Celebrity culture is what entertainment in society has thrived on for centuries. Whether it be a movie star, Grammy-winning artist, or more recently, social media influencer, masses from across the world come together to idolize these stars. We get wrapped up in reality shows like “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” where we can dream of what it’s like to live such a lavish life. It is obvious that pop culture wouldn’t exist without celebrities, given that the entertainment industry is one of the greatest distractions from the harsh realities of real life. But, as we’ve learned over the past year, even celebrities can’t escape the wrath of COVID-19.
When the pandemic shut down the country back in March, the world as we knew it crumbled to pieces. The entertainment industry was treated no differently with the cancellation of every concert, premiere and film set that had been planned for 2020. Celebrities were left on a whim without any events to attend, paparazzi to avoid or brands to promote. This presented the perfect opportunity for these stars to prove their authenticity, considering they were stuck in their homes like the rest of the country. But instead, more than a dozen A-list celebs landed themselves in a self-dug hole that would unknowingly set fire to the celebrity culture society once relied so heavily upon.
One of the most memorable moments of the celebrity quarantine disasters was Gal Gadot’s rendition of “Imagine” by John Lennon. The cover was made up of a compilation showcasing numerous celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon, Sia and Sarah Paulson singing their own section of the song, each clip coming together to inspire audiences with the powerful words of peace. Or that seemed to be the intention, anyway.
What ended up happening is an eruption of laughter and judgment from just about anyone who viewed it. Each and every celebrity who participated in the collab was immediately shamed for their tone-deaf actions. A heartwarming song cover intended to lift the spirits of audiences around the world only proved how out of touch celebrities are when it comes to real-life issues. The oblivious efforts quickly turned society against the various stars attempting to stay relevant amidst quarantine.
On top of allegations claiming the poor treatment of her show crew, Ellen DeGeneres also sparked major controversy over the temporary lockdown by commenting during a video how being in quarantine in her California mansion felt “like being in jail.” This sparked mass upset across audiences but didn’t stop when it came to the talk show host. Many other celebrities fell into the same issues when posting on social media. Stars like Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Reynolds failed to recognize their privilege of being stuck in million-dollar homes while encouraging the rest of the world to work together to flatten the curve. Twitter users flamed John Legend when he posted a link for donations, turning it back on him to donate his millions to the charity instead of asking fans. Priyanka Chopra’s Instagram videos of clapping for essential workers on her luxury balcony earned her the same criticism as the rest.
In combination, these moments of chaos have led us to question where celebrity culture stands months later. Aside from the pandemic, classic celebrity culture was already becoming second best to influencer culture. While fans were once content with watching their favorite star’s movies and maybe an interview, fanbases today now feed on authentic interaction. Social media like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have allowed fans to see their idols in their genuine human form, and even have comments responded to if they’re lucky. But specifically with the rise of TikTok, Gen Z has taken a larger liking to the candid style of relatable influencer culture.
Growing up in the age of the internet, Gen Z is able to see through the typical celebrity PR stunt like it’s nothing. Oftentimes, classic celebrities in the entertainment world feel out of reach, a dynamic that fails to keep fans satisfied in an online environment. This dissatisfaction has adapted celebrity culture into a new form: influencer culture. Influencers are essentially social media content creators, whether it be YouTube videos, Instagram pictures or TikToks. These influencers often start from nothing, just like the rest of the world, giving general audiences the hope and inspiration that they too could become “famous.” Tik Tok flourishes with that tiny bit of hope, leaving anyone with the opportunity to go viral themselves.
Celebrity culture has diminished because of the idea that anyone can be in the spotlight by chance when posting on social media for everyone to see, leaving A-list stars at a loss when trying to stay relevant. When it comes to the entertainment world, there will always be people to idolize in order to keep pop culture flowing. But, with the downfall of celebrity reputation across the 2020 pandemic, we’re not sure the typical celeb culture we know will make it out alive.