Look at them, the quarantined celebrities, trapped in their sleek minimalist-style villas, with just an infinity pool to cool off and a man cave full of video games and exercise equipment to distract you. It’s all taken away from them: they can no longer give concerts, play in movies, make TV shows, do photo shoots in idyllic places. What should they do with their time?
Of course: offer comfort to the people. Talk through the social channels, entertain you with a song on the grand piano in the sitting room, tell you that you are not alone, that sometimes they are also struggling, that we are all equally right now.
And how do those people react? With a picture of Parasite, the Oscar-winning film in which a poor Korean family infiltrates the minimalist villa of a wealthy family, the contemporary symbol of aversion to the elite which is now widely used in memes.
“Thank you for having a good time!”, An anonymous twitterer commented on a video in which Jennifer Lopez and her family are having fun on her perfectly mowed giant lawn earlier this month. The comment included a shot from just before Parasite’s gory apotheosis, set in a similar garden. Five thousand people understood the joke and clicked like.
‘Celebrity culture is burning’, The New York Times wrote a few weeks ago. “The corona crisis has revealed the ‘ugly truth’ about celebrities and capitalism,” headlined The Guardian.
Villainous columns appeared in worldwide newspapers about how wonderfully binding hatred of celebrities works during a pandemic.
Yes, the corona crisis shows the celebrity’s bankruptcy as a moral leader. There are worlds of difference between what Band Aid (1984), Live Aid (1985) and USA for Africa’s We Are the World (1985) brought about, and the tired feeling that now overtakes people at well-meaning celebrity actions. The audience was really impressed at the time, perhaps also because it was one of the first times that so much star power and so much talent, from both commercial and alternative sources, came together for charity. An exciting cultural moment.
Plenty of examples. Perhaps most appealing to the imagination, given the self-overestimation: the celebrities spurred on by Wonder Woman interpreter Gal Gadot, such as Natalie Portman, Mark Ruffalo, Will Ferrel and Cara Delevingne, who did a rendition of Imagine a cappella.
It takes a special form of cognitive dissonance to sing “imagine no possessions”, moreover false, from a compound where all your belongings are safely behind high walls. “We’re all in this together,” comforted Gadot, who said he felt philosophical from the quarantine. But above all, the world felt united in hatred, as witnessed by the endless stream of negative reactions.
The celebrity hatred can largely be explained by the harrowing inequality with which the corona crisis confronts us. No, a virus particle does not distinguish between white or black, poor or rich, but privileges do protect against covid-19 quite well.
“I tested positive this morning,” actor Idris Elba recently tweeted. “It is going well, I have no symptoms yet.”
Question from a follower: how can you be tested without symptoms? The answer is easy to guess. Elba has since recovered. This week he called for a week of quarantine every year to “commemorate” this pandemic. Um, no thank you, was the understandable response.
Picture credit ‘The Ringer’