We’re only a few days into social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and already a celeb’s career is being called into question. On March 16, Vanessa Hudgens was called out on social media for an Instagram Live video, in which the High School Musical actor—social distancing at home—talked about the virus.
“Um, yeah. Till July sounds like a bunch of bullshit, I’m sorry,” Hudgens says in the video. “It’s a virus, I get it, I respect it, but at the same time…even if everybody gets it, yeah…people are gonna die, which is terrible but inevitable.”
— Sherina Marie (@SherinaMarie87) March 18, 2020
Hudgens concludes the video with a laugh, saying: “I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t be doing this right now.” And, um yeah, V-Hudge, we’d have to agree. You should 100% not be doing—or saying—any of what you did. Almost immediately, Hudgens was hit with backlash on social media from users who were super unhappy with her insensitive and flippant comments—you know, because people are actually dying from this. As a pretty high profile celeb, Hudgens has tons of younger fans looking up to—and emulating—her. And, at 31, she should really know better.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) March 17, 2020
“The selfishness of these kids is infuriating. Some of us have loved ones who are extremely vulnerable.” one follower wrote.
A day later, on March 17, Hudgens hopped back on Instagram Live to respond to the backlash (you know, after celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and saying she’d rather be in a pub), giving fans a Gina Rodriguez-level apology and telling them that her comments were taken out of context…the context being that she was pretty much complaining about Coachella being cancelled; which honesty only makes her comments worse. Vanessa, maybe it’s time to take a social media break?
Vanessa Hudgens responds to the backlash, saying her comments were taken out of context. pic.twitter.com/KCGSrHktaL
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) March 17, 2020
“So over it at this point. Tries to apologize for something she knew was wrong to say. Not funny to joke when people are DYING,” another Twitter user wrote.
So over it at this point. Tries to apologize for something she knew was wrong to say. Not funny to joke when people are DYING. #VanessaHudgens
— Skyler Playter (@PlayterSkyler) March 18, 2020
Shortly after, model Chrissy Teigen came to Hudgens defence, tweeting: “Sometimes people, especially famous people, are gonna say really stupid shit. & so are you. and they, and u, will learn from it & hopefully their history says they’re good.”
this isn’t about me this time. but it will be one day, or it’ll be you. but yeah today it’s Vanessa lol
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) March 18, 2020
“This isn’t about me this time. but it will be one day, or it’ll be you. but yeah today it’s Vanessa lol.” And while we understand where Teigen is coming from—we all make mistakes and deserve forgiveness—we have to say…this isn’t it. Because Hudgens’s comments—and lack of a sincere apology—were really bad. Here’s why.
First of all, it was super flippant
While Hudgens may not have felt that her comment regarding the Coronavirus and its effect on people is that serious, the reality is that it is—and her response to a literal pandemic is pretty telling. Mainly, it was flippant AF, and belittles the severity of what’s happening in the world.
ICYMI, since first detected the virus has had some serious effects on people across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, as of March 17, the virus has infected more than 179,000 people and has killed at least 7,426 worldwide. In Canada, there have been 569 cases confirmed as of March 18.
And in countries like Italy, hospital workers are having to make the impossible decision of who should and should not receive care, due to limited resources and hospital beds. So, no, it’s not just a simple “um, people are gonna die,” situation. (Also, people dying in any situation is a big MF deal!)
And the thing is, as severe as these cases and deaths have been, for those who aren’t infected, early social distancing by everyone can actually make a sizeable impact on the breadth of COVID-19 spreading, and can determine whether or not vulnerable people will continue getting sick and dying. So what exactly does that have to do with Hudgens? By equating people dying to a verbal shoulder shrug, Hudgens is pretty much taking a “que sera sera” attitude—meaning that she’s essentially saying, whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. It’s a stance that not only takes the responsibility of helping to stop spread the virus off individual people like Hudgens, but also allows for her fans and younger (or older!) people watching to think that *not* following social distancing guidelines is OK—because people will die no matter what we do and this doesn’t really matter.
vanessa hudgens on ig complaining about coachella getting cancelled & saying why does it matter this virus will kill people while ashley tisdale is on ig making quarantine dance videos proves what we’ve always known: sharpay was the true protagonist/hero of high school musical
— queerella de vil (@queerelladevil) March 17, 2020
And didn’t take into account her own privilege, or the weight her words hold
While some people may be scratching their heads to even place where they know Hudgens from (at least according to some of the video responses, that said Hudgens doesn’t even have a career to cancel…), the truth is that the actor is defs super famous; meaning she’s got privilege and therefore a responsibility to her fans. Not only is Hudgens privileged in that her socioeconomic status allows her to self-isolate in a pretty nice space and have easier access to testing, thus helping her feel physically distanced from any real threat (we can only imagine how really difficult it must be to be pent up in your probably multi-million dollar Los Angeles home *eye roll*) but as a younger person, she’s also privileged in that she’s not as at risk of infection or being gravely affected by COVID-19 as older populations or individuals who are immunocompromised.
But just because she is lower risk, doesn’t mean that those around her are. As many on social media (including Billie Eilish in a March 16 Insta live) pointed out, social distancing isn’t really even for you, it’s for those who might be vulnerable around you, like your parents or grandparents. And that’s the message Hudgens, with her 38.4 million Instagram followers, should be pushing right now.
In a follow-up apology posted to Twitter on March 17, Hudgens touched on this fact, writing: “This has been a huge wake up call about the significance my words have, now more than ever.”
— Vanessa Hudgens (@VanessaHudgens) March 17, 2020
Which, honestly, just seems like a cop out to me. Any celebrity with her level of fame who claims to not know the significance their words have—when they’re literally banking on that significance to sell films, sponsorships and their personal brands daily—is lying. You know your words have weight, you just don’t care. Also, wasn’t it that very significance she was banking on when complaining about Coachella being cancelled in the first place?
Read this next: How to Cope With the Stress of Social Distancing
It might be unfair, but the responsibility of celebs is especially important during a pandemic
Listen, I feel for Hudgens and the fact that she and a lot of celebs are often thrust into a position of social responsibility that they often don’t want. Rihanna herself has said that she never wanted to be a role model. And it may not be fair but, sorry folks, being someone that people look up to for guidance and to model themselves after is often a side effect of becoming famous and successful.
And while Teigen may have thought she was being helpful in defending Hudgens, we have to question her motives a bit. Earlier this week, the Cravings author was herself called out for being out of touch after tweeting (in a since deleted tweet) about being unable to order chowder in the pandemic. So part of me wonders if her defence of Hudgens is more a way of her retroactively trying to defend herself. And while Teigen’s comments were obviously less detrimental (more just plain out of touch), she too should consider her words more carefully right now. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, which can have a huge impact on whether and how we can contain this virus. And we all need to do out part to make sure we’re encouraging each other to follow social distancing guidelines.
As Spiderman‘s Uncle Ben famously said: “With great power comes great responsibility.” We don’t need fear mongering or influencers hawking “immune boosting” smoothies, but what we do need is celebs to be taking this pandemic seriously and not spreading irresponsible facts or viewpoints. And that means you to0, V-Hudge