Read the room

Five tone-deaf situations left a bad taste in our mouths during the pandemic.


Myrtle Guarisco

During COVID-19, some celebrities haven’t been the most relatable, and we can’t help but poke fun at their cluelessness.

Over the past year and a half, the world has turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of this past month, there have been 43.9 million reported cases of the virus and 704 thousand deaths from COVID-19 in the United States alone.

It has been a little over 19 months since March 13, 2020, and with frustration festering throughout the country, people are growing sick and tired of restrictions. Pandemic progress is not linear, despite how some people may act. We must continue to take the appropriate precautions.

During this time, the gap between the upper, middle, and lower classes has grown. Yes, we are “all in this together” in a sense. Although this vague, albeit well-meaning statement of encouragement is a misrepresentation of the true American experience of COVID-19, where millions lost their jobs, their homes, and their livelihoods. 

Some public figures have either ignored or have been oblivious to this side of the pandemic, and we can’t help but cringe at some of their comments, actions, and decisions. Here are just a few.


  • The 2021 Emmys

The 73rd Emmys, led by host Cedric the Entertainer, boasted award sweeps for shows including “Ted Lasso” and “The Crown”. The night brought up serious questions, including whether or not television has completed its transition to streaming platforms. One of the most pressing was if the event was sending the right message with their lack of apparent COVID-19 protection, something many viewers found unsettling. 

During a time when we all need to be promoting the continuation of COVID-19 protocol, celebrities gathered maskless in a small tent. The limited attendees all had to be vaccinated and prove negative COVID-19 tests, however they were sat at gala-style tables, without social distancing, surrounded by four walls and a ceiling. Hosted at the Los Angeles Live Event Deck as opposed to the Microsoft Theatre, the event was technically outdoors, however the air-conditioned arrangement received a lot of criticism from viewers. 

Award presenter Seth Rogen wasted no time in addressing the situation. “There’s way too many of us in this little room,” Rogen said, “They said it was outdoors. It’s not… I went from wiping my groceries to having Paul Bettany sneeze in my face. That’s a big week.” Rogen’s comments, not necessarily the best promotion of the Emmys, voiced what many viewers were feeling in a frank way.

The show continued to promote themes of finally being together, when in reality the majority of the population still must be apart. Social distancing and masks continue to be critically important in saving the lives of millions of Americans, and this award show, however good its intentions, just sent the wrong message.


  • “Cancun Cruz”

This winter, Texas experienced major ice storms followed by days-long power outages in the freezing weather. The electric power system used in Texas failed miserably, receiving a landslide of criticism from those that were affected, claiming that more should have been done to prepare for a situation like this. 

During this episode that left at least 30 dead, Senator Ted Cruz took a vacation to the Mexican city, Cancun. He left on a Wednesday and returned that Thursday, almost 24 hours later, with the state of Texas awaiting his explanation. 

As a politician, you are expected to serve the people who elected you especially in times of crisis. Cruz failed in this way. Public figures in general, but specifically politicians, need to be aware of their actions and the message that they send. Leaving the country during a fatal crisis— amidst a pandemic in which travel is discouraged— is not a good message. 

“With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” Cruz said. A politician using his children as an excuse? Proactively attempting to put his daughters in the political line of fire? Pitiful. 

Cruz’s trip was insensitive to the Texans that experienced such hardship, in addition to every American going through the pandemic that can’t escape to Cancun when school is cancelled. We expect more from our political leaders. 


  • Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend

Recently, musician Nicki Minaj tweeted about an inaccurate side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen,” Minaj said. “His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it [and] make sure you’re comfortable with [your] decision, not bullied.” 

Besides being completely untrue with no basis in real science, this anti-vaccine message is counterproductive to a culture that must be actively encouraged to get the vaccine. Only about 56.2% of the United States’ population is currently fully vaccinated and 65.1% of Americans have received at least one dose. About 20% of Americans believe in a conspiracy about the vaccine, despite the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine.  

In recent years, misinformation has become a serious issue when it comes to the ideas people have about science and the medical community. What is proven to be true by these reputable cornerstones of our society is refuted by some, and what proves to be farthest from the truth gains undeserved legitimacy. 

This tweet, whether it was meant to or not, added more confusion and inaccuracies to a vital and delicate subject. The science is real. This simply is not. 


  • Vanessa Hudgens’ Instagram Live 

Many people can relate to the struggles of the 2020 quarantine. With some flocking to social media to post and share some of their experiences, in the hopes of comforting others. Certain celebrities, however, attempted to relate and missed the mark. 

 On an Instagram live stream, actress Vanessa Hudgens addressed the lockdown.  

“’Till July sounds like a bunch of b******t,” Hudgens said. “I’m sorry, but, like, it’s a virus… I get it. I respect it. But at the same time, even if everybody gets it, like, yeah, people are gonna die, which is terrible but, like… inevitable?” 

She received serious backlash for these comments. People called her comments heartless and horrible messages. Later she issued an apology video as well as a tweet. “Some of my comments are being taken out of context,” Hudgens said, “I am in lockdown and I hope that’s what you guys are doing, too.”

Deaths en masse are not a light topic and do not have to be inevitable. When you have a platform as a public figure, using it to voice such insensitive thoughts during a difficult, somber time can only be received as tone-deaf.     


  • Kim Kardashian’s 40th Birthday

American socialite, businesswoman, model, and media personality Kim Kardashian West celebrated her 40th birthday in October of last year. 

For the occasion, she hosted a bash on a private island where she and her guests rode bikes, swam with whales, kayaked, and more, forgetting COVID-19 precautions and posting about it for the world to see. 

“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,” Kardashian tweeted

This was international travel during a time when non-essential travel was seriously discouraged. The rest of the country was in the thick of quarantine, stuck in their homes without the luxury of their own private island, so you can understand how she received some criticism. 

People were losing their jobs. Their lives. Their livelihoods. Children were struggling to return to school, if they returned at all. Hospitals were overflowing. This was a time of struggle, and seeing gaggles of socialites acting as if everything was normal, escaping to a private island, did not land well with the masses. 

This post, the ultimate dream in any non-COVID-19 world, came at a very sensitive moment in history, seemingly forgetting to take into account the tone of grief and strife reflected in the American people at the time. 

Moral of the story?

At the end of the day, we are all human and we all make mistakes. But our words are powerful, and when someone has a public platform to spread their ideas, there is a certain responsibility they have to be aware of what messages they’re sending to the world.