Disillusionment with Celebrities in the Time of Quarantine

Like thousands of other Americans, celebrities have found themselves stuck at home under mandatory quarantine during the COVID-19 outbreak. And like the rest of us ordinary people, they have latched onto social media to stay connected and informed with the world. But that’s where many similarities stop.

There has been widespread backlash against celebrities and the high-income individuals after what many consider to be tone-deaf posts. One of the best known is the video where Gal Gadot and other celebrities sing the song “Imagine”, as posted on Instagram.

Or when Ellen DeGeneres posted a video promoting her television shows while working out in her home gym.

These videos cannot be more different from what many essential workers have been posting. Doctors and other medical workers have gone to social media to beg for people to stay home and post pictures of their bruised, weary faces as evidence of their work. There is an air of desperation around these posts, which have received widespread support in response.

The coronavirus has exposed who are the actual essential workers that society requires to continue functioning while contrasting their work to idolized celebrities. The tone-deaf responses of the rich has only emphasized how distant they are to most ordinary Americans. It doesn’t help that many celebrities have announced that they have tested positive for COVID-19 while asymptomatic, while many who have symptoms of COVID-19 have not been tested due to shortages in testing kits. The risk of death from the coronavirus almost makes it seem like the lives of those with wealth and power are valued more than others without the same resources. It may be extreme to consider, but there are few other explanations to why asymptomatic celebrities have been tested while others have not.

Damage control to the reputations of high-income individuals have done little to stem the criticism. Like Mark Zuckerberg, who with two others donated $25 million to a coronavirus research group. (x) Responses quickly slammed the billionares for the amount donated compared to their actual net worth.

The recent bill passed to help with the coronavirus response hasn’t settled the economic anxiety permeating social media. The act gives $1200 to working adults and $400 to child dependents. It’s not just that the amount is inadequate to pay for basic necessities like rent, groceries, and student loans, but many college students have noticed that they are excluded from receiving a payment if their parents claim them as dependents on their taxes. It doesn’t help that campus closings have made many students lose part-time jobs. 

General economic and health anxieties have culminated in a scapegoating of the rich and powerful. Advocates for higher taxes on high-income individuals and more accessible medicine, such as Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, have used this moment to highlight the perceived failures of our tax and health systems in the event of a pandemic.

It’s difficult to gage what are appropriate responses to COVID-19 when there’s so much fear underlying daily life. Fear for the infected, fear for essential workers, fear of the unknown. While I can’t say I know what the best responses are, I think that celebrities should be more conscious of how their wealth gives them a relatively better quality of life than many others at this time. Instead of publicizing their lives in quarantine, they should advocate for those most affected by COVID-19, like grocery store workers, small business owners, and medical personnel. 

Or at the very minimum, tell people to stay at home and wash their hands. It’s as simple as that.

By Jessica P

3 thoughts on “Disillusionment with Celebrities in the Time of Quarantine

  1. Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for this insightful post! I agree that it’s disappointing to see how disconnected and apathetic many, especially the most privileged and powerful, seem to be with this pandemic. I’ve even heard that people have been selling fake medicines online with promises of helping prevent or ward off COVID-19, which is just ridiculous to me. That’s scientifically unfounded, of course, since we still know so little about the virus, but I also hate that people are capitalizing on a serious illness and taking advantage of a crisis – which I suppose is similar to how Ellen and others have been promoting themselves amidst all this chaos. It looks like the privileged and powerful get the best of everything in every area – whether that’s climate change protection or pandemic protection.

    – Teresa

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  2. While you make a compelling argument in saying that celebrities are too distant from us to relate to everyday life, I’m going to play devils advocate and say that they are doing the smartest thing they can do. In a time when celebrities cannot make money off their own shows, movies, new music, etc., the thing they can do to make money is post on social media. People are more active now on social media than ever before; it’s the peak time to be posting for peak visibility. Celebrities (and their publicists) would have to be stupid not to take advantage of this situation in the best way they can.

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  3. Interesting post! I found the comments about Mark Zuckerberg’s donation to be very common. During the time of catastrophes, billionaires and celebrities are often criticized for not donating enough. From my perspective, however, it is important to note that 0.045% of Zuckerberg’s net worth is still a huge number for a single research group and I’m sure members of that group are more than thankful for his assistance. The society tends to pressure wealthy people with major responsibilities, while neglecting the fact that unlike the government, billionaires do not make their income from taxes and are not responsible for supporting the people. The act of philanthropy should definitely be appreciated and encouraged, but let us not forget that it’s completely voluntary.

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