Are celebrities better than the rest of us? It certainly feels like they think they are when we read about recent cases of the rich and famous breaking the Covid rules.
Last month, the singer Rita Ora threw herself a 30th birthday party in London, which broke the lockdown rules. To make matters worse she should have been self-isolating for two weeks after performing in Egypt. While she called it a small get-together, there were 30 people in attendance, which only would have been allowed if it were a funeral.
Then we were shocked that the Sky News presenter Kay Burley visited a restaurant in London with nine other diners to celebrate her 60th birthday. She also used a different restaurant’s bathroom after the 11pm curfew. More people would be forgiving of that second infraction. I’m not 60 and even I have to plan journeys making sure there are water closets nearby just in case. It’s claimed she then headed to her Knightsbridge home to party on with people from different households.
There’s no way Kay didn’t know the rules. She read them out at work once every 15 minutes. At least Rita could claim she never did a song called Rule of Six.
But the UK isn’t alone in this. In America, Kylie Jenner visited a friend despite California’s “shelter-in-place” order. It therefore feels like the issue here is fame. So why do famous people think the rules don’t apply to them?
While the rest of us are dutifully cramming in a scotch egg with every pint, the people with higher status act as if they can do what they want.
Celebs have a rich tradition of rule-breaking. In the 1960s, famous rebels would set fire to guitars on stage or trash a hotel room. That was different though. The rebellious act was more of a protest, and back then TVs had cathode ray tubes in them so if you could get that out of a window you deserved some praise.
Modern examples of breaking rules weren’t done as a statement to make society question its norms. They were done in secret and only came out by accident. The issue here is entitlement.
If you work in an industry that is synonymous with demanding puppies in your dressing room or having runners to fetch your pretentious coffee, you’ll start to feel special.
It’s also worth remembering that these cases were linked to big birthdays. Everyone feels more entitled around their birthday. We act like the Earth doing a lap around the sun means we should be treated like a prince or princess.
The multiplying effect of a birthday on a celebrity’s entitlement means it’s no surprise the rules went out of the window, like an old TV. We have to hope this doesn’t make more people think: “Why should I have to stick to the rules if they’re not?” What’s now known as the Dominic Cummings moment.
What can we do about all this? Rita Ora offered to pay a fine before she was even asked to pay one. All that shows is a monetary fine is no deterrent to the rich and famous. I learned that lesson at school. When I was doing my GCSEs I saw a fellow pupil break a pipette in a science lesson. When the teacher spotted it, the student said: “It’s not my fault, you idiot.”
The teacher had a knowing smile as he said: “You’ll have to pay £8 for the breakage. I would have let you off, but it’s £8 for the insult.” The pupil replied: “OK, have £16, you ****!”
I don’t know where that student ended up, but wherever he is, I bet he had a big birthday this year.
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