Do you who hasn’t had a good corona war so far? Celebrities. Throughout this crisis, many of them seem to have gone out of their way to prove our worst prejudices about them right: namely that they are narcissistic, entitled people, completely cut off from the concerns of ordinary people and yet possessed by a desire to lecture to and coo over us.
First there was Hollywood actress Gal Gadot, who thought that what we all needed amidst this pandemic was for her and her celebrity mates to sing a profoundly cringey cover of ‘Imagine’. She teed it up by saying ‘it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, we’re all in this together’. But the clips of impossibly rich people singing from the comfort of their mansions and plush apartments rather undercut that message.
Even more repellant was a video put on Instagram by Madonna, as part of her daily quarantine diary. In it, she sits in a milky bath scattered with rose petals, extolling how ‘wonderful’ it is that coronavirus has ‘made us all equal’, while perched in a tub that probably cost more than most people earn in a year.
In another spectacular failure of self-awareness, British singer Sam Smith took to Instagram to act out the ‘stages of quarantine meltdown’, culminating in a photo of him appearing to cry while sat outside the front door of his £12million house. In another video to fans, Smith said he was ‘bored shitless’, but keen to help out the effort against coronavirus…through singing. It’s amazing no one has organised a weekly ‘Clap for Sam’ event.
Luckily, one famous face who can be relied upon to cut through such sanctimony is comedian Ricky Gervais. In an interview with the Sun he skewered celebrities who complained about quarantine while health workers risk their lives on the frontline: ‘These people are doing 14-hour shifts and not complaining…But then I see someone complaining about being in a mansion with a swimming pool.’
Not for the first time Gervais – a later-in-life celebrity and son of a labourer – has skewered the aloofness and sanctimony of the Hollywood set, just as he did in his infamous Golden Globes monologue. But during this pandemic, expressions of un-self-aware class privilege have not been limited to the A List. This crisis has brought deep class divisions in society to the fore, played out over social-media battles over the lockdown.
The past few weekends in the UK have given birth to a curious phenomenon in which middle-class journalists head out to their local park and then fume on Twitter about other people being there. Commentators file angry copy about ordinary people daring to sunbathe or have a picnic for a bit in the park from the cool comfort of their back garden, blissfully unaware how many people around them live in small, cramped flats.
In recent days it has finally dawned on some in the media that, like just about everything else, the burdens of the coronavirus crisis have fallen disproportionately on the less well-off. Emily Maitlis’ Newsnight monologue is the most lauded example. But if you’re an NHS worker, an Iceland delivery driver, or someone whose family and friends are not confined to the white-collar world, you’d have known all this already.
Those A-List whingers are just at the more glitzy and ridiculous end of the class privilege the corona crisis has brought to the surface.
Tom Slater is deputy editor of spiked
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