As far as tone deaf displays of wealth go, The Ellen Show served up a doozy with a segment posted to YouTube on Wednesday starring Bill Gates.
The concept is simple: Ellen DeGeneres asks Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the richest people on planet Earth, to guess the prices of everyday grocery store items. The intended effect, one must presume given the usual tenor of DeGeneres’ show, was humor—a guy with so much money that he’s completely divorced from the everyday humdrum of buying reasonably-priced items at a store shows us just how out of touch he is.
When Gates guesses that a box of Rice-a-Roni is $5 (actually $1), the crowd deflated, sighed, chattered, and laughed at Gates. I swear I can hear a guy saying, “Jesus…” in the audience sound mix. “The audience didn’t like that,” Gates says, sheepishly. It all worked out, though—when he correctly guessed the price of a box of floss, the audience positively exploded with applause. Gates seemed equally surprised.
Whatever the intent of the segment, though, it accomplishes one thing very well: Reminding us all that billionaires are really not like us. Their lives are better. They don’t even have to know the prices of normal things. This is all because they have money and we don’t. This is intuitively obvious but it’s easy to forget as long as we’re constantly being told that all manner of rich people and brands are our friends.