In late March — when states had just started mandating self-isolation in response to the pandemic — billionaire David Geffen shared photos of his $590 million mega-yacht “Rising Sun,” which has famously hosted various high-profile figures such as Oprah Winfrey and the Obamas in an Instagram post.
“Sunset, last night … isolated in the Grenadines avoiding virus,” he wrote. “I’m hoping everybody is staying safe.”
Unsurprisingly, Geffen and his yacht were hit with almost immediate backlash — the post receiving thousands of responses expressing outrage and mockery.
“David Geffen is out of touch,” one Twitter user said. “Maybe if he made a large donation for medical protective gear for our overworked nurses, doctors and medical staff, he wouldn’t come off as an elitist jerk.”
In fact, the widespread criticism the post received was so swift that Geffen was forced to set his Instagram account to private before deleting it altogether.
Geffen’s tone deaf post is only one example of the almost parodical ignorance of the famous and wealthy.
Actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens also took to Instagram to complain to her fans about having to self-quarantine, saying that although coronavirus deaths are “terrible,” they’re also “like, inevitable?” Similarly, her fellow actress Evangeline Lilly explained to her Instagram that she refused to self-quarantine because “some people value freedom over their lives.”
Most notably, Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot and a chorus of her fellow celebrity friends inspired even more criticism and ridicule for their rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
What may have started as a genuine desire to inspire her fans to come together and unify during this difficult period ultimately came off as yet another instance of self-absorbed celebrities trying to make coronavirus about them. It probably did not help that Gadot also pondered that she was “feeling a bit philosophical” after spending six days in her giant mansion.
Over the past couple of years, social media has become an increasingly integral part of celebrity culture. A lot of the time it is simply used to promote a project they are working on like a movie premiering or an album dropping.
However, it has also facilitated the rise of a new phenomenon: the idea of the “relatable” celebrity. As more and more celebrities are sharing their “at-home persona” on social media through photos and clips where they are often directly addressing anyone watching, it is easy for audiences to believe that maybe they are just like the rest of us after all.
But, coronavirus has shattered that delusion. COVID-19 quarantine has temporarily broken down the proverbial barrier between celebrities and the rest of us on social media, leaving us with a truly unfiltered glimpse into the lives of the rich, famous and bored. Now it really shows: they are nothing like us.
When we watch their public service announcements urging us to stay inside, we find attention instead drifting to the background: on Ellen Degeneres’ beautiful living room, or on Jennifer Lopez’ impossibly vast and freshly cut lawn.
The fact of the matter is that no matter how many self-taped videos they release reminding us to “stay positive” and that “we’re all in this together,” it does nothing to hide the fact that while the rest of the world is in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, they are thriving.
Of course, there are some celebrities who are using their status as a means to give people a distraction from these chaotic times.
Actor John Krasinski for example — who is most known for playing Jim Halpert in “The Office” — started “Some Good News,” a weekly self-taped YouTube show that is “dedicated entirely to good news.” Most recently, he held online graduation and prom for the Class of 2020.
However, for the most part, celebrity attempts to connect with and inspire their fans during the coronavirus crisis has been met with almost universal backlash and disdain. The illusion of celebrity relatability has vanished, leaving everyone with the realization that all we really want from them is to do what they do best: entertain.
If we are looking for inspiration and answers during this difficult period, we will not be looking at them.