I Got High and Watched “Saving the Gorillas: Ellen’s Next Adventure”

You all seemed to really like when I got high and watched Elena Undone so I thought I should turn it into a series. Actually I had this idea because I was scrolling through the artist formerly known as HBO Max and under “new” I saw a picture of Ellen Degeneres. Saving the Gorillas: Ellen’s Next Adventure, it read, and I decided I had to watch that high.

Also, can I just say that I keep meeting really nice people who love Elena Undone and it’s making me feel like I was too hard on it.

Anyway, if you didn’t know, Ellen Degeneres has come a long way since “The Puppy Episode.” She assimilated her way into daytime TV and then niced too close to the sun. After years of rumors, stories of her workplace abuse were released and Ellen walked away from her show.

I’m fascinated by queer people like Ellen and RuPaul who managed to become a part of mainstream culture despite their identities. Or, rather, became famous because of how they used a persona of their identities. I feel a lot of sympathy! Maybe I shouldn’t! But I find them fascinating and I want to give them a level of understanding even when they sometimes don’t deserve it!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am high. Very high. And I’m only getting higher. And I’m eating ice cream. And I’m about to press play on Saving the Gorillas: Ellen’s Next Adventure.

The poster for Saving the Gorillas: Ellen's Next Adventure. A photo of Ellen smiling is photoshopped in front of a wide shot of a gorilla in a jungle.

Oh my God why is she on an off-center couch looking forlorn in shadowy daylight? Is this The Jinx?

Salted Oreo and ube brownie by the way. The ice cream. Sorry should’ve included that.

Wait. Is she not even going to mention being canceled?? “Next adventure” is just that she’s done hosting her show?

This feels like an episode of Documentary Now.

Portia is talking about needing a birthday gift for Ellen and acting like that was a life or death situation. Lesbians are so beautiful.

They’ve already said “gorilla campus” so many times.

The TV just turned off and then turned back on and it’s October and I’m watching a scary movie (Saving the Gorillas: Ellen’s Next Adventure) and it was a lot.

This is the weirdest publicity maneuver I’ve seen in awhile.

Vance Degeneres!!! Her brother!!!

It’s honestly such a bummer that Ellen’s sitcom and standup were so good.

Are they going to tell me what a gorilla campus costs? How big of a gift was this?

They’re showing us a clip of the birthday surprise on the show.

James Corden interview oh my god. His bit is he doesn’t want to be there? I’m not sure it’s a bit.

There is such serious music. I’m sorry but you all need to watch this.

It doesn’t feel like Ellen Degeneres likes that she’s having to do this gorilla sanctuary.

Oh God now we’re doing small penis jokes. I wonder if Ellen and Portia use a strap-on. Sometimes I think about couples and am just like “I wonder how those people have sex.” Not in a horny way just in like a human curiosity way.

This is like a making of documentary, but instead of a movie it’s an organization.

Ellen raised money?????? Wait the gift was you need to raise money?????

Portia has never been more Lindsay Bluth.

A sit down interview with Portia. She is smiling. CC: To be honest we were all like, "She's [bleep] crazy."

Famous people at Ellen’s gorilla fundraiser: Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Aniston, Diane Keaton, Kris Jenner, Bruno Mars, Julia Roberts.

Sofia Vergara’s bit is that she bid 85k on coming to the giveaway show and then didn’t get to go to the show? IS that a bit? All the bits are that people hate Ellen or hate the gorillas and it doesn’t feel like bits.

Ellen raised five million. Why didn’t she spend her own money????? I do not understand money.

Ellen seems to feel so much disdain for having to be with the gorillas.

I love cows.

But I eat cows. :(

I feel bad about that.

The pandemic!! Oh my God. This is like watching The Morning Show.

They kept working through the pandemic? Not Ellen, of course. The local workers building her facility. This is so weird. You all don’t understand how much this feels like a very 2010s take on a superhero movie where it’s a faux sympathetic mockumentary about a super villain.

“The Puppy Episode” really is so great. And then the episode right after! Ugh including clips from the show and Ellen’s standup right after is making me like her again. Why do I find modern Ellen so scary but late 90s/early 00s Ellen so endearing??

Kangaroos are really cute.

I forgot that Ellen used to dress like Shane. Or try to.

There is an orangutan with pants on. This is Nope. Oh wow Ellen said no more animals on shows because it seemed stressful for them!

19 years is so many years to do anything. No wonder she needed a next adventure.

They’re showing behind the scenes stuff to make it look like the working environment on her talk show was nice. Ellen is crying through a speech. This is so weird. You do not understand how weird this is.

Remember when Ellen was like confused by Lucas Hedges’ bisexuality? Or remember when she interviewed Saoirse Ronan! I really latched onto that Saoirse Ronan one. I had a whole kind of obsessive Saoirse Ronan phase around the time of Lady Bird. That was my first year post-transition so I think I had a lot of gender envy? Which is weird because I’m not Irish.

I wonder if this scientist is a lesbian.

Saving the Gorillas: Ellen’s Next Adventure is just like a commercial for a nonprofit?

A close up of a gorilla snarling. CC: Look at them.

I feel the stress of everyone who works here about Ellen and Portia. Everyone feels so scared of them!

I just hope this is a net good and no one’s homes were ruined so Ellen could have this publicity boost.

This is DEEPLY uncomfortable!

Ellen cries a lot. I do think crying a lot is often a thing manipulative people do. Sorry that’s not fair to water signs. Crying is good. Just sometimes it’s manipulative.

“You have to do what you’d do with a human family. Kill the father. Kill the mother.” A real quote. The person was talking about poachers killing gorillas, so there was context, but I’m still frightened.

Omg?? Ellen’s hero was MURDERED?? Dian Fossey? But also was maybe bad? I need to read this. Oh Gorillas in the Mist! It’s that lady!! Of course this is Ellen’s hero.

Hanging out with Portia and Ellen would be so tense. Just the most anxious third wheeling ever.

“What is it like being thirteen and ten and seeing these people your same age?” Ellen’s nieces are visiting. And they are acting like it’s this eye-opening experience to see that kids in other parts of the world have responsibilities. But there are also kids in the U.S. who aren’t Ellen Degeneres’ nieces who have responsibilities?? This is all so weird.

I think Saving the Gorillas: Ellen’s Next Adventure is more of a drunk watch. Too unsettling for a high watch.

Rich people are so fucking weird. I still can’t get over her doing a fundraiser instead of spending her own five million.

It’s so fun to go from my perception of Ellen as a kid to now. Like in terms of queerness. I didn’t have context for masc lesbians? Our social teachings of butchness are wild.

Her one producer had to be asked to keep his mask on while visiting the gorillas and he’s snarky about it? It’s so the gorillas don’t get sick! God some people are awful.

Ellen just said, “Love is love.”

Ellen and Portia crouch down near the gorillas wearing masks. CC: [Ellen] Love is love.

She’s crying again.

The gorillas are so cool though.

Ellen is talking about her and Portia’s relationships to not having children.

I’m confused what they’re actually doing to save the gorillas. Feels like they just built a fancy facility.

Ellen’s dancing again.

A white lady is talking about colonialism. God I am so curious how people nearby feel about this facility.

Ellen is complaining about having to address the Rwandan prime minister by title??

Why is this all about her retirement!

Rich people are so weird they cant even recognize when they’re being weird.

Stat at the end: “More than 20,000 people have been impacted by (her gorilla campus).” Impacted how, Ellen?? IMPACTED HOW???

Ellen wearing a mask looks at the camera while near the gorillas. Her eyes are very wide.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 551 articles for us.


  1. Gonna give you a financial lesson Drew as you keep repeating how you don’t understand why Ellen would do a fundraiser instead of spending her own money.

    They get tax breaks for fundraising and charity endeavours in the US. This means her tax bill at the end of the year will be less. Pretty much 99% of celebrities and wealthy people do this – they donate large sums to charity, hold charity auctions and fundraisers because their tax bill at the end of the tax year is less.

    Normal, working class people can do it too and you get a percentage of your taxes returned to you if you donate to charity. But obviously, the percentages of tax and returns are a lot, lot higher when you’re rich. And that’s why Ellen didn’t donate her own money – but instead did it as a charity endeavour. She gives back to the gorillas, the government gives her a tax discount. Win win.

    It’s also why airlines have started collecting money for charities (you can donate spare change to the airlines chosen charity) because by doing so, they get a tax rebate at the end of the year to save money. That green fuel tax they’ve started charging in the USA where you get charged extra for a ticket to “leave less of a carbon footprint” is the same thing. You’re not saving the earth – you’re helping the airline pay less taxes at the end of the quarter by indirectly donating to charity.

    And this has been your lesbian 101 finance lesson. 👩🏼‍🏫

    • I’m a Sativa girl! I’d planned to take an edible but I’ve been moving around a lot so didn’t have the chance to get any and ended up just using my vape. Which meant taking A LOT of hits from my vape. haha

      I think Ellen probably has extremely fancy weed. Probably edibles, I’d guess?

    • Yes I second this! I thought this column was great and I hope to see more but I would like more of an intentional element re: cannabis. What’re you smoking/eating/imbibing?! How do you like it? How does it compare to other strains you’ve had while writing for the column?

      It reminds me lovingly of the “High Femme” days here at AS which I really missed when they left. Thank you!

  2. Eek

    I have such a low tolerance level for embarrassment, I don’t think I could watch this, for sure not sober !

    That last picture though, oof ! It gave me quite a fright.

  3. Look, Drew, you are hilarious. Especially when you’re high. And the fact that you’re a writer for Autostraddle and getting (I presume) paid to review this sort of stuff while high means you’re my newest favourite person and inspiration.

    But what sold me on this was your admission of wondering how these people have sex and whether or not Portia and Ellen use a strap-on. I’ve never felt so seen when you then said ‘Not in a sexual way, but in a curious human way’.

    Please, never change Drew.

  4. “I do think crying a lot is often a thing manipulative people do. Sorry that’s not fair to water signs.”

    That’s fair, especially if you have personal experience with people who do that. I think it’s more true if the person who is crying a lot doesn’t hold space for other people to cry, too. Like only their emotions can be displayed. Your high self didn’t specify that LOL

    As a water sign, I wanted to clarify that point ;)

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