Over this extended spring break, I had to digest some burdensome news. Classes were going to be online-only, upcoming concerts were canceled and I was furloughed from my restaurant job. To do my part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, I stayed inside my College Park apartment, mainly relying on social media to keep myself occupied.
I’d grown weary of the constant breaking news hitting my Twitter timeline and phone notifications. Even content unrelated to the pandemic couldn’t distract me from the fact that I was unemployed for the unforeseeable future. The bleak reality of quarantine was starting to settle in.
But then, I found refuge. It came in the form of a three-minute video on IGTV, led by Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot. Gadot was joined by the likes of Natalie Portman, Jimmy Fallon, Sia, Will Ferrell and more in a cellphone camera rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
The video is simple, cutting to a different person singing a line in their respective home quarantine spots. I applaud this montage. All my anxieties faded away as I heard this a cappella rendition. To paraphrase Gadot’s caption, we truly are all in this together!
I’m sure this is the reaction to this video these celebrities were hoping for. It certainly did to an extent, reaching over 1.5 million likes on Instagram as of Wednesday. But, unfortunately, I felt differently. This “Imagine” singalong is a perfect example of performative charity.
The video has the same energy as the 1985 humanitarian hit “We Are the World.” Both videos include huge names in the entertainment industry, bringing attention to an important cause and singing a song together. But Gadot’s video is lacking the part that matters the most — actual aid.
Sales for “We Are the World” raised over $60 million to help those affected by famine in Africa. All I got from Gadot’s singalong was #WeAreOne.
I get where these celebrities were coming from with this video. We’re in uncharted territory with this pandemic, and social isolation is lonely. Acts of unity and kindness are a way to persevere.
But the “Imagine” video fails to help those hurt the most by this virus. I can’t imagine it eased the worries of the unemployed who have family to support. Or those who are immunocompromised and scared. And celebrities certainly have the wealth and platform to be more proactive.
My criticism of those who participated in Gadot’s video is fueled by the many celebrities that have stepped up during this crisis. Former reality TV star Bethenny Frankel’s foundation, BStrong, is working with the Global Empowerment Mission to provide much-needed medical supplies to people and hospitals nationwide.
The Clara Lionel Foundation, founded by Rihanna, donated $5 million in a widespread effort to combat the coronavirus. These funds cover food banks for at-risk communities in the U.S., medical equipment like ventilators and boosting testing in countries such as Haiti and Malawi.
Fame and fortune aside, I understand these are scary times for everyone. I know yelling at rich people to use their wealth for something important can only go so far.
The bare minimum is using their colossal fanbases to their advantage. Shedding light on an organization working through this pandemic could inspire those who are able to help, and sharing news about the virus from reputable sources could curb misinformation.
Celebrities should take note from Britney Spears’ recent Instagram posts. The queen of pop shared a quote from writer Mimi Zhu calling for a redistribution of wealth and a general strike. In a brief video two posts later, Spears said “During this time of quarantine I hope you all are being strong and lifting each other up. My prayer is with you.”
In a simple call for people to lift each other up, Spears galvanized her 23.7 million Instagram followers to practice the virtues of communism. Her post of Zhu’s words took more of a stand than the “Imagine” video. Gadot’s gratuitous plea to “sing with us” was self-serving.