The Student
Celebrities are losing their power over us

The coronavirus pandemic is changing celebrity culture, maybe forever. The outpour of self-isolation selfies from lavish kitchens have for some reason provoked more anger than admiration from fans, leaving famous people bewildered and afraid, not knowing where to turn.  

David Geffen, the billionaire rumoured to be the subject of Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’, (at least, he probably thinks the song is about him) ended up deleting his Instagram account after a post featuring his $590 million yacht generated more vitriol than he could handle. He captioned the photo ‘Sunset last night…Isolated in the Grenadines. I hope everybody is staying safe’. For some reason, people weren’t particularly grateful for his generous offer of a 6 word message of goodwill. It seems that a global emergency is what it took for his 84,000 Instagram followers to finally turn against him. 

Madonna received a similar reaction for describing Covid-19 as ‘the great equalizer’ from a bathtub strewn with rose petals, a post she also felt obliged to delete. As inequality becomes more stark, and as waste disposal workers and carers are raised to the pedestal of heroes, it seems that we are no longer accepting the super-rich as thought leaders. 

The other existential threat facing celebrities is being as boring as the rest of us. The power of the celebrity has always rested in the tension between being impossibly exciting and glamorous and at the same time exactly, unbelievably, just like us. They wear Versace on the red carpet but they also eat chicken nuggets. Now they are still exactly like us and nothing like us at the same time, but it’s not so charming anymore. Just like you, they are sitting at home doing nothing, not filming movies or winning awards. However, unlike you, they are doing nothing from the comfort of a multi-million dollar mansion – not exactly the same challenges of cooped-up living. 

In fairness, in some ways this is hitting them the hardest. It is a lot more work to clean a 30 room mansion than a one bed flat, especially when you factor in caring for your children and your pack of immaculately groomed dogs and/or other exotic animals. But most celebrities are not being open about this on social media, either because they know they will be ridiculed for complaining, or because they are actually making their nannies and cleaners work through the lockdown rather than go home to their own families. They have probably figured out that this won’t go down too well either. So they can’t win. 

Normal people are the new kings of social media, doing silly stuff in isolation to entertain their friends and going viral. However, when celebrities try to get in on the action, their houses just get compared to the movie Parasite (seriously, look at Jennifer Lopez’s garden, it’s uncanny.) The first hint of this shift in power was the public’s unimpressed reaction to Gal Gadot’s rendition of ‘Imagine’, which incorporated the painfully average vocal chords of various famous actors and comedians. ‘Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can’. Um, I wonder if you can, Pedro Pascal, millionaire star of Game of Thrones and Narcos. 

Tragically for these celebs, the looming global recession is only going to curdle the bitterness  now starting to emerge in the comments of luxury Instagrams and in pithy subtweets. Let’s just hope the nurses and shopkeepers are ready for their new role at the top of the social hierarchy, because apparently it’s not always easy being adored.

Image: LordWishanger via Wikimedia Commons