Before the coronavirus pandemic, I would have said that celebrities aren’t like you and me. They’re just not. Yes, they might elbow an old lady out of the way to grab that last roll of toilet paper, but only if it’s the cushy four-ply stuff.
Now, locked indoors like the rest of us, the rich and famous still don’t seem relatable, even as they muse on social media about self-isolation, something we’re all doing. Some of their posts are sweet and well-meaning — I’m looking at you, Britney Spears — but some are, jeez, distressingly tone deaf.
It shouldn’t be that hard, right? I mean, read the room. There’s a worldwide pandemic. Hospitals in New York and Los Angeles are filling up fast, and Dr. Fauci says the worst is yet to come. I understand the instinct to share — these folks are entertainers, after all — but there’s a difference between being funny and being frivolous. It’s great that Arnold Schwarzenegger took to Twitter to urge everyone to stay home, but did he have to be smoking a cigar in his hot tub when he did it?
Using your celebrity to raise money for out-of-work comedy-club employees, as comedian Mike Birbiglia is doing on Instagram, seems good and worthwhile.
But what was the point of enlisting famous faces to warble a few lines of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” as “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot did last week?
And then there’s Madonna, who posted a bizarre clip of herself ruminating on COVID-19 while sitting uncomfortably in a cloudy bath strewn with rose petals. She describes the pandemic as “the great equalizer” because the killer virus doesn’t discriminate.
“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,” says the 61-year-old singer.
Technically, that’s true. The coronavirus can’t think for itself. But, as many commenters noted, one-percenters with high-quality health insurance and an assistant or two to fetch groceries will likely fare better than the rank-and-file rest of us who are wandering around Wegman’s wearing a homemade mask.
Perhaps realizing this, the Material Girl removed the video.
So, to quote Kurt Cobain: Here we are now, entertain us. But, for your sake and ours, try to do it in a way that comforts and perhaps even helps people not so privileged. Here are a few celebs who get it.
In a short, unfussy video on Instagram, Britney Spears spares us the sermon about the importance of social distancing. She offered actual help. “I’m picking 3 fans to help out during this difficult time. Whether it’s food, or getting your child diapers, or whatever it is, DM me and I will help you out.”
Wearing sunglasses and, conspicuously, an “02138 Cambridge” hat, Steve Martin tweeted a soothing 79-second clip of himself playing the banjo in what may or may not be his backyard. The caption, appropriately, was “Banjo balm.”
Self-quarantined actress Patti LuPone tweeted an entertaining two-minute tour of her basement, which is cluttered with Broadway bric-a-brac, as well as a vintage jukebox, pinball machine, and a Baldwin piano that cost her $11,000 but, sadly, is broken. It’s kind of like “Cribs” for musical theater nerds.
Thank goodness for Cardi B. Wearing a surgical mask and flashing fingernails that resemble a falcon’s talons, the rapper is very much aware of what ordinary Americans are going through. “Not everyone has the luxury to go to a [expletive] bedroom and to a big ass house and just stay away from people,” she says. “A lot of people live in small-ass apartments with multiple people. If you’re sending me home and I have the corona [expletive]virus I’m most likely going to give it to my spouse, my kids, anybody that’s around me.” Cardi B also questions why the government wasn’t prepared for the pandemic. She’s got a point.
But my favorite socially conscious tweets are ones in which former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher stands at a sink and sings a snippet of one of his band’s chart-toppers — cleverly altered to encourage hand washing. Examples include “Soap-ersonic” and “Champagne Soap-ernova” and “Wonderwash.” Enjoy.