A Covid Blow to the Cult of Celebrity

IT IS TRULY AN ILL WIND indeed that blow no good at all. If ever there was an ill wind the Covid-19 epidemic would have to be one. Its arrival was greeted with an outbreak of hitherto more latent selfishness, as people brawled in supermarket aisles to secure vast quantities of toilet paper to hoard, or perhaps just as often, to re-sell at profiteering prices.

Yet, it is not all bad. Pollution has taken a punch to the guts. The shutdown of much industry, and the commuting this requires for its workforce, has seen air quality improve dramatically. That’s something, isn’t it? And we now take our health services less for granted than before and the media, desperate for heroes in times of crisis, has fixed on them for praise, and not without good cause. However, the attendant danger is that we lose sight of the small acts of individual fortitude and perseverance that occur on every street. Carers, for example, whose burdensome task is rendered even tougher in this time of lockdown.

Society needs hope, and it is no wonder that the media look for those who can provide it. Personally, it is not an unwelcome feeling to be out of step with modern secular society. It can be hideously superficial and self-serving. Occasionally however, and quite unintentionally, it gets something right. One thing it seems to have got right is to eschew, for a time at least, the cult of celebrity.

Did you happen to see the video of 25 or so celebrities singing a montaged version of John Lennon’s Imagine? It is on Youtube and elsewhere; just Google it if you really want to see it.

My first reaction was: of all songs, Imagine?! Really? They chose that piece of vacuous sentimentalism? The only thing that could possibly convey hope is the line “And the world will be as one.” Yet the other lyrics…

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

It is the perfect encapsulation of atheistic secular consumerism. How on earth does this covey hope to ordinary people? However, it seems it conveys hope to our gilded celebrities.

So it was cheering to read a piece in the latest edition of The Week that the reaction to this video had been, well, violently underwhelming. It also identified something else that had taken its place: glorious one-hit wonders on social media. The piece focused on an article by Jemima Lewis in The Daily Telegraph:

Do you know what brings fame in the coronoavirus era? It’s coming up with a meme that makes people laugh…It’s normal people in messy kitchens in normal homes giving a bleakly funny account of our common predicament. The message behind the clips that have gone viral—the stressed home-schooling mum teaching maths by filling up her wine glass in factions; the toddler howling when told she’ll have to eat “Mummy’s cooking” now fast-food joints are shut—is that we’re all in the same boat. What a contrast between these “self-deprecating” memes and the tone-deaf, needy response of Hollywood celebrities. The “not male or female” singer Sam Smith posted footage of themself “weeping with ennui” in their £12m mansion (“I hate reading!”). A group of actors, led by Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, sang a mournful rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine from their mansions. The attention-starved celebrities just don’t realise that “the world doesn’t want them” right now.

These videos are doing the rounds, even on our deanery Whatsapp group. Tiktok is the favoured medium, usually the haunt of teenagers. But many of the Covid-19 meme-stars are not teenaged but middle-aged, and most of them are not seeking fame but an outlet. It can be gloriously enlightening to see someone else’s humorous take on the real little dramas of lockdown; and a revelation too. And if you think that The Daily Telegraph might not be an impartial gauge of the social pulse, well…just a quick Google search returns this:

At times like this, we know instinctively that these people are not suffering as most people are suffering. The thin veneer of their talent and its relevance is. exposed in times such as this.

And “imagine there’s no heaven…people living for today”? Tone deaf is fully accurate as a description. In the midst of a dire today, people want hope of a better tomorrow.

And no heaven?

Ireland, like many places, had witnessed a sharp decline in church attendance – but denominations across Ireland are reporting a sudden increase in participation, with people worshipping online instead of in the pew. Dr Arthur Cassidy, a psychologist, believes it is the fear of death that causes people to look towards the transcendent. Dr Arthur Cassidy said the fear of death was driving people to religion. He said: “A man said to me two days ago, I don’t know whether I’ll be dead by the weekend and he’s a perfectly healthy person. The more we hear about death and the immanency of death and the rising statistics, which are simply phenomenal, then people are beginning to question where will I be if I die?”

Skynews, 5 April 2020

O Mother Church—yet again, here is your moment. Now is the time for people to be reminded that there is a heaven, there is a hell, and that the value of today lies essentially in how we use it to prepare for the eternal tomorrow. Having locked our doors, we had better find another way quickly to meet society’s no doubt fleeting realisation that we will die, and that perhaps this will not be the end of things for them. The Church, this Holy Week especially, has something to tell them. For example, the youth might have the packaging, but we need to help them provide the substance.

Turn your volume down!

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  1. I’m in the camp of the average meme maker sharing their frustrations— they are my small bright shining moments of the day.
    Our daughter-n-law is a middle grades parochial school teacher who arrived 4 weeks ago with our two grandchildren ( both under two)— I watch them during the day so she can teach via the computer. Our son and their big black lab arrived Thursday since our governor has put our state on ‘lockdown’ and has stated the school year will finish on-line only.
    So possibly nearly two more months- all while our son now works from our guest bedroom.
    We are all tired.
    I prefer the average person’s attempt at humor because they are showcasing my own little plight in all this madness — not the poor celebrities who are bored and so they sing hopeless songs while dying their hair pink or pose nearly naked as they miss their ‘spotlight’—
    Nope, give me the real people any day who use humor to showcase our fears and frustrations- they help to keep us all relatively sane!!


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