On Sunday night, celebs once again lined the red carpet for the Oscars, mask-free and ready to celebrate the freedom that only they enjoy.
We all know that real life isn’t going to be like the movies. The perfectly crafted plot lines, the hairstylists and makeup artists, the fantasy man who’s almost a little too perfect to believe. They’re all a part of the Hollywood illusion that we pay money to enjoy. It’s real life, but without the spilled drinks, bad hair days, and general malaise of reality.
For a century, Hollywood has crafted storylines that entranced the viewers in worlds we knew were just a little too good to be true, and for a long time, that worked. Who doesn’t love a little escapism now and again?
But after 2020, Hollywood is no longer in charge of creating innocent distractions for hungry viewers. Besides all the political trash and pandering, they’ve become complicit in creating a disturbing faux-reality for all of us to enjoy. While some countries are threatening to go back into lockdown, Hollywood celebrities were partying it up at the Oscars on Sunday night.
Rules for Thee but Not for Me
While celebrities lined the red carpet and displayed their mask-free famous faces on television for several hours on Sunday evening, LA is still locked down. Sure, we’ve been allowed to eat indoors again (after having it banned for nearly nine months). But that’s about it. Many workplaces are still fully remote. Dozens of famous local businesses have closed their doors forever. And we’re required to wear masks at all times — even outdoors — or face heavy fines if we don’t comply.
But for the celebs, it’s a different world. A negative Covid test and they’re peachy keen to make out with each other on set. They’re fine to sit, crowded into an auditorium, for an awards show. It seems like the only place we get to see “real life” anymore — you know, where we hug friends, walk down a busy street, and go maskless — is on TV.
Is the only place we’ll be allowed to go back to real life be on TV?
So this begs the question: Is the only place we’ll be allowed to go back to real life be on TV? We plebeians sit at home, forbidden from traveling or seeing friends in intimate settings, forced to live vicariously through the fantasy of TV characters. That wasn’t what I signed up for.
It’s actually hard for me to watch television anymore. Anything I watch, that I know was filmed during the lockdown, makes me seethe with anger. Why am I required to wear a mask, even outside taking a walk, when these people can get naked and simulate sex, maskless, for no greater reason than the name of “entertainment”?
Protect the “Essential” Entertainment Workers
California’s entertainment industry was one of the first to be cleared to go back to work after the initial lockdowns. When Governor Newsom issued strict stay-at-home orders late in 2020, entertainment workers were exempt. Their work, it seemed, was too indispensable to be cut short by anything as minor as a government lockdown.
One cynical side of me knows that it’s all about money. The entertainment industry puts out over $100 billion a year in value. That’s some big bucks for a state crunched for tax money. Smaller industries were massacred, but the state made sure to protect the big breadwinners.
Smaller industries were massacred, but California made sure to protect the big breadwinners.
But another side of me suspects something even more devious at work here. Our country, and especially residents of states like California, Michigan, and New York, have sacrificed incredible amounts of freedom this year in the name of safety. Some of us are mad. But others, horrifyingly, seem to enjoy the sense of moral superiority they get from, well, doing nothing. (Sure, they “stay home” and “wear the mask,” very heroic.)
So Is This the New Reality?
Meanwhile, Hollywood has continued to pump out shows and films set in a world where the lockdowns never happened. People jump onto crowded subway cars. They kiss a stranger in a bar. It’s like 2020 never happened. Poof!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely no desire to watch years’ worth of television dragging out the Covid drama. Far from it. But I also don’t think that the only place allowed to go back to normal — to pretend that all of this never happened — should be Hollywood.
I also suspect a deeper, more insidious motive. If Hollywood can serve up just enough distracting television for us to watch, to get entranced again by those fairytale plotlines, perhaps we’ll be distracted from how terrible things have gotten in the last year. It’s an old tactic, perfected by the Roman empire. Panem et circenses — bread and circuses. Just like the gladiator fights were meant to keep a restless Roman populace distracted, so now are the Hollywood films being pumped out as a useful distraction from the state of our country.
Hollywood films are being pumped out as a “bread and circuses” distraction from the state of our country.
Save for a few brave states and politicians, the “experts” in charge of handling the pandemic have shown little interest or rush to return to normal life. Dr. Fauci insists that we shouldn’t give up masks even once the majority of Americans are vaccinated. When is it going to end? Perhaps they like being able to control who works and who doesn’t. Perhaps they like that an increasing number of people are dependent on the government, not a job or personal business, for their livelihood.
Personally, I’m not willing to live my life with an illusion of freedom, the only taste of which I get is through some drivel on TV. If LA is safe enough for the celebrities, it should be safe enough for the rest of us. Don’t let the façade of entertainment distract you — only real life matters in the end. There aren’t enough dreamy romances in the world to make up for an increasingly unfree world. We can’t just let America live on in the fantasies of television directors. We need to bring her back to life, and that means demanding that we all get the red carpet treatment too.
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