When Jared Leto emerged from having spent a dozen days meditating in a desert, he found himself in a world quite different from the one he previously inhabited. The coronavirus outbreak had ramped up considerably; he remained unaware, as the desert retreaters had left their mobile phones behind.
Everything had “been changed forever,” he tweeted. “Mind blowing — to say the least.”
This pandemic has shaken the world to its core, leaving many of us desperate for any source of stability we can find. Our daily rituals have suddenly gained significance, and for those of us who regularly consume pop culture, there can be a strange comfort in seeing that, despite everything, Leto has continued to be ridiculous. A public crisis can bring out the best (or worst) in all of us, leading celebrities to fulfil new roles — or exactly the ones we expected. Introducing ...
Take one of the earliest faces of the outbreak: Tom Hanks, who announced that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive for COVID-19 in Australia in a manner as gentle as one would expect from America’s dad. He described their symptoms, assured they would be isolated and, after sharing a photo of Vegemite toast, let everyone know he had learned not to spread it so thick. (Perhaps a more surprising development on the Hanks front — his son Chet has also become a “voice of reason.”) Like Hanks, Idris Elba calmly shared his diagnosis and advocated for social distancing.
Gwyneth Paltrow — star of the 2011 film ‘Contagion,’ in which her character is one of the first to die in a fictional viral pandemic — shared a silly photo of herself wearing a mask with the caption, “I’ve already been in this movie.” And then there’s Devon Sawa, who, on the 20th anniversary of the horror film ‘Final Destination,’ drew a parallel between our current situation and a scene where his character quarantines himself.
Pop stars known for speaking up have done just that. Lady Gaga shared a message of unity, reminding her young followers to self-distance for everyone’s good. Ariana Grande criticised young people taking the situation lightly — “you sound stupid and privileged and you need to care more about others” — before adding, “like your hip hop yoga class can [expletive] wait I promise.” Taylor Swift’s cat Meredith, practically a celebrity in her own right, can be seen “self quarantining” on Instagram.
Yes, there have already been missteps. Vanessa Hudgens landed in hot water after making light of the pandemic in an Instagram story, saying that “people are going to die, which is terrible but, like, inevitable.” She followed the tone-deaf remark with, “I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t be doing this right now,” and, the next day, an apology to “anyone and everyone who has seen the clip.”
If they aren’t keeping our kids busy with books like Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner have been, celebrities have largely distracted us adults from the world’s plight, or at least allowed us to laugh through it.
Ashley Tisdale, the moment’s preferred ‘High School Musical’ alum, reminded us that we’re all in this together by dancing to that very song. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked us to stay home while flanked by mini livestock, and Mel Brooks filmed a cute social distancing PSA with his son, author Max Brooks.
Musicians of all genres have streamed live concerts from their living rooms, to be played in yours. Bono decided to go a step further and wrote a song inspired by Italians in quarantine because ... Bono.
We’ll get through this, readers, one silly distraction or reassuring Instagram post at a time. In the words of Leto, “Sending positive energy to all.”