On Sunday night, celebrities lined the red carpet in Beverly Hills for the 2021 Golden Globes show.
Pictures of celebrities in designer gowns, working with their makeup teams and hugging at the event flooded social media. At first glance, it seemed like a breath of fresh air, a signal of a return back to normal. But these pictures illustrate the stark contrast between the world of the elite during COVID and that of the average American.
Rules for Me, Rules for You
Held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, the event was smack in the middle of the harshest lockdown in the U.S. Californians, especially the residents of the state’s most populous county, have been on a rigid lockdown since before Christmas. Lockdown rules in Los Angeles County are among the strictest in the nation. Yet, celebrities posted photos of themselves without masks, embracing onstage, and even working with their makeup team without masks on.
Considering that LA county residents can be fined anywhere from $100 to $2,000 for not wearing a mask outside (let alone inside a building, while hugging people outside their household), the blatant disregard for state and local health guidelines is startling. Especially when these are the same people who, for the last year, have been starring in campaigns promoting social distancing, mask-wearing, and virtually every other heavy-handed lockdown measure we’ve seen in the last year.
While celebrities are hugging and congratulating each other onstage, Los Angeles residents have not been able to eat indoors since July 2020. Outdoor dining was only allowed to resume on January 29, having been closed down since December. Masks are required inside businesses at all times, and even while outdoors. Violators are subject to fines that range according to the individual city’s guidelines. Movie theaters, bowling alleys, and indoor gyms remain closed.
One startling exception to California’s draconian lockdowns is the entertainment industry. While businesses like Disneyland have been closed since the beginning of the lockdowns, the entertainment industry has found itself listed as “essential workers.” They’re allowed to work on sets without social distancing or wearing masks. They’re allowed to throw an awards show, with flagrant disregard for the health guidelines they’ve been paid to promote since last March.
Stop Distracting Us from the Real Problems
The issue here goes beyond just the blatant hypocrisy surrounding social distancing and mask-wearing. Parading around in designer gowns, applauding some actor or other, feels incredibly out of touch considering the nationwide struggle of the last year. Americans don’t need a parody of normalcy from out-of-touch Hollywood faces. These same people promoted the mask-wearing and rigid lockdowns that created rampant economic and mental health catastrophes.
Where are the campaigns urging schools to reopen for the sake of children’s mental health? Are they concerned about the absurd measures being implemented in the name of “safety,” even when children are allowed to return in person? Are they speaking out against teacher’s unions that use the lockdown as leverage to satisfy demands that have nothing to do with COVID? Are they bringing attention to the sharp rise in teen suicides from isolation and despair?
Kids aren’t the only ones who are suffering. According to Yelp.com's Local Economic Impact Report, nearly 100,000 small businesses closed permanently by the end of 2020. The number is likely to go up as loans run out and the economy struggles to get back in gear. In California specifically, state data indicate that minority small businesses were the hardest hit, with 36% of immigrant-owned businesses having gone under. It’s estimated that 43% of California restaurants will not survive the lockdowns.
Considering that small businesses employ half of the U.S. workforce, these numbers should be very concerning. Every business that closed could be someone’s family legacy. It could be their version of the American dream. It could be their life’s work.
Just Stop with the Hypocrisy
I’m not upset about a bunch of celebrities living it up, having fun, and acting normal. I have an issue with people who preach that everyone else should live under harsh lockdowns, while they get back to normal. I have an issue with celebrities who shame average Americans for wanting to see their grandparents or wanting to hold a wedding. I have an issue with celebrities who ignore the economic and mental health impacts of the policies they’ve been paid to promote.
If Hollywood celebs want to get back to normal, I’m all for it. But it can’t be “normal” for them and abnormal for everyone else. They shouldn’t be allowed to hold maskless, intimate award shows while it’s technically illegal for every other resident of the county.
With “15 Days to Slow the Spread” now almost at the year mark, we need less pretend normalcy and more conversation on when we’re reopening the country. Perhaps if celebrities were forced to play by the rules of average Americans — locked inside small apartments, not allowed to leave the house except when wearing a mask, and possibly facing the loss of a job or the closing of a business — then they might be spending more time fighting the lockdowns and less time showing how the rules don’t apply to them.