Pop Culture

One Habit Worth Leaving in 2020? Idolizing Celebrities

The end of a year is a time of reflection. It’s an opportunity to assess what behaviours, habits and hobbies we want to take into the new year, and which of those we want to leave behind. And one habit that we’d suggest leaving firmly in 2020? Idolizing celebrities. Because if anything, 2020 has proven that they’re a big frickin’ disappointment—especially when it comes to their behaviour during the pandemic.

On December 12, just hours before her much-anticipated Verzuz battle with Keyshia Cole, singer Ashanti announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19. “Hey y’all I can’t believe I’m saying this but I tested positive for COVID-19,” the singer shared in an Instagram post. “I’m ok and not in any pain. I’m actually down to do the verzuz from my house…we’re trying to figure it all out!!!”

While this was no doubt scary news for the singer, as many people online pointed out, Ashanti shouldn’t have been in that much disbelief at her recent diagnosis, considering the singer has been travelling *extensively* during the pandemic, frequently posting photos of herself boarding private jets with groups of people and most recently posting photos from a trip to Antigua in late October.

While it’s entirely her prerogative to travel internationally throughout the pandemic, it does go against guidelines across Canada and the United States urging people to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. So travelling for shits and giggles—not to mention posting about your vacations so publicly—is pretty irresponsible.

Ashanti’s positive test result came the same weekend that the Kardashian family shared some similarly disappointing content on *their* social media channels, with members of the famous family like Kylie, Kendall, Kim, Kourtney and Scott Disick sharing videos of what looked to be a small party at one of their homes. (It’s worth mentioning that Disick has been spotted out on the town with several models and at parties over the past few weeks, meaning his bubble is…not a bubble.) The videos–which featured the family drinking and playing around with friends like singer Rosalía and Addison Rae—came just days after Khloé Kardashian tweeted that they would not be holding their annual Christmas party for the first time since 1978. (Of course, this announcement came after the family has held *several* big parties during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Kendall Jenner’s Halloween birthday party, which had a “no social media” rule—i.e. she knew it was reckless.)

And seriously? Can celebrities just stop being irresponsible? Or actually, maybe the issue is that fans need to stop idolizing—and expecting anything from—them. Because they’re bound to disappoint us.

The pandemic has made it clearer than ever that celebs are *super* out of touch

As much as they may try to say otherwise, the pandemic has shown us that celebrities are really nothing like us. Since much of the world went into quarantine in March of this year, stars have proven that they actually have no idea what’s going on with regular people, repeatedly highlighting their privilege and ignorance with ill-timed and out-of-touch responses to the pandemic and its effects on people who aren’t a member of the Hollywood elite. In March, actor Vanessa Hudgens kicked off the “celebs just not getting it” trend when she took to Instagram Stories to comment on the virus and her mere *days* of social distancing at home, telling her fans on video of the lockdown potentially going on until July of 2020: “Um, yeah. Till July sounds like a bunch of bullshit, I’m sorry. It’s a virus, I get it, I respect it, but at the same time…even if everybody gets it, yeah…people are gonna die, which is terrible but inevitable.”

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As many people online pointed out at the time, the comments were incredibly inconsiderate and flippant, considering the number of people who had—even by that point—been affected by COVID-19, financially, physically and mentally. Because you know, people were and have continued to die due to the virus, not to mention lose their jobs and struggle emotionally. Hudgens’s biggest qualm with the virus at the time? The fact that Coachella 2020 was cancelled.

And just days later, several other celebs hopped on the disconnected from reality train (driven by Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot), when they decided that what the world really needed at that moment in time was a celebrity sing-along to John Lennon’s “Imagine.” As you can imagine, the video—which featured stars like Gadot, Mark Ruffalo, Kristin Wiig and Zoë Kravitz singing along to the iconic song—didn’t go over well. Because no, the last thing anyone needed was a video of Hollywood celebrities earnestly crooning from their McMansions in Beverly Hills. What was *actually* needed, as FLARE pointed out shortly after the video went viral, were more resources, access to testing and ways to help people with their mental health during social distancing.

And finally, on December 6, rapper Cardi B rounded out a year of tone-deaf moments by tweeting out—in a year that has led to millions of job losses—her inner struggle over whether or not to purchase an $88,000 purse. (Yep, you read that correctly.)

Oh, not to mention the fact that Madonna called COVID-19 “the great equalizer,” which is a rich comment from someone who has been able to sit out the pandemic in their palatial home without fear of job insecurity. And on top of that, we have the Kardashian family and celebs like Rita Ora, who broke London’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in November to celebrate her 30th birthday. Out of touch is an understatement.

Many celebrities have made it clear that they don’t even care

And what’s even worse than the fact that celebrities are so out of touch? The fact that, frankly, they don’t really seem to care. Despite the fact that the Kardashian-Jenner family has faced backlash every time they’ve posted something exemplifying their outrageous privilege and ability to flagrantly eschew safety protocols during this pandemic (see: Kim’s 40th birthday party on a private island, Kendall’s huge Halloween birthday party and Kylie’s continuous partying throughout the pandemic), they continue to ignore the rules and blatantly post about it. Which is not only inconsiderate, considering the state of the world right now, but also incredibly hypocritical.

Because advising your fans to social distance from their families under the guise of being a role model for your fans to follow and then blatantly disregarding the very advice you’re extolling? Hypocritical to the max. But then to not only be hypocritical in private, but post about it so everyone knows you’re not following your own rules? Yeah, that’s pretty much a slap in the face because you’re saying that these rules don’t apply to or affect you because of your status.

Read this next: What Is the Real Message Behind Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” Video?

Which to be fair, isn’t surprising

Let’s be honest, the fact that celebs aren’t following through on the guidelines they’re telling us to follow shouldn’t be that surprising. Because it’s not like all celebrities really want to be role models to their fans. And they’ve said as much. Many celebs have had a tenuous relationship with being perceived as role models and idols, with some speaking openly about the precarious role they inhabit as someone who’s inherently placed on a pedestal and expected to act a certain way, whether or not that’s the role they want. Rihanna has talked openly about *not* wanting to be a role model for her young fans. In 2011, the singer told British Vogue: “See, people… they want me to be a role model just because of the life I lead. The things I say in my songs, they expect it of me, and [being a role model] became more of my job than I wanted it to be. But no, I just want to make music. That’s it.”

And it’s true. It’s an unfair fact that if you’re a celebrity in the public eye, you’re probably going to be held to an impossible standard of perfection. And while debates over whether or not this is the price of fame rage on, the fact remains that we’re in the middle of a global health crisis unlike anything the world has endured since, oh, 1918. All bets are off.

Whether or not you signed on to become a role model during Normal Times, when you’re a public figure during a time of deep uncertainty and fear, there is an inherent responsibility to model good and *safe* behaviour. Because people’s lives are on the line and fans *are* looking up to you, for both comfort and as an indication that their favourite celebs actually care—about the world and people, their fans among them, around them.

When celebrities advise people to do one thing and then post about doing the opposite it makes clear that A) said celebrities don’t really care, and B) the belief we have in celebs, and the power of our support behind them, is too much. The reason Kim Kardashian West and co. continue to flout the rules and act like they don’t apply to them is because they know that no matter *what* they do, fans will inevitably continue to support them financially. If their own actions were an *actual* threat to their livelihood, they’d stop. Don’t you think? Something to consider next time you hit “add to cart” on another lip kit of Skims set.

Read this next: All the Times the Kardashian’s Have Been Problematic

But then, what’s even the point of following them?

It’s a frustrating realization because it’s almost impossible to expect that, after creating a celebrity industrial complex, we’ll be able to—or even want to—tear it all down. It’s not as easy as cutting off our support of celebrities in a way that’ll effectively impact their bottom line (look at the temporary downfall and resurrection of Canada’s own Jessica Mulroney as an example of the limitations of cancel culture). But the actions of our problematic faves this year has made it more apparent than ever that something we can do is shift our perception of these famous people, and the expectations that we put on them. It’s something we can and probably should do.

Something else we should definitely do? Reframe who we perceive as idols worthy of our admiration. Throughout the pandemic, many people also realized that while we may get a lot from these celebrities by way of aspiration and entertainment (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), there are other people who deserve to be lauded for actual, tangible work. Like frontline workers. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that celebrities and star politicians aren’t the essential workers we may have once thought they were. It’s the people on the ground, in jobs that are often overlooked, who are vital.

We’re not saying “Let them eat cake” to celebrities or calling for the rich and famous to be overthrown. But perhaps, going into 2021, now’s a great time to think about why we admire the Hollywood elite. And to the Kardashian clan specifically: 2021’s also a great time to consider wearing a mask—and to stop throwing parties.