This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Apparently, it’s also soundtracked by the doomsday warblings of very famous people singing “Imagine.”
Some are channeling the disruption to normalcy for good. Hilary Duff turning on her front-facing camera to yell at young fans who aren’t taking social distancing seriously? Yes! Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift shaming followers who are still hitting up the bars? We stan. Pink blessing my Instagram feed with a video of her at the piano singing “Make You Feel My Love,” just to put a little niceness out into the world. I could cry!
Then there’s Gal Gadot conning her movie star friends into crooning “Imagine,” then delivering the monstrosity to the world with a self-satisfied smile, as if it’s a gift as valuable as face masks and COVID-19 testing kits to hospitals that need them. The workforce has been brutalized, the economy is decimated, people are dying, and I’m, quite ironically, almost out of toilet paper. But here’s a little song!
The Wonder Woman star opens the video with a message. “This virus had affected the entire world, everyone, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, we’re all in this together,” she says, kicking off the singalong as the likes of Kristen Wiig, Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, Sarah Silverman, Will Ferrell, Zoe Kravitz, James Marsden, Pedro Pascal, Mark Ruffalo, and Maya Rudolph successively burp out little couplets.
The optics of it all. The pitchiness of it all. It is literally and metaphorically tone deaf. Celebrities, of all people, singing, “Imagine no possessions.” You can’t help but laugh!
I’ve tried several times to watch the video all the way through again as research, but I am physically unable to do it, typically tapping out right around Sia—though once I did make it all the way to Norah Jones singing wide-eyed in full-blown hostage panic.
To give the video credit, it has indeed united the world. We are one in hating it.
All things being fair, there is little opportunity for celebrities to use social media in these extremely weird times without exposing a little bit of obliviousness.
On the one hand, rich people preaching the power of social distancing from their mansions with massive yards, pools, wine cellars, screening rooms, tennis courts, and, I don’t know, like zoos or something in their backyards can ring a little hollow when staying home for many people means entire households trapped together in one-room apartments. On the other hand, at least they’re not Vanessa Hudgens shrugging about the fact that people are going to die because of this virus, “which is terrible, but, like inevitable?”
Even in isolation, celebrities are finding ways to get themselves canceled. You have to applaud.
To cleanse the palate of these bad takes and this (well-intentioned) star-studded cacophony, here are some of the nice things celebrities have done.
Perennial hero Laura Benanti started the hashtag #SunshineSongs, encouraging students whose high-school musicals were canceled because of the coronavirus to send her videos of themselves performing the songs, a heartwarming “show must go on” gesture that was replicated by Jennifer Garner, who launched the #heyjenlookatme hashtag on Instagram.
Amy Adams joined Instagram so she could join Garner and a slew of other celebrities, including Reese Witherspoon, Jimmy Fallon, and Kamala Harris, in reading aloud children’s books in support of Save the Children and No Kid Hungry.
Broadway personality Seth Rudetsky launched a daily live-streamed concert series with performances from a slew of Tony-winners and stage stars. Mariah Carey and her kids demonstrated hand-washing techniques while rapping along to one of her songs. Jojo belted out “Leave (Get Out)” with reworked lyrics about social distancing.
Miley Cyrus has begun hosting a live-streamed show about feel-good stories. John Legend, Chris Martin, and Keith Urban are among the artists who have staged mini concerts on Instagram. Lizzo hosted a live meditation. Even Real Housewives of New York City star Dorinda Medley led a “Do-robics” workout session on Instagram live.
And if you really want to make your heart flutter—and who among us couldn’t use that right now—I encourage you to watch this short video of Dame Judi Dench wearing a floppy-eared dog hat urging people to “just keep laughing.”
When you’re done with that, feel free to get a little emotional as Glenn Close sends “thoughts of courage and love and resilience and kindness and empathy” as she contemplates the need to rediscover the beauty of community. Nothing but respect for my Wonder Woman.