Kim Kardashian has lashed out at Taylor Swift, or Taylor Swift has lashed out at Kim Kardashian, but most of all, both lashed out at all of us for constantly devouring their drama.
Kardashian volleyed a bunch of tweets last night, admonishing Swift for apparently re-invigorating their briefly dead feud and then disavowing the feud on the whole. She finished, "This will be the last time I speak on this because honestly, nobody cares. Sorry to bore you all with this. I know you are all dealing with more serious and important matters."
Swift also responded negatively to the feud's resurfacing. "Instead of answering those who are asking how I feel about the video footage that leaked, proving that I was telling the truth the whole time about *that call* (you know, the one that was illegally recorded, that somebody edited and manipulated in order to frame me and put me, my family, and fans through hell for 4 years)… SWIPE up to see what really matters," she posted on Instagram. When fans swiped, they were taken to a donation page for the nonprofit Feeding America and the World Health Organization's Solidarity Response Fund.
The mind-numbing stupidity of the Taylor Swift-Kim Kardashian-Kanye West feud feels even more obvious in the light of the fact that we're living in a pandemic. Are we entering the age of the post-celebrity feud?
Everywhere, celebrities and ordinary people are expressing rage and anger at those who attempt to continue with business at usual. People who cluster on the street and hang out in parks are the recipient of angry yells from the balcony-bound self-quarantined. Those with any inclination towards the mystic are writing about how the world must change after coronavirus passes—how we cannot return to the way things were, to the way we mindlessly destroyed the planet and hurt each other, thus somehow cursing ourselves into isolation. Humans are the virus, they write; to which the activists respond, capitalism is the virus, while people facing unemployment attempt to vie for a rent freeze.
Even ordinary acts of "kindness"—of the sort we would normally associate with celebrity benevolence—are beginning to appear woefully out of touch. In essence, Hollywood's version of prepackaged, performative kindness and drama seems to be failing to placate the masses. Instead, it only serves to show that the main difference between these folks and regular people isn't necessarily hard work or talent—it's money.
Ellen's versions of "tolerance" and "kindness" were under scrutiny before the virus, but now that she's live-streaming from her couch and complaining about boredom from within her massive home, a thread about her cruel behavior has gone viral.
Madonna also faced vitriol when she made a poorly crafted attempt to comfort her fans from the safety of her bathtub. "Coronavirus is the great equalizer," she said, equating her own living situation—in a flower-filled bathtub, safe within one of her multiple large homes—with the plight of people who have no way of paying this month's rent. (She faced so much backlash that she deleted the video).
And then there's Gal Gadot's "Imagine" video, a horror that seemed to seep out of the wounds coronavirus has already made in our world and ways of life. What was the worst thing about that video? Was it Gadot's waffling intro? Was it seeing our beloved celebrities, without their stage makeup and lighting and cameramen to turn them into gods—was it seeing our celebrities' mortality and feeling some inordinate rage that we've worshiped them for so long while they were really just ordinary people? Was it the look in their eyes, the tepid sorrow overshadowed by a glossy egoism, the same look in the eyes of everyone who has taken a photograph with a child on a service trip? Was it the different keys, the lack of background music, the carelessness of the whole thing?
The "Imagine" video was awful, certainly, but would we have hated it so much if it were well-made, a professional music video with excellent harmonies and good lighting and dazzling costumes? Maybe the disappointment we feel while watching the "Imagine" fiasco stems from a feeling of falling, a realization that the person behind the curtain has always been just an ordinary man, and yet these mortals are languishing in massive air-conditioned homes while so many people sleep on the streets.
Some of the celebrity responses to coronavirus are not just disillusioned; they're truly dangerous. Vanessa Hudgens also provoked ire when she posted a video showing just how much she cared about those who might be affected by the virus. "Even if everybody gets it, like yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible... but inevitable?" she intoned in a video she later apologized for. Worse still, Evangelline Lilly is crusading against quarantining herself on the basis of some idea that it's a violation of her American-born "freedom."
And then there's Donald Trump, the reigning king of the celebrity illusionists. Everything he says sounds as painful and as hollow as the "Imagine" video to some of our ears. Recently, a man died because he tried drinking chloroquine phosphate, a fish tank-cleaner, per Trump's ill-advised recommendation. Trump has been persistently spreading false information, promising that America will be up and running by Easter as other nations tighten their regulations.
Most of the guiltiest illusionists of all aren't even visible. They're the Wall Street executives and the genuinely super-rich—not the Hollywood-level rich but the Jeff Bezos-level rich, those who possess a literally unfathomable amount of money—the ones who have already raced off to their bunkers, the ones who bought stocks at the start of the crisis instead of raising the alarm.
Collectively, maybe we're all getting tired of these folks, parading their gaudy lifestyles and tapping out their stocks, getting early access to tests while our healthcare workers can't even access tests in their own hospitals. Illusions just aren't going to cut it the way they used to. That's not to say they won't change form; certainly our new very-online lives will leave plenty of room for performance and fabrication. Still, the coronavirus feels like it's peeling back many layers of performative benevolence to reveal the insubstantiality at the heart of it all—the wealth inequality and pure selfishness that's allowing this crisis to sputter on into the disruptive mess it's become. Even Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, and Britney Spears are waking up to it. Are you?