-home Ellen party, saying: «I didn’t realise how in vogue the whole thing would get.»
And it quotes the media director for the Gay and Lesbian Cultural Centre in Los Angeles as saying: «This is a very big deal for us. We have a great sense of relief and joy.»
But further up the West Coast, in San Francisco, people will be coming out for Allen, not Ellen. Honouring Allen Ginsberg, who died this month, «Come Out With Allen» parties will be held for gays whose taste runs more to poetry than situation comedies, even one with cameos by Billy Bob Thornton, Laura Dern, Oprah Winfrey, Demi Moore, k.d. lang and Melissa Etheridge — only some of whom have come out.
Dern, the actress who plays Ellen Morgan’s love interest in The Episode, is featured in the latest Entertainment Weekly magazine under the headline «Laura Dern Is Not a Lesbian». As if to prove this, she has recently been romantically linked with Billy Bob.
This may have bothered her long-time boyfriend Jeff Goldblum, who in one of his movie roles came out as a fly.
Not everyone is enthusiastic about The Episode and accompanying social whirl. New York Times columnist Frank Rich has grumbled about «a striptease of publicity that in a simpler age would be beyond the imagination of even P. T. Barnum, if not Gypsy Rose Lee herself».
Predictably — and counterproductively, as they have simply generated more coverage — the American Religious Right have denounced the show and its star. The Reverend Jerry Falwell has sneered at «Ellen DeGenerate»; the Christian Coalition’s Pat Robertson has called it «a slap in the face for American family values»; and the American Family Association wants advertisers to boycott the show. Chrysler and the department store J. C. Penney have obliged.
But this is still the land of opportunity, and all those who disapprove of Ellen and Coming Out With Ellen parties have the opportunity to watch something else on Wednesday night.
While Ellen comes out on the ABC network, CBS has The Absolute Truth, a drama about a presidential candidate charged with sexual harassment, and the Disney Channel has The Incredible Shrinking Woman,which in a year or so, long after the party hats have gone, may be an apt description of the whole Ellen kerfuffle.
Alan Attwood, author and journalist, is a Walkley-award winner and former New York correspondent for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. He has been editor of The Big Issue magazine since 2006.