Celebrities Have Never Been Less Entertaining

One thing to hope for in these dark times is that coronavirus #content will one day be forgotten as we resume our regularly scheduled programming. For now, Hollywood’s elite personae have isolated in spacious and well-stocked estates from which they are posting videos attempting to cheer up the masses. It’s interesting, if not always reassuring, to see these folks ply their crafts unmediated, without the screenwriters and film editors and cinematographers who typically help shape their images. Millions are tuning in. But often what they are finding is no more remarkable than whatever is happening in the viewer’s own living room.

It’s like that old Us Weekly motto “Stars—They’re Just Like Us!” has been made law. The live-streams I’ve watched in the past few days of pop stars and TV actors and mildly famous drag queens make them appear equally bored and equally technologically inept. Some houses are cluttered and some are immaculate. Everyone fumbles with the phone camera. Everyone ums. Many people make a similar observation that the commenters sure do have some funny usernames. Many people think what’s happening now is “crazy” and “scary.” Some of the best dispatches from fameland, in fact, lean into the normalcy and tedium. There’s the actor Sam Neill posting a chuckle-worthy video of his freshly laundered collection of shoes, which he has no reason to wear.

The people who are most associated with spectacle now seem the smallest, even as they try to use their platform for a greater aim. Miley Cyrus has been hosting daily self-care broadcasts branded with the effortful acronym BRIGHT MINDS (the second “i” is for “inflammation,” which we gotta fight). The first such video came, creepily, from a darkened room. There, Cyrus digitally chatted with Dr. Daniel Amen, the celebrity psychologist whose famous brain-scan technique has been criticized as unscientific, but who, with Cyrus, mostly dispensed harmless coaching about not drinking too much booze when in isolation. In another installment, Cyrus found a more appropriately zany, colorful backdrop and did a split-screen talk with fellow pop star Demi Lovato. The technological connection was so bad, with feedback creating a doom loop of echoes, that it was hard to fully comprehend their discussion. Still it was cute when Cyrus joked that she and Lovato connected as kids because they were both, secretly, “gay as fuck”: an unforced, funny, and humanizing moment.

More promising are the performers setting out to, well, perform. Last week, Chris Martin of Coldplay kicked off the #TogetherAtHome concert series, in which various artists will hold live-stream concerts to draw attention to coronavirus relief efforts. Coldplay has become a band defined by polish, but viewers here got quite the opposite: Martin in a fisherman’s sweater and beanie, fragile-seeming and stammering nervously into the camera. For the first few minutes, viewers sent in requests and he failed to remember how to play the asked-for songs, or else he only did a few bars. But once he got to the choice Coldplay cuts—including a tingly rendition of their best track, “Trouble”—a slight magic coalesced.

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