With all the crisis the coronavirus is causing on land, billionaires and millionaires are fleeing to their chartered superyachts in droves. Some are wisely choosing to keep that to themselves, but David Geffen is not among them. At a time when inequity and inequality are absurdly apparent, the billionaire has been Instagramming up a storm about how he’s currently self-isolating aboard his very own $590-million yacht. “I’m hoping everybody is staying safe,” he captioned one image of the enormous vessel, which has played host to Oprah Winfrey and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Outrage immediately ensued, and eventually, Geffen made his account private. Presumably upon realizing that his 837,000-plus followers could still leave comments like “#guillotine2020,” he did away with his Instagram account entirely. (Surprisingly, the studio executive has yet to do any damage control in the form of loud, public donations.)
Geffen might be the most egregious example, but well-meaning millionaires have unfortunately been making similar mistakes. Like Geffen, many have shared glimpses at their own places of shelter—most of which eerily resemble the home in Parasite. The dissonance between the relatable captions (like “my life for the next however long”) and the imagery (an enormous private basketball court) is extraordinarily hard to miss.
Now, more than ever, we need distraction. And some non virus-related mainstays like thirst traps and (non face mask) selfies remain welcome, if not perfectly harmless. Alas, there seems to be some sort of gravitational pull for celebrities to go a step further and get topical. “We are in this together,” Gal Gadot informed her tens of millions of Instagram followers when she shared that infamous “Imagine” video. Vanessa Hudgens, meantime, eventually realized she’d messed up when she wondered aloud on Instagram Live, “Even if everybody gets it, like yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible…but inevitable?”
Celebrities have not ceased in tirelessly self-promoting. Often, it’s mutually beneficial; there are never too many streaming and listening suggestions in the era of social distancing. But hawking, say, an item that’s completely unnecessary even in normal times, complete with your name stamped on it? Not so much.
At least some are making an effort to get creative, rather than posting straight-up sponcon. Especially when the content in question is an item you won’t get to use or show off for months, if not more than a year.
Some celebrities have had the good grace to realize that they can help raise money for non-celebrities, instead of asking non-celebrities to do so themselves. Unfortunately, one such well-meaning effort led to the creation of the cursed phrase “coronavirus merch.”
At least at the end of the day, we’re all equal, right? Allow two of the world’s richest men to assure you as much. On the flip side, some believe that equality is a new thing for society. Coronavirus, you see, is “the great equalizer.” As Madonna now infamously put it from her rose petal-filled bathtub: “It doesn’t care about how rich you are, how famous you are, how funny you are, how smart you are, where you live, how old you are, what amazing stories you can tell … what’s terrible about it is what’s great about it.” (That post has since been deleted.)
Regardless of whether or not you think we all see eye to eye, or how well-meaning you truly may be, now’s probably not the best time to ask your majority plebeian followers to judge their own moral character.