Wells: What’s an example? The last celebrity news I heard about was Tom Hanks getting coronavirus.
Giorgis: You’ve missed a lot of Instagram dispatches.
Kornhaber: You know about the pillow challenge? That’s where hot, famous people take off their clothes and wear a pillow as if it’s a dress, and they post a picture. I don’t know what the fashion term is for the kind of dress it looks like, but it’s very chic.
James Hamblin: Is it like the “Ice Bucket Challenge” benefiting coronavirus relief?
Kornhaber: My understanding is it’s not a charity thing; it’s just a fun thing to do. It’s mostly a way to show off your shoulders. There have been other things like that with, for example, hot male actors doing this handstand challenge where they do a handstand, and they put on a shirt during the handstand somehow, and that’s it.
Giorgis: There’s been a lot of bathtub content. Madonna was in the bath talking about how this moment could be the great equalizer, which is a horrifying thing to say, given everything we know about the statistics.
Wells: Was she imagining that we’d all somehow all get really nice bathtubs out of this?
Giorgis: I think the idea is that human beings, in theory, are all susceptible to a virus, and so therefore, we are all scared, and that’s an equalizer. Sia posted a graphic that said “VIRUS” in all caps, but the V-I-R was crossed out, so it just said “US.” A lot of really trite stuff like that.
Hamblin: Do you think we will get to a point where people stop finding it entertaining and start being angry about stuff like that?
Giorgis: I think we’re already there in some ways. Ellen DeGeneres, in her first at-home special, was sitting in her palatial mansion and joked that quarantine feels like being in jail. And the end of the joke was: “Because everybody here is gay, and I haven’t changed my shirt in 10 days,” or something like that. People were really upset, and they responded by taking her to task for making a comparison to incarceration, especially at this moment when we’re seeing the virus spread intensely and become unmanageable in jails and prisons across the country.
Kornhaber: I actually think that when we first went on lockdown is when celebrities seemed the most obscene. That first couple of weeks when everyone was having this traumatized feeling, there would be these smiling, pretty people on your Instagram talking about how difficult the situation is from their beautiful backyard or in front of some giant window wall that celebrities always have. There was a lot of backlash in that moment. That was the moment when the actress Gal Gadot got together a bunch of friends to sing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” And it was just horrendous.
Wells: What was horrendous about it?
Kornhaber: Well, it sounded horrendous; none of these people were in tune. And it was edited in this really janky way, where everyone was coming from a different angle. It became immediately clear that these people who we’ve elevated, without producers or editors or the whole Hollywood apparatus, actually don’t have a lot of skills or polish or ability to present themselves in an attractive manner. That was a little revolting.