‘Imagine’ response to COVID-19 reveals celebrity ignorance to privilege

Maya Alexander

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to confine millions into self-quarantine, shut down thousands of businesses and leave governments scrambling to try and contain the virus celebrities took it upon themselves to provide a cure for the stresses of this new normal.

“Wonder Woman” actress Gal Godot led a coterie of movie stars, singers, Broadway performers and late-night hosts through a completely tone-deaf rendition of John Lennon’s 1971 classic, “Imagine.”

Gadot captioned the video on Instagram with “We are in this together, we will get through it together. Let’s imagine together. Sing with us. All love to you, from me and my dear friends. #WeAreOne.” The actress led the pack of stars singing the first line and then handed it off to “Saturday Night Live” alumna Kristen Wigg, the first victim of the celeb-filled cringefest that was lying ahead.

As expected, after something so hilariously ignorant surfaces, the public slammed Gadot and the other celebrities in the video for being so blind to their own privilege at a difficult time such as this. 

Responses to the video ranged from some being truly disgusted by the irony of it all, to others making hilarious memes out of the situation. The main complaint people had about the video was that right now, people need assistance from those who are currently doing well financially, not a karaoke session. Bustle film writer Casey Cipriani put it best when she tweeted out, “Hey celebs, we don’t want to be sung to. We want you to use a million or two of your money and order ventilators, masks, and gloves from the manufacturers then donate them to a hospital. Or pay for the salaries of an entire staff at a bar, restaurant, or daycare. #imagine.”

The lack of awareness from the celebrities on account of their excessive wealth and potential to be vital players in COVID-19 relief has been the main criticism of the video, but there was a small fraction of viewers questioning if “Imagine” truly was the best song choice for their pseudo-philanthropic efforts.

Out of all the unity and “making the world a better place” songs, “Imagine” reigns supreme. Written by John Lennon, the former Beatles member had a rocky history that contradicts the “peace and love” figure he is often portrayed to be. There have been numerous well-documented accounts of his violent short temper, usually immortalized in a moment of domestic abuse toward his first wife, Cynthia Lennon. 

Lennon himself critiqued the banality of the song in the past, saying, “Now I understand what you have to do. Put your political message across with a little honey.” The sugarcoated lyrics greatly contrasted with the reality of the event it was meant to be protesting, the Vietnam War. 

There haven’t been any responses from the celebrities that participated in the video as of yet, but there have been other stars coming out with their own version of Gadot’s “Imagine,” essentially mocking the failed attempt at bringing everyone closer together.

In his version of the video, John Mayer explains that while he was asked to be in the original video, he misunderstood the assignment and thought that he was being asked to sing Ariana Grande’s “Imagine,” off the album Thank U, Next, and not the Lennon song. 

Pop singer Charli XCX also poked fun at the infamous video, posting her own parody of it on Twitter with the caption, “sorry i’m late guys!! (jk).”

Despite the ridicule of the video, there is a very real lesson to be learned from this incident. While it is wrapped up in a sugary package, the message of “Imagine” is shrouded in images of peace and togetherness in times of uncertainty.

For many, Gadot’s video represented the disconnect and divide that celebrities and the wealthy have with the plights of everyday people even more. If celebrities used their wealth to help aid the now millions of economically stranded citizens, then it would help to bring the world together, unifying everyone during a time of absolute unpredictability. Imagine that.