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Celebs get it in the neck

Twitter rejects lockdown relatability

‘We all hate you’

By Sam White 

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Placido Domingo, Idris Elba, Harvey Weinstein, Donna Air, 1960s songstress Marianne Faithful, Kodaline guitarist Mark Prendergast, Prince Charles, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, Prince Albert of Monaco, John Taylor from Duran Duran, Ireland’s Ryan Tubridy and Mary Lou McDonald, and ‘Bond Girl’ Olga Kurylenko.

Celebrities can get Covid-19, certainly, but do they feel our pain?

For many of us, with human interaction at an all-time low, a lot of what we have left is entertainment – and that business is dominated by celebrities.

Of course Matt Damon famously holed down in a palace in Dalkey.  He managed to remain charming and got nothing but undeserved accolades. 

Madonna has purveyed a number of  slick lockdown Instagram videos featuring, according to the New York Times, the Material Girl “undergoing a bizarre healing procedure at her personal health clinic and bending over a typewriter in a kimono, pontificating about the social effects of the virus”.

For Madonna, public performance is “another luxury gone, for now”, she says in one video. “The audience in my house is not amused by me”, she concedes. Later, from the bath, she concludes that Covid-19 is “the great equalizer”. 

But there is a backlash, particularly online. For many decades, celebrities have been hoisted onto pedestals out of reach: totems of cultural worship and obsession. But since the virus, it seems we are seeing a huge public shift in the way people are viewing the rich and famous.Attacking, not slavering over,  them has become the greater entertainment.

The #guillotine2020 hashtag is hopping as cynics with time on their hands get stuck in to celebrities who don’t realise that they are not having it bad.

Regular (non-famous) people on social media have been hit with an onslaught of “we’re all in this together” tweets and Instagram posts by the world’s most famous people in an attempt to come across as ‘relatable’. The response has been a resounding, “…but are we? Are we really?”.

What was once the intoxicating allure of a life completely different from your own has now become the impersonal barrier that divides those who understand the struggles of real life, and those who live in their own luxurious and entitled bubbles. 

People all across the world were losing their jobs and sources of income; facing eviction, foreclosure, credit-card debt, soaring medical bills, loss of child care, and a looming existential uncertainty that only comes with being “the little guys” of society. With seemingly insurmountable obstacles in front of them, sentiments of “we’re all in this together” have been as hollow and meaningless as designer purses.

Most dramatic was the infamous “Imagine” compilation video. Yeah, the one where Gal Gidot and a bunch of other celebrities put together a cringe-worthy remote compilation of them singing John Lennon’s famous song about world peace, “imagine no possessions … no need for greed or hunger” – sung by members of the 1%.

This video immediately went viral drawing harsh criticism. 

As popular chatshow host, Ellen DeGeneres lounged on her sofa, calling for global kindness, the comedian Kevin T Porter, an ex-employee, solicited stories from service workers who had had problems with DeGeneres, who he called “notoriously one of the meanest people alive”.  “Respond to this with the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean & I’ll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank”, he tweeted before eventually donating €600.

With a new celebrity seemingly self-crucifying every day, the dramatic content kept rolling in with more crying videos and Instagram captions about the struggle for  ‘sanity’ during quarantine. But ordinary people had lost  patience for this—“you’re crying about having to order Postmates in your 35 room mansion while I’m crying about how I’m going to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach?”.

When Jennifer Lopez posted a video of her family sheltering in the backyard of Alex Rodriguez’s vast Miami compound, the public was unimpressed.

“We all hate you”, was a typical, if harsh, response.

The public paradigm on celebrities and their extreme wealth seems to be tipping. What was once viewed as something to aspire to is now viewed as gross wealth inequality. While this certainly won’t ruin any careers, even Ellen’s,  it will definitely affect how people consume media and treat celebrities in the nastier, saner post-Covid world.

Sama White is the US-based host of whiteemberwriting.com

(July 2020)