Bashiera Parker is Channel24's International and Royal News Editor. Here, she writes about the challenges of covering celebrity news in the time of a worldwide pandemic. "It’s amazing how the things we once cared so deeply about mean absolutely nothing," she writes, "when the world is weeping."
My life pretty much revolves around celebrities.
Every day I wake up and check what Kim Kardashian's doing, who's dating who, and why Justin Bieber is trending again. And, as Channel24's very own Gossip Girl with access to all the stats, let me tell you, the stories you're clicking on are more often than not about JB's sex life, one of Somizi and Mohale's over-the-top weddings or a Kardashian-Jenner semi-nude.
But I had to rethink all my content recently, because writing about Kylie's bikini pics while the rest of the world mourns, just didn't seem like the right thing to do.
THE PICS WITH THE CLICKS
With everything coming to a standstill, national lockdowns in place across the globe, the unrelenting coronavirus pandemic has claimed lives faster than our world leaders could come to understand the severity of the threat.
So celebrities quickly took shelter, only to flood our feeds with shallow "stay home" PSAs from their mansions and completely tone-deaf "quarantine diaries" in which they rambled on about finding themselves and saving humanity. This, from the same person, who called the coronavirus "a great equaliser". And Madonna's not the only one.
Kim's still posting about Skims and sharing The Best Foods to Eat to Slim Down while, just one day after sharing the trailer for Thanks A Million – a show about celebrities doing nice things, because we need that show "now more than ever" – Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod were spotted outside a gym in Miami that they were given sole access to, amid lockdown.
Usually, those sweaty pics would get all the clicks – but not anymore.
('#STAYSAFE #FAMILYTIME': Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod shared what they've been up to since they can't go out to fancy restaurants amid lockdown. The internet had a field day with this post though, pointing out that it looks a lot of the house in Parasite. But that's none of my business.)
See, we did a test, and no one cared about Kevin Hart expecting his second child. In fact, someone commented, "Is it necessary to tell us about this, while people are dying all over the world?" And they're right, because the prestige of celebrity means nothing when the world is going through trauma.
A celebrity post I can get behind? Chelsea Peretti ironically filming her first-ever make up tutorial while self-isolating. She smeared eye shadow all over her face making the point that there's absolutely no point in getting dolled up because we're never leaving our houses.
Ah, it's amazing how the things we once cared so deeply about mean absolutely nothing when the world is weeping.
WHAT YOU'RE FEELING IS A TRAUMA RESPONSE
I've read many articles now, trying to find some sort of normalcy in what I – and many others – are feeling. One medical journal I read made me feel a lot better when it emphasised that traumatic stress reactions are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances – and this indeed is a traumatic event.
Elyssa Barbash, a licensed psychologist and leading authority on psychological trauma and PTSD, says, "For the general public, including those who never acquire the virus, the overall lifestyle change and the fear that we are managing on a daily basis will lead to a trauma response." And one that we need to acknowledge, she commented.
Harvard Business Review likened that psychological response to grief and spoke to David Kessler, an expert on the subject, who cleared things up when he said, again, we need to acknowledge what we're feeling and accept that our lives will be forever changed by this.
"We feel the world has changed, and it has," he said. "We know this is temporary, but it doesn't feel that way, and we realise things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us, and we're grieving. Collectively."
"We are never going to be the same," Oprah said, when she spoke to Dr Edith Eva Eger, a Holocaust survivor who became a psychologist in trauma after going through one of the most uncertain and atrocious experiences the world has ever seen.
"Never," Dr Eger said. "Because any experience makes you stronger. If you survive that means that you have the mentality of finding some good in everything. That this is a wake-up call, that this is a time out."
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Dr. Edith Eva Eger is a Holocaust survivor who became a psychologist in trauma after going through one of the most uncertain and atrocious experiences in the history of the world. She too has wisdom to share to help us through this crisis. Tap the link in my bio to watch my free Apple TV conversation with her.
SO DO WE THROW THE WHOLE CELEBRITY AWAY?
So what now? Has my job become redundant? And do we throw the whole celebrity away or just put them in rice?
The entertainment industry will survive this, celebrity culture, though, I'm not sure.
Now more than ever, it's clear what's important and what's not, and it seems as though those who have the power to influence change are bored out of their minds under their high ceilings. In an attempt to connect with fans virtually over the pandemic, they couldn't be any less relatable in their mansions. The privilege is evident in Ellen calling her celebrity friends every five minutes and building Lego while Portia cooks what she thinks are koftas (she couldn't pronounce it, so I guess we'll never know), while your favourite, Justin Bieber, is outchea playing the floor is lava in his R157 million Beverly Hills home.
A pregnant Katy Perry is home, eating gherkins from a jar asking what day it is, in between promoting her puppy-inspired plastic sloffies.
I am cringing.
The good, however, will always be worth reporting. That's where headlines about Rihanna donating R88 million to fight the coronavirus, covering the cost of ventilators in her home country and donating protective equipment to those on the frontline comes in.
Bad Gal Riri is on Instagram, advocating for undocumented workers, children of frontline healthcare professionals and first responders, incarcerated, elderly and homeless people in the US, and all while everyone else is singing We Are The World in a weak attempt to unite us, and dancing on Tik Tok.
If that's the case, celebrity culture is dead, the famous irrelevant, and their space in this world now occupied by Gen Z.