Larry David has recorded a PSA urging Californians to stay at home (as they are legally required to do, except for essential errands) and thereby avoid catching or transmitting COVID-19. It is pretty funny, until you contemplate the economically privileged assumptions underlying his message.
"I basically want to address the idiots out there," says the co-creator of Seinfeld and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm while sitting in a living room chair. "You know who you are. You're going out. I don't know what you're doing. You're socializing too close. It's not good. You're hurting old people like me. Well, not me. I have nothing to do with you. I'll never see you. But, you know, let's say other old people, who might be your relatives. Who the hell knows?"
In case the health of elderly relatives is not enough of an argument, David offers an added enticement. "The problem is, you're passing up a fantastic opportunity—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to stay in the house, sit on the couch, and watch TV!" he says. "I mean, I don't know how you're passing that up. Well, maybe because you're not that bright. But here it is: Go home! Watch TV! That's my advice to you." There follows some patter about how "nothing good ever happens outside of the house" and the proper sanitary procedure in the event of a "plumbing emergency" that requires professional attention.
Interpreted as a warning to avoid infecting people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, David's advice is unexceptionable, and fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm will find his irascible, condescending manner amusing rather than off-putting. But his assumption that anyone who chafes at Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order must be an irresponsible idiot who doesn't care about the welfare of his grandmother ignores the millions of people who have lost their jobs or businesses as a result of the governor's edict and are now struggling to get by.
Even if you believe that the economic burden is justified by the goals of curtailing the epidemic, saving vulnerable people, and preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, the hardship caused by such aggressive interventions cannot be (or at least should not be) lightly dismissed. By implying that people who are worried about covering their bills because they have been forcibly deprived of their livelihoods are just too stupid to know a good thing when they see it, David shows the hallmark insensitivity of his Curb Your Enthusiasm character, but in this case at the expense of actual human beings who are suffering through no fault of their own. For a celebrity with a net worth of $400 million, it's an easy mistake to make.