The Kardashians are not known for being role models; after all, courting controversy is how they remain relevant. But this past week alone, two separate members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan have come under fire for their conduct during the pandemic.
Kim Kardashian’s 40th birthday celebration on a private island with her friends and family — complete with multiple rounds of testing and quarantining for all the guests — was heavily criticized as being tone deaf. Many pointed out that the money spent on the trip could have been put to better use helping those who were struggling financially, while others responded with how they spent their pandemic birthdays alone.
Just days later, Kendall Jenner threw a Halloween party that also doubled as a celebration for her 25th birthday — with many A-list stars in attendance, including Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, and The Weeknd. Despite Kendall’s reported “no social media” rule, clips of maskless guests quickly went viral. What wasn’t apparent, though, was that all the attendees were required to take a rapid COVID-19 test on site, which is supposed to identify infectious individuals within minutes.
Even if these celebrations were relatively safe, people are right to be angry. If the Kardashians can throw lavish parties, Marvel can film a movie without a single cast or crew member catching COVID-19, and the NBA can carry out its season without any COVID-19 cases, it starts to seem that a relatively normal life during the pandemic may be within reach. When everything in pop culture is returning to normal, viewers feel like their lives can return to normal as well. This is an extremely dangerous fantasy for the common folk to buy into because the resources necessary for a safe return to normalcy, such as rapid testing and pod systems, are not being evenly distributed. Instead of being used to help get kids back in school, these resources are being used for celebrity parties.
The pandemic is real, but it’s becoming agonizingly clear that the solutions are also real; they’re just available exclusively to the rich. In the midst of a public health crisis, the whims of corporations and celebrities are prioritized because they have all the money.
Though an actor or an athlete may be pushed into possibly unsafe working conditions by their employer, there is no excuse for a rich family wasting precious resources to throw a party. Even today, many Americans cannot get testing for COVID-19 unless they are showing symptoms, and you can forget getting tested multiple times in one week just for the sake of attending parties.
As America struggles with the Coronavirus pandemic and death tolls continue to rise, the best course of action remains staying home and limiting large gatherings whenever possible. And if these rules don’t apply to the rich and famous, there’s only capitalism to blame. The fault doesn’t only lie with the people who are using their money to have a good time; it also lies with the system that allows them to take as much as they can afford while others die.
Since everything is for sale, the resources that could be used in order to save lives and curb the damage of the pandemic are being bought up by the rich to throw parties and take vacations. Capitalism has ensured that they are saved first, while the rest of the population is resigned to months more of lockdown.
The most dangerous thing that could come out of this is normal citizens emulating the behavior of these celebrities. If fans were to copy these celebrities’ behavior — meeting with friends, going back to work, travelling — without all the necessary precautions, the consequences would be disastrous. These celebrities really are taking the pandemic seriously, but they have resources beyond imagine keeping them safe. As always, audiences only see the fun that they’re having, not all the work going on behind the scenes to protect them.
But let’s be honest, if given the opportunity to meet friends and family safely, most would take it. As it stands, though, the majority of America is looking forward to a very lonely holiday season.
Art by Ava Bayley for the UC San Diego Guardian