Rita Ora and Laurence Fox are among the stars under fire this week for breaking lockdown rules and, in some cases, encouraging their fans to follow suit. But should the responsibility to be good role models to their followers during the pandemic rest on their shoulders?
On Saturday, pop star Rita celebrated her 30th birthday with dinner at a Notting Hill, London restaurant despite all eateries in England banned from opening to customers. She apologised and voluntarily paid a £10,000 fine to the council.
It was reported that 30 people were in attendance but Rita has downplayed the party size.
The following day, actor Laurence tweeted that he’d just had a ‘large group’ of friends over to his house for Sunday lunch. He unapologetically boasted of sharing hugs with his pals and encouraged his Twitter followers to do the same stating that ‘compliance is violence’.
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US rapper Cardi B has also faced scrutiny after proudly announcing that she spent Thanksgiving with 37 people in her house, despite America having the highest coronavirus death toll in the world.
These rule-breaking celebrities have been called everything under the sun from ‘selfish’ to ‘attention-seeking’ and other names not to be repeated.
However there will no doubt be some impressionable fans who see their idols rebelling against government advice and feel inspired to do the same.
In this case, how much duty of care should celebrities bear to stay at home and advocate stopping the spread of Covid-19?
Writer and social behaviour expert Judi James told Metro.co.uk: ‘A problem with lockdown and the rules and rule-breaking is that for some people, especially younger people, there is a sense of embarrassment when it comes to taking the rules seriously and adhering to them when they are with their own peer group.
‘Peer and group pressure can be very affecting but so might any role-model referencing. If accepted popular and even iconic role-models of your group are seen to be doing the right thing it can help, but the reverse can also be true.’
Life coach Carole-Ann Rice agreed and weighed in: ‘One would hope that the fans would have the knowledge to realise that what celebrities do, they don’t always have to follow and essentially mimic the lifestyle, so hopefully they are not breaking the rules.’
In an interview with the Daily Mail’s Femail last year, Rita said she loved having an influence on her followers, stating: ‘I think being a role model in general is a big responsibility and one that I take on proudly.
‘But if it is a celebrity we admire and that we view as a positive role model we could find our decisions and our behaviour are affected by them and some people might even try to copy them in a bid to mirror their lifestyle.’
Downing Street made the unexpected move of addressing celebrities breaking the rules before lockdown lifts.
Reminding the country of how serious the measures are, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘It’s important that everybody in society sets an example by following the rules – that is for every member of the public including celebrities.’
Specifically on Rita, he added: ‘Throughout the pandemic we’ve been clear that it’s vital for everyone to abide by the rules in order to suppress the virus and reduce the transmission but enforcement matter is for the police.
When asked about Laurence, the spokesman stated: ‘The Prime Minister has been clear of the need for everybody across the country to continue to abide by the rules in order to reduce the transmission of the virus, but it’s up to police to decide what action to take.’
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