It's been one year since Gal Gadot and friends covered 'Imagine', here's how it redefined celebrity culture

Even today, that rendition of the John Lennon classic remains as horrible as when we first heard it

Screenshots of Will Ferrell, Gal Gadot and Mark Ruffalo singing John Lennon's Imagine.
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These last few weeks have been full of reminders of how the pandemic upended our lives one year ago.

But today also marks another grim anniversary: Gal Gadot's celebrity rendition of John Lennon's Imagine, which released on March 18, 2020.

It remains horrible.

The baffling, off-key vocal relay of 25 actors, singers and television presenters – including the talented Mark Ruffalo and Will Ferrell, who really should have known better – was not the anthem we wanted.

But it gave us the insight we needed.

While the world tried to shut its ears to all the unpleasantness, the D-grade cover of Imagine opened our eyes to our own relationship with celebrity culture.

It turns out, in the face of a global pandemic that has killed more than two million people, robbed livelihoods and separated loved ones, we couldn’t care less what Wonder Woman and The Hulk were singing about.

It all went downhill from there

The rippling effects of the car crash cover coursed throughout 2020 and ultimately laid bare Hollywood’s worst secret: that celebrities are, in fact, not like the rest of us.

Before “we are all in this together” became the mantra of Covid-19, the message from A-listers was that, despite the glitz and glamour of their everyday lives, they were “just like us”.

For the most part, the public played along with the charade.

We got used to hearing about their private jets, fancy getaways and quiet family nights in sprawling mansions, as long as we maintained unfettered access to their daily lives, one post at the time.

The pandemic suddenly tore that apart.

In times of strife, what we need from the glitterati is a sense of community and connection, not aspiration and attention.

Many stars failed in that transition. They simply don’t know how.

Imagine was the first example of tin-eared attempts at connection, followed days later, on March 23, by Madonna's bizarre video in which she declared Covid-19 as "the great equaliser", while luxuriating in a petal-filled bathtub.

That negative reaction should have raised alarm bells for singer Lady Gaga when organising the One World: Together at Home benefit concert in April.

Over the course of the epic six-hour live broadcast, the noble intentions behind the event were overshadowed by the hilarious unawareness of some celebrities, many of whom crooned songs of resilience from ritzy abodes featuring mammoth backyards (Jennifer Lopez), indoor slides (Jimmy Fallon) and Maluma's mountaintop terrace.

At least the UAE's very own Hussain Al Jassmi, the only Arab artist on the bill, had the decency to pare things down by performing from a sparsely furnished room.

Infamous holidays by Kim Kardashian and Dua Lipa

Public reaction increasingly hardened as 2020 went on.

The more we understood the destructive scale of Covid-19, the less patience was afforded to celebrity missteps.

Even before the allegations of her toxic work environment, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres elicited derision when comparing working from her $15 million Regency-style Hollywood mansion as akin to a prison.

Then there was the backlash in October against Kim Kardashian for posting photos of her 40th birthday party, in which she flew family and friends to Tahiti for a private shindig.

“Forty and feeling so humbled and blessed,” she said in a celebratory post.

At least Kardashian wasn't accused of being a hypocrite. That insult was instead lobbed at recent Grammy Award-winner Dua Lipa.

The British pop star was dragged through the mud online in January after posting mask-less pictures of her with friends during a holiday in Mexico. This was nine months after imploring fans online to “stay at home”.

Social media winners

While the fast and furious nature of social media may make certain celebrities feel like they can’t win, other personalities have shown us how it’s done.

A year ago this week, Oscar-winner Tom Hanks used his platform to inform the public that he and wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive for Covid-19.

“We have Covid-19 and are in isolation so we do not spread it to anyone else,” he said.

“There are those for whom it could lead to a very serious illness. We are taking it one day at a time.”

In retrospect, the social media post was worth hundreds of public safety announcements.

Paired with a plain image of the clearly fatigued couple, the straightforward message was devoid of the histrionics their other peers could have been tempted to use.

Hanks and Wilson illustrated how the pandemic played no favourites and US officials praised their disclosure for raising awareness surrounding the virus.

With no meet-and-greets and projects to plug, other celebrities won us over by simply being their natural selves.

Regal British actors Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins, for example, used their time at their respective homes with family to launch viral TikTok accounts showcasing their dance moves. The former became adept at the shuffle, while good old Hannibal Lecter showed off a mean Toosie Slide.

Then there is the queen of charm herself, country singer Dolly Parton, who launched her Goodnight with Dolly YouTube series, on which she reads children's bedtime stories.

Musicians also found a way to resonate with their fan base despite the lack of gigs.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor garnered a cult following with her Kitchen Disco concerts on Instagram, where she performs her hits and covers in fancy dress from home.

Liam Gallagher winningly reminded us to constantly wash our hands with Wonderwash and Soapersonic, hilarious reworkings of Oasis hits Wonderwall and Supersonic.

These are just a few examples of the connections we crave from those in the limelight.

They don’t have to be demonstrations and affirmations of empathy. Sometimes, that little bit of honesty and fun is all that’s needed to move us.

One year later, let’s hope Gadot and cohorts have learnt from some of these observations.

Upon doing so, they would have made good headway in fulfilling Imagine's final plea: "I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one."