“Dear President Vladimir Putin, I am so sorry that I was not your mother,” AnnaLynne McCord begins her spoken word poem to the President of Russia, who — in case you haven’t seen the Instagram infographics — is in the midst of directing an attack on Ukraine.
What comes next is a nearly two-and-a-half minute performance in which McCord utilizes an elaborate rhyme scheme and a deeply emotional/caring/worried? expression to try and articulate her message: If she had been Putin’s mother, none of this would be happening.
Now, this is a bold take, but McCord continues, “If I was your mother, you would have been so loved / Held in the arms of joyous light / Never would this story's plight / The world unfurled before our eyes.”
Essentially, it seems to come down to the idea that President Putin was a deeply unloved and underappreciated child. For that reason, he’s having a not-so-little meltdown that happens to include launching an attack on a sovereign nation. If only spoken word poetry could end wars.
This video — originally posted by McCord to Twitter — now has over 31 million views. As one might imagine, the reactions haven’t exactly been positive. McCord has been trolled online since she originally posted the video on Feb. 24. Despite the negative feedback, she’s not backing down.
In defending her choice, McCord told Buzzfeed News, “If certain circumstances of my life were different, were I a little less bent toward healing and more toward vindication, I could have been a darkly powerful person.”
More than an interesting statement, it’s also a trivializing one. McCord is not a male Russian politician who has held onto a presidency for 10 years, and painting herself as such deeply minimizes the social, economic, and political factors that have shaped this unfortunate reality. From her position of privilege as a white American actress, it’s inappropriate for her to claim she can solve a complex global crisis.
While the tragedy of Ukraine is far from a direct parallel, McCord’s actions serve as a reminder of the many times in which celebrities chose to weigh in on tragedy. Consider Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial against police brutality or the celebrity montage cover of The Beatles’s “Imagine” at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the Pepsi ad, Jenner rips off a blond wig, smears her makeup, and walks through a Black Lives Matter protest to hand a police officer a Pepsi. Unrealistically, her bold decision is then followed by everyone erupting into ecstatic cheers. The celebrity montage video has a lower production value, with celebrities recording themselves on their phones, but that’s what makes it even more cringeworthy. Celebrities singing at home in quarantine — they’re just like us, right? No. The video revealed that they are horribly out of touch as they believed that their video could alleviate the immense and layered pain caused by the pandemic.
These equally painful-to-watch instances of celebrities overestimating their importance point towards a deeper theme of believing that virtue signaling from absurdly wealthy people will solve deeply entrenched issues. In times of extreme unrest or pain, celebrities often make this move of surface-level engagement but fail to acknowledge the greater systems of oppression at play. Their misunderstanding of the problem then fails to alleviate any pain, but then they trivialize it or create a comedic spectacle, as these videos have all done. McCord’s performance thus perpetuates an overall erasure of the histories and realities that lead to such dire situations and fails to provide any active remedy.