A silver lining: The fall of celebrity culture

By Patrice Lewis

With the world on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s one group getting battered and bruised from a previously adoring public. I refer to celebrities.

Hollywood, of course, has always amused us with its tales of ridiculous extravagance and absurd political suasion; but it seems when the chips are down, its exploits are no longer interesting. Not just uninteresting, but downright insulting.

Celebrities are posing and preening about their hardships and sacrifices on social media, where photos of their massive compounds, elaborate personal gyms, vast backyards, elegant interiors and other expressions of wealth grate on the nerves of the millions upon millions who have lost their jobs.

And the public, according to New York Times writer Amanda Hess, has snapped.

“Among the social impacts of the coronavirus is its swift dismantling of the cult of celebrity,” writes Hess. “The famous are ambassadors of the meritocracy; they represent the American pursuit of wealth through talent, charm and hard work. But the dream of class mobility dissipates when society locks down, the economy stalls, the death count mounts and everyone’s future is frozen inside their own crowded apartment or palatial mansion. The difference between the two has never been more obvious.”

I don’t follow celebrity culture (the last movie I saw in theaters was in 1989), so Hollywood exploits just sort of go in one ear and out the other. But the general public is becoming less tolerant of Hollywood hypocrisy. Critics point out how, when celebrities suggest their fans be generous toward those in need, they themselves seem less inclined to donate their personal wealth toward financial relief or medical aid.

To be fair, celebrities are not always spectacularly rich, and they are tasked with walking a fine line between living a fantasy life of glitz and glamor, and not flaunting things to the point of alienating their fans. And of course, prior to the lockdown, most people didn’t have as much uninterrupted time to binge on celebrity news. But that has changed – and a lot of people don’t like what they see.

At present, Hess notes, “Celebrities have a captive audience of traumatized people who are glued to the internet, eyes darting toward trending topics for clues to processing the unimaginable horrors looming just outside, and instead are finding Madonna bathing in a rose petal-strewn bath.”

Asking a celebrity to stay away from the spotlight and media adoration during a time of crisis is next to impossible. A celebrity, by default, is someone who craves attention. “Anything for face-time,” as the saying goes. That’s why celebrities will get married in lavish and extravagant ceremonies, then just as lavishly divorce a few weeks later. These marriages are not done to forever join two twining hearts, but simply to get their names and photos online and in gossip rags.

With the sudden advent of the pandemic, celebrities are having a hard time adjusting. Like the rest of us, they’re requested to stay home. But unlike the rest of us, their homes are massive structures with endless luxurious amenities, as their home videos posted on social media illustrate. This makes their online lamentations of the privation of social distancing a little hard to take by the average Joe Sixpack crammed into a small apartment.

Even liberal Buzzfeed joined the mockery in a derisive article entitled “17 Absolutely Heartbreaking Pictures Of Celebrities In Quarantine During The Coronavirus Outbreak.” Twitter depicted the elite having weepy “meltdowns.” Actor and television host James Corden whined about suffering “incredible spikes of anxiety and sadness” while being “confined” to his 8,600 square-foot house with a personal movie theater and a substantial swimming pool (because, of course, the coronavirus is all about him).

As one person put it succinctly, “Anne Frank lived in a cupboard for two years. Grow up.”

Celebrities are discovering a harsh truth when things get tough: They are irrelevant. They’ve had a professional lifetime of adulation and breathless devotion, which resulted in an exaggerated sense of their own importance and the unfortunate belief that they’re far more influential than they really are. To suddenly have this reversed is an enormous letdown for celebrities and is, possibly, one of the reasons they send out stupid social media blunders or blatant lies that brings wrath upon them. Everyone is now concentrating on the pandemic; they’re not concentrating on the rich and famous. The horror.

Actor Ryan Reynolds is one of the few who “gets” how irrelevant celebrities are at a time like this. In a self-mocking video, he says: “In times of crisis, I think we all know it’s the celebrities we count on most. They’re the ones who are gonna get us through this. Right after health care workers, of course. And people who work in essential services. Ping-pong players. Mannequins, they’re great. Childhood imaginary friends. Like, 400 other types of people.” He then asks people to stay home, wash their hands and practice social distancing.

Having said all this, clearly not every celebrity can be lumped into the “weepy meltdown” category. Many are going above and beyond their insular world and helping however they can. The best celebrities are those whose contributions are kept quiet and low-key, who don’t brag and boast, but instead who whose left hand doesn’t what their right hand is doing.

The one thing to remember about celebrities – and their views, actions, attitudes and social media posts – is this: The pandemic is affecting the whole world, but behind the scenes there’s another battle going on. This is a battle for power and control, a battle between good and evil. The actions of “celebrities” like AOC, Pelosi, Schumer and their ilk make this abundantly clear.

Whose side do many celebrities fall on? For those lobbing uneducated attacks on the president and posting updates on their self-promoted narcissism, it appears to be the latter rather than the former.

During this time of national crisis, I hope celebrities understand they’re no more or less important than anyone else. Right now society is realizing its un-caped heroes are the working class folks that are pulling us through.

The elites lounging in their mansions and yachts are just in the way.

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