The Umbrella Academy’s Ellen Page on cancel culture and Hollywood’s diversity problem

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This week’s cover star, Ellen Page, opens up to Stylist about the importance of visiblity and why we all have more to learn.  Warning: season one spoilers for The Umbrella Academy ahead. 

“I’m so sick and tired of saying: ‘I’m so fortunate to be myself in the world’. I shouldn’t have to say any of that bullshit. But in the scheme of things I am, and that sucks,” Ellen Page tells Stylist. “I’m lucky to be in a place where now I’m out and I love to play queer characters.” Page is saying it louder for the people in the back: it’s ridiculous that she still has to express gratitude for being out. Her voice is one we all need to hear.

The actor, who appears on the cover of this week’s Stylist magazine, which you can download on the App Store or Google Play, has used that voice increasingly loudly since coming out in a moving and powerful speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference in 2014. “I’m here today because I am gay” she said. “And because maybe I can make a difference, to help others have an easier and more hopeful time.” 

Ellen Page in The Umbrella Academy

Since then Page - who married her wife, Emma Portner, a dancer, in 2018 - has used her platform to speak for people without voices; travelled the world to visit different LGBTQ cultures around the world for her TV documentary series Gaycation; highlighted the disproportionate amount of environmental damage endured by the Black and indigenous communities in Nova Scotia in her 2019 documentary Something in the Water; and held the powerful to account. In 2017 she posted a powerful Facebook post, directed at X-Men: The Last Stand director Brett Ratner, who she said outed her as gay when she worked with him aged 18 and detailed her own sexual assault while working in the industry. She also delivered a blistering attack on President Trump when she appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Ellen Page and her wife Emma Portner
Ellen Page and her wife Emma Portner

Page, who was catapulted into the public eye when she starred in coming of age film Juno in 2007 also has some important thoughts on cancel culture. The phenomenon of ‘cancelling someone’ has become a particular discussion point after letter printed in Harper’s magazine and signed by JK Rowling, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie denouncing what they called “the restriction of debate”. There has also been opposition, with people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying: “People who are actually “cancelled” don’t get their thoughts published and amplified in major outlets.”

“Here’s the thing. We’ve all been ignorant at points. We’ve all had to learn so much, and one thing I try as I get older is to be less self-righteous, because we’ve all had learning to do,” Page reveals. “If you say something, or do something that’s hurtful and damaging, especially if you have a big platform, even if you think it’s a joke, people are going to tell you how they feel. And you can’t make yourself seem like a victim because of that. Especially if you have enormous privilege. It comes back to educating ourselves and listening to the individuals who have the actual experience, versus thinking you can speak to that experience.”

Now Page is returning to her role her in The Umbrella Academy on Netflix on 31 July. The show tells the story of a dysfunctional family of children adopted by an eccentric billionaire. In series one Page’s character, Vanya, was the only one of the children without powers. She was anxious, in pain and took up as a little space as she could. But the end of the first series revealed that Vanya was, in fact, the most powerful of all. Something that feels particularly poignant in the current climate… 

Ellen Page on the cover of this week's Stylist magazine
Ellen Page on the cover of this week's Stylist magazine

To read Ellen Page’s interview download Stylist magazine on the App Store or Google Play. Pricing for our digital magazine starts at just 99p for a single issue, or £21.99 for a full year’s subscription –that’s less than 50p a week.

Images: Netflix, Getty

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