We’re too worried about contagion, lost income and feral gangs to watch millionaires singing Imagine in mansions. Aren’t we?
Joel Golby – The Guardian
Gal Gadot and other self-isolating celebrities uploaded a video of them all singing snippets of John Lennon’s Imagine. Photograph: Matt Winkelmeyer/VF20/WireImage
You might think, in a time of global panic like this one, the movements and behaviours of the rich and the famous are rendered dizzyingly irrelevant, candy floss-light non-news designed to distract us from The Great Looming Bug. You’d be right. In many ways, the face of fame is destined to change after all this has blown over: many people we consider famous now, at the start of all this, will no longer be famous when it is done. This is because the machinery that makes them famous – the movies, the reality shows, the album productions, the photoshoots – will cease production for months, and the great unseen currency in which the famous trade – relevance – will fade alongside it. Like, do we really need “Florence Pugh” as much as we’ve been pretending we do this last year? Coronavirus will be that acid test.
But even when the concept of celebrity ceases being a social function – you can’t be famous in the wastelands, can you? You can’t “I have 5.5 million Instagram followers” your way out of a feral gang beheading – I ask you this: knowing you live on a planet where Jared Leto is out there, existing … do you not think you will be fundamentally curious as to what he is up to? Just to keep track of his movements to ensure he doesn’t tiptoe too close to you, if anything. You want to know what Jared Leto is up to. As long as Jared Leto exists, we simply must know what he is up to. This is the true nature of fame. Leto is a creature so distant, so baffling, we simply must gaze at him in wonder. In any other timeline – alternate universes shoot off into the infinite where this is broadly true – we would keep him in a bulletproof tank inside a zoo, and pay tickets to go and look at him.
Anyway Jared Leto news now, andLeto somehow managed to miss the coronavirus news (if you have also somehow missed it, may I gesture at the broad sense of eerie silence loaded with the potential of chaos that surrounds you right now, and maybe suggest you get the Guardian app and turn push notifications “on”), and he managed to do so in the most Jared Leto way possible: by being on a silent meditation retreat in the desert. No joke can I write, following that. No point trying. Leto has out-Leto’d Leto. There is no cherry to put atop that sundae. He missed the coronavirus news because he was “thinking”.
“Wow,” Leto tweeted this week. “12 days ago I began a silent meditation in the desert. We were totally isolated. No phone, no communication etc. We had no idea what was happening outside the facility.” He added: “Walked out yesterday into a very different world. One that’s been changed for ever. Mind blowing – to say the least. I’m getting messages from friends and family all around the globe and catching up on what’s going on.” And then – in one of the most astounding “famous people” moves I think we’ve seen in 2020 – Leto, a man who may I remind you learned about coronavirus about 15 minutes ago and is still getting days-old text messages coming through that just say “bro did u die????” – tweeted some bland coronavirus advice, saying: “Hope you and yours are ok. Sending positive energy to all. Stay inside. Stay safe.” Mate, I’ve been staying inside, because I’ve known about coronavirus! Don’t you dare step out of the desert after not talking for 12 days and tell me what to do!
I’ve been fascinated by Leto for a long time, because everything he does is shrouded in this inescapable, granular Leto-ness, possibly more than any other celebrity alive. The best Leto story – before “somehow missing coronavirus because he was so lost in his own thoughts” – was the filming of Chapter 27, where he spent two months packing on 67lb (almost five stone) to play John Lennon’s killer, Mark Chapman, a feat he managed by guzzling microwaved pints of ice cream mixed with olive oil and soy sauce. He put on so much weight for the role that he developed gout and struggled to walk to set every day. Such dedication to a part, you would think, might garner an Oscar nod, or a blockbuster opening weekend, but no: the film opened to generally poor reviews and ultimately grossed less than $200k. The lesson we must learn from this is: if you’re going to put on so much weight for a role that you Henry VIII yourself, it’s broadly advisable to do it for a decent script. It’s arguable that Ben & Jerry’s did better out of that film than the distributor did. Maybe that’s what he was thinking about in the desert. I know I’d never stop thinking about that, even for one quiet second of my life.
What we need in this time is sources of simple joy, and while some celebrities have stepped up to the plate – I’m looking at you, Robbie Williams, who this week hosted an Instagram Live from his hotel room, resplendently topless, laptop steaming on his duvet, playing his own songs from YouTube, advert pre-roll and all, singing along to them direct to camera, giving his fans an utterly bonkers intimate dream concert because he was isolated from his wife and children, and if his knighthood isn’t assured by that alone then I suggest we storm the castle – some very much have not, and yes obviously I am talking about Gal Gadot.
On Instagram, Gadot – along with a number of other self-isolating celebrities, including Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Jamie Dornan, Sia, Zoe Kravitz, Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, Mark Ruffalo, Norah Jones, Jimmy Fallon and Cara Delevingne – uploaded a video of them all singing snippets of John Lennon’s Imagine. There they are, in various gardens and against various blank mansion walls, and in various of those special calamitously bad outfits celebrities wear in the downtime moments when they are not being styled, and we realise how fundamentally useless they all are without help, that they can’t even get dressed properly, and that, truly, a lot of them really are lucky that they’re hot. “We are in this together, we will get through it together,” Gadot wrote. “Let’s imagine together. Sing with us.” I have to preface this statement with: it’s very nice that they all tried. The sentiment behind it is sincere. But the video itself is the worst thing I’ve ever seen on the internet, and I’ve seen corpses on this thing.
Firstly: why do celebrities think them singing a song, badly, is helpful? Do we still blame Band Aid for this? Can Bob Geldof saying “give us your fucking money!” really have had this much of a lasting, shockwave impact on popular culture? And secondly: it’s already getting A Bit Bloody Rich having celebrities cloyingly telling us how important self-isolation is from their labyrinthine, exquisite, sunny Hollywood mansions, is it not? I enjoyed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s at-home-with-the-ponies videos as much as anyone, but I don’t have a pony, or a house really, so it’s tougher for me to relate. It’s all well and good for famous people to stay at home where they have a room “just for clothes” and a swimming pool in their garden, but slightly trickier for the rest of us, worrying about income, grocery levels, having to weapon up to go to Aldi, and whether that ominous cough our housemate seems to have got will somehow, distantly, kill our nan. But yeah please sing more tepid Lennon songs very badly. That’s very helpful, Gal Gadot, and I’m glad you spent the time to do it.