Sun 18 Apr 21 in Life

Covid and contagion, reality and fiction

#Culture

Every year for the last four years has been marred by many frustrations that lead to the proclamation of the worst year. Either due to the number of celebrities that have died, the election of certain officials that are controversial, or any other reason for claiming “the worst year”. But then 2020 happened.

The pandemic has affected all of us. It has been on all our collective minds for more than a year now, as 2021 seems like overtime with no end in sight. To mentally deal with this situation, a lot of us have turned to entertainment and consumed many movies and tv shows from various streaming services.

Relating to a story to keep us going and sane has also brought into the spotlight some movies and stories that deal with epidemics or pandemics. However interesting it may be to watch zombie movies, that kind of disease is ultimately an unrealistic one. 

 

There have been other movies made, centered around a virus. Outbreak comes to mind and while entertaining in its own way, it has a more action flick feel to it. The characters in Outbreak are either extremely righteous or extremely corrupt, making everything black and white, opposite extremes. Thus enter Contagion. By no means a recent movie as it aired in 2011, yet eerily accurate in some parts, to our world now. Its story is far quieter than Outbreak, centered on the human side, the political.

There are no action extravaganzas with explosions or helicopter chases and crashes. It may seem more boring. While that may have been true in 2011, nothing was as frightening in these times of strife as hearing Kate Winslet’s character explain how often people touch their faces and how fast other viruses spread.  So what else is there than to hold a mirror to the actual worst year and the movie that is as close to what we are going through now? 

 

The origin of the virus. 

Both in the movie and in real life the virus emerged from animals in China. The movie then moves the story to the US and basically shows how the states react to this virus as patient 0 returns home. The movie only shows how the virus takes its toll on America, while in reality, the many countries affected paint a very broad spectrum of how it impacted people. The movie gives clear numbers of infected and deaths while reality was so much more sketchy.

Testing people for the virus is how the number of infected was revealed, and in the beginning, testing was not so efficient. Some political figures arguing there should be less testing. Having that information from the start seems a fantasy in real life as it turns out we could very well have been in the dark for a very long time as the virus spread without us knowing. 

 

Everything moved much faster in the movie, lockdown was set after 14 days of the first death. While we in the real world saw many countries suffer under the pressure of the disease and going into lockdown before the mention of lockdown in our respective countries was even a possibility. It felt like watching a train crash in slow motion, seeing the wagons before us crash, casually thinking it would not reach us.

Ultimately the effects of covid have reached everywhere around the planet, in a constant replay of deja vu, where politicians downplay the severity, lockdown is imposed late, healthcare officials suffer under the pressure. On and on it went, ticking every country. Scenes of empty streets and places of worship from the movie closely resemble the real-life scenes of empty piazzas, empty roads devoid of cars, and the serene stillness of countless cities in many countries. 

 

The panic 

Whatever other feeling this pandemic has inspired, fear has been the most prevalent. Here both movie and reality share uncanny similarities in the way the public reacted. People started panic buying toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and canned goods. Fearing the lockdown would keep them inside or perhaps that the world would end. 

 

Multiple conspiracy theories had arisen. From fears of biological weapons disguised as a pandemic, to 5G signal towers spreading the virus or that the virus has a connection to corona beer. In the movie, Jude Law’s character is a catalyst for misinformation and false claims about an extract called forsythia, which he uses to cure himself of the virus he fakes to have contracted. People then flocked to grab a dose of forsythia for themselves, believing it to be an actual cure. In reality, this closely mirrors the hydroxychloroquine debacle.

In which false claims about the drug sprung people to buy it in massive quantities causing a shortage for people who actually needed it for other ailments. A shortage of N95 masks was reported. Health staff use those types of masks with full PPE to protect themselves while treating infected patients. Fears of side effects due to the vaccine again are present in both reality and movie. Mass graves are something that has not happened as of yet in reality and hopefully, it won’t happen.

 

The pandemic itself is one hurdle to overcome, there is also a constant stream of horrible things that happened in its wake. A horrible consequence of constantly labeling it as “the Chinese virus” sparked Asian hostility which is still going on now in 2021. 

 

There is no certainty in real life, which is of course a product of reality. That is why we seek fantasy and stories through the medium of movies such as this. To have a certain understanding of a situation like this. In the end though the number of details that plague reality is in a way far scarier than what the movie depicts.