Ah coronavirus, the great equaliser. At least that’s what Madonna called it, as she sat in a marble bathtub filled with rose petals and surrounded by tealights in the 18th-century Lisbon palace she calls home.
Kim Kardashian has shown just how much of an equaliser Covid-19 is this week, by posting a series of tweets in which she revealed that she had taken a group of friends (after asking them to quarantine and get tested, natch) to a private island to celebrate her 40th birthday.
Sharing the thread, along with snaps of the idyllic bash, to her 6.7 million Twitter followers and 190 million Instagram followers, Kardashian wrote: “After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.”
In the photographs, guests can be seen partying like it’s 2019: no social distancing, no face masks; not a tub of Purell in sight. “Before COVID, I don’t think any of us truly appreciated what a simple luxury it was to be able to travel and be together with family and friends in a safe environment,” Kardashian wrote, about the simple luxury of getting a private jet to a private island.
“I realise that for most people, this is something that is so far out of reach right now, so in moments like these, I am humbly reminded of how privileged my life is,” she added.
Nobody can begrudge someone looking to appreciate the small things during the pandemic – like marking your birthday. But this was not small, in any sense. The post immediately sparked a viral meme for its striking insensitivity, as people paired Kardashian’s comments with film and TV stills, ranging from dystopian dramas to horror flicks. There were references to Bong Joon Ho’s class-conflict black comedy Parasite, Ari Aster’s pagan cult horror Midsommar and Jesse Armstrong’s Succession, a King Lear-inspired series about billionaire media moguls.
Kardashian is far from the first celebrity to be so staggeringly tone-deaf during the pandemic. Throughout lockdown, stars from Arnold Schwarzenegger, to Ellen Degeneres and the Beckhams have shared the interiors of their estates, discussing the struggles of quarantine with their swimming pools, gyms and sizeable acreage of land in view while the rest of us chumps tried to clear enough space in our living rooms for a Joe Wicks session (and that will have been a luxury for some).
During times of inclemency, it is customary for people with privilege to put a dampener on their outward sharing of wealth. The recession in the 1990s brought us a pared-down style of dressing, with celebrities and teenagers alike adopting grunge fashion and the fashionable opting for inconspicuous consumption.