The problem with celebrity “charity”

Elise Sanders, Columnist

When Gal Gadot and her other celebrity “friends” posted a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” to various social media platforms, they did so with the goal of “raising morale.” They failed to do this, but they succeeded in receiving a tsunami of backlash and criticism. The cover was labeled platitudinous and out-of-touch by viewers, with many arguing that celebrities should be donating money and resources instead of singing on social media. People also felt very alienated, as the celebrities filmed themselves in their cozy mansions and on their wide, open lawns. It’s hard to feel hopeful when a bunch of rich people ask us via song to imagine a world with no possessions.  

Obviously, this cover was trying to be this generation’s “We Are the World” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time.” What differentiates the “Imagine Cover” is that the other two songs actually raised money for the cause they were supporting. Regardless, I believe that there are deep-rooted problems regarding charity that have been present in celebrity culture for a long time now. Celebrities will laud charities and implore people to donate and support them. There’s nothing wrong with using your platform to raise awareness for charities; if anything, it can be very admirable. However, I don’t believe celebrities should ask people who are losing their jobs and income to donate to charities when they themselves are worth millions and millions of dollars. 

An article from the New York Post criticized celebrities for making the pandemic “about them.” Stunts like the “Imagine” cover are very trite and put the focus on celebrities singing poorly rather than the virus. In addition, I believe that celebrities have unwittingly made the pandemic about class issues. Wealthy people are quick to say “we’re all in this together,” but the truth is, we aren’t. They don’t have to worry about losing their jobs like others; they don’t have to sleep on the streets like those who don’t have a home. They’re protected, and they have the time and platform to advocate for social distancing and support of hospital staff. 

The bar for advocacy on social media is pretty low; you can just make a post about an issue and leave it at that. However, celebrities and wealthy people have the luxury and ability to go beyond that. They can donate millions of dollars and still wouldn’t have to worry about whether they could afford to eat dinner. And yet, they continue to ask regular people, who don’t have a great surplus of wealth and need every penny they have right now, to donate. 

Asking people to donate now isn’t going to do anything. Many don’t have job and income security and can’t afford to give away sums of money; others don’t even have a home to sleep in, much less enough money to make a difference. Celebrities have the capability to donate so much money and resources, but choose to make shitty covers of “Imagine”. This, combined with begging regular people to donate, shows their lack of care for the majority, contradicting their unifying message. They have proven that they can’t be a beacon of hope or morality in a time of crisis. For celebrities, morality is a publicity stunt; charity is something they can opt-out of, as long as they shame enough poor people into donating.