Spare us your platitudes.
In the performing world, it is sometimes felt that you’re only as good as your last show. This is presumably why, when faced with the indefinite postponement of all concerts, movie shoots, and stage plays, so many our celebrity artistes have positioned themselves as frontline digital responders in the fight against — well, not coronavirus per se, but rather, general ignorance and despair. It’s nauseating.
Madonna, for instance, in her audition to the world for the role of philosopher-queen, shared her thoughts from a milky bath of rose petals. “The thing about COVID-19,” she said, mesmerizing her audience with a face so tucked and stretched as to look neither young nor old, “it doesn’t care about how rich you are, how famous you are, how funny you are, how smart you are, where you live, how old you are, what amazing stories you can tell.” In this way, the 61-year-old explained, the coronavirus has “made us all equal.” This is a paradox, both “wonderful” and “terrible” at the same time.
The Queen of Pop is not the only person with a romantic vision to share. Gal Gadot, the 34-year-old Wonder Woman star, explained that on the sixth day of quarantine she began “feeling a bit philosophical.” She reached similar conclusions to Madonna’s. Since the virus is worldwide, “it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, we’re all in this together.” She thought this idea was “so powerful and pure” after watching a video of an Italian man playing John Lennon’s “Imagine” on the trumpet to his neighbors on their balconies. (Of course, celebrities don’t have neighbors within earshot; they have barbed fences, cameras, and sometimes armed guards. But never mind that.) After singing the song’s first line, the video cuts to other celebrities — including Kristen Wiig, Jamie Dornan, Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, Sarah Silverman, Mark Ruffalo — who, one-by-one, finish the song.
“In a 30+ year military career, including taking part in four major campaigns,” retweeted Adrian Weale, “this is the most horrifying thing I’ve seen.” Quite. Beyond the appalling singing and sanctimony, let’s not overlook the song itself. Lest we forget, first released in 1971, Lennon’s “Imagine” is about the most succinct summary possible of one of the worst political experiments ever tried. The song is, in Lennon’s own words, “virtually the Communist Manifesto.” Even though he himself was not “particularly a Communist,” he believed that it’s always more effective to “put your political message across with a little honey.” The naïveté of this casual endorsement of a murderous ideology can be explained only by total self-absorption. But then, can we really expect any better from the man who described his band as “more popular than Jesus”?
Next, hoping to be considered for the role of sacrificial self-isolator, is Sam Smith, a successful young millionaire who, since last year, has been identifying as “non-binary” and requesting that people refer to him as “them.” From inside his $14 million home in London, Smith, suffering from a “headache,” posted a series of photos on Instagram captioned “stages of a quarantine meltdown.” Later, he made an announcement to his “wonderful fans” about his upcoming album, To Die For. Having done “a lot of thinking the last few weeks,” he said, “the title and imminent release of my album doesn’t feel right.” A more stoic version of the same role was played by English actor, Idris Elba, who shared a video saying that, despite being asymptomatic, he had tested positive for the coronavirus after being alerted to the possibility that he had been exposed. Behind him, and within sneezing distance, was his young wife, who had not, at that point, been tested for the virus. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle also managed to make the coronavirus all about them by moving to the United States this week, instead of returning to the United Kingdom where Harry’s father, heir to the throne, was in recovery.
Of course, there are celebrities who have handled themselves with more grace. One example is J. K. Rowling, who, in conjunction with WizardingWorld.com has launched three new initiatives under “Harry Potter at Home,” to assist teachers and parents now struggling with the task of homeschooling. Rowling, who is estimated to give away approximately 16 percent of her net worth to charity, had said before that: “You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.” But this is as true of a public platform as it is of money. Frankly, the wisest and most intelligent thing these celebrities could do at this point is make a donation and then quietly get on with life, just like everyone else on the planet.