The End of Celebrity

In our old life celebrities brought with them intrigue, a glimpse to a better life, tossed with a little envy and a departure from day to day reality. It was fun while it lasted but this pandemic has shown their true colours — well, everyone’s true colours really. 

I’m as guilty as the next guy in my worship of celebrity. I’m a Bruce Springsteen fan, follow my favourite actors and athletes, I’ve lined up to get autographs, concert tickets and have had my photo taken with some of my heroes (well, not Springsteen…yet). But something has changed in the social media era. Celebrity has become an occupation not something that is a by-product of the thing they excel at. It is now a vocation.

Our heroes used to accomplish feats — top of the charts, on the big screen or on the field — and celebrity would follow as a result. They were known for hits and homeruns, goals, their legendary live performances. They did the reps. They played their local fairs. Even the Beatles played 10,000 hours at dive bars before they had a glimpse of success. They did their “time” and they earned our respect and admiration.

Celebrities were never business people either. Bill Gates was the least charismatic CEO when he started and ran Microsoft. Jeff Bezos is secretive and certainly, for most of his life at Amazon, stayed low key. The most gregarious of the admired leaders may have been Richard Branson who used stunts to draw attention to his brands. Even Mark Zuckerberg made being awkward an art! Most business leaders were relegated to business magazines and book indexes.

Not so anymore. Social media and the fact that everyone has a desire to have their voice heard (including, er, me…here…I guess) means we will hear those voices and in times like this we tend to look to them for guidance and reassurance. But why? They are celebrities and most are wholly and completely unqualified to give advice so they do what they’ve always done. Stand in front of a needing audience to use their celebrity to…beg?

In the old world, celebrities lent their name and their brand to help elevate causes. I didn’t see anything wrong with that but perhaps I was naive. We would see concerts raising money for the  drought-stricken Africa or the plight of the farmer and think “they get it. They are helping.” We stood up to cancer and appreciated the awareness that celebrity brought to the cause. We donated mightily and the celebrity had a hand in that simply by being there and I felt deep appreciation for their time to help such a noble cause.
Then the pandemic hit and those same celebrities, standing in front of me on my screen are doing the same thing yet I feel disgusted watching them.

What changed?

The folks asking me to dig into my wallet and donate for relief during this terrible economic time are the top 1% in terms of net worth and wealth on the PLANET and they are asking me to reach into my limited pool of funds, pull out dollars and donate? Everyone of the other 99% of the world’s population has been affected by what is going on or will be soon and they, the ultra rich, sitting in their 10,000 square foot homes with stocked pantries are asking US to give? How did this happen.

There are celebrities that have always used their power and coercion for good. Pink of all people has donated millions to causes throughout her career and has done so again here. There are more out there and we should focus our admiration on them because of their character. Bill Gates has made a life after Microsoft and will be remembered as the greatest philanthropist in human history and is doing it again around the pandemic. Jack Dorsey has donated $1 billion to this fight. These are the people that we should be looking to, not as celebrities, but as responsible humans doing what humans should be doing. Helping because they CAN help and SHOULD help.

I don’t need to see Elton John sitting safely in his mansion chatting with other celebrities about how sad the world is. I don’t think the Queen of England is suffering being in isolation in her castle. We don’t need to see Arod and JLo sunning by their pool telling us to stay home. Shut up and contribute back to society what we have all given you. Donate. Spend some of that money they we’ve all contributed to your castles and pools to help the people who need it the most. The world doesn’t need a tour of your pantries, the world needs you, the rich, to step up and help balance the imbalanced. Right now.

Free online concerts are great fun and they probably hit the artists with a little bit of nostalgia but we know we have to stay in place, we know we have to protect our loved ones, we know the world is wounded right now. What I don’t understand is why these same celebrities aren’t doing what is right by their fans. Contribute, donate, make a difference to the humans of earth by being humane. 

In the old world, celebrities could be vapid and just be celebrities as a profession. Coming into the new world, we are taking names and notes of those that contribute their names but not some notes and those which are showing their true character above all else.

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