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The real heroes of the hour are the frazzled mothers online, not the show-boating celebs

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 01: Madonna performs onstage during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 1, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) 
Madonna has delivered an Instagram lecture while naked in a bathtub strewn with rose petals Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ping! Here’s another meme: a frazzled mother in a spandex leotard, prancing around her house singing a self-isolating version of I Will Survive (“I should have bought that bag of rice, I should have stockpiled more bog roll”) while her husband and children loll catatonically on the sofa.

I smile drily and forward it on to my other WhatsApp groups, along with the video of a home schooling mum teaching maths by filling up her wine glass in fractions; and the toddler howling with grief (below) as her mother explains that all the fast food restaurants are closed.

(“You’ve literally got to eat Mummy’s cooking now. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”)

This is fame in the coronavirus era: making a meme that makes people laugh. Even tech-nervous Generation X-ers like me – strangers to TikTok, and only partial dwellers in the rest of social media – can see the point now.

What most of these successful memes have in common is their universality. They are filmed by normal people in normal homes, with messy kitchens and tired sofas and rippled glass front doors. The tone is wry, self-deprecating, bleakly funny. It is the comedy of shared experience. Physically, we may be isolated, but spiritually we are all adrift in the same leaky boat.

Except Hollywood celebrities. They are adrift in a fully staffed mega-yacht with cream leather interiors – yet instead of feeling lucky, they seem to be having a collective nervous breakdown.

To be fair, the conditions created by the global shutdown are extremely hostile for them. Suddenly, there are no adoring crowds to perform for, no selfie-hunters on the streets, no paparazzi to pretend to dodge. The electric charge of person-to-person recognition has gone dead.

Even the digital limelight has become less flattering. All the things that used to make celebrities fascinating – their perfect bodies, their perfect houses, their unreachable “otherness” – now just irritate. They have gone from being the coolest kids in the school to the most annoying: so needy, so vain, so incredibly lacking in self-awareness.

Here’s the singer Sam Smith, self-isolated in a £14m mansion, weeping with ennui (“I hate reading!”). And there’s Madonna, her face stretched tauter than Voldemort’s, delivering an Instagram lecture while naked in a bathtub strewn with rose petals:

The ghastly thing about this virus, she observes, is that it has no respect for rank: “It doesn’t care how rich you are, how famous you are …”

In another one of these bizarre “quarantine diaries”, Madge reflects on how alarming it is when the virus starts to affect those close to you. “Yes, I’m lucky – I have a friend who’s a florist. But even she has given me the last of her roses.”

This tone-deafness afflicts even well-meaning celebrity efforts. Actress Gal Gadot, for example, tried to boost global spirits with a celebrity singalong of John Lennon’s most famous ballad.

“Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you caaaaaan,” warbled a succession of insanely rich actors, gazing mournfully into the camera from their mansions in the Hollywood hills. It kind of worked: the whole world was briefly united in derisory laughter.

It’s as if celebrities no longer understand how to work the fame machine: every button they press only further illuminates their flaws. Right now, the world doesn’t want them. They should step aside and let the frazzled mums have their day.