Watching the movie “Contagion” was definitely a strange experience during these strange times. At several different points in the movie, I found myself either laughing or cringing at how relatable some of the situations seemed to be (in particular, Matt Damon forcing hand sanitizer onto his daughters hands after leaving the grocery store). While the virus in the movie did seem much more lethal than the virus our world is currently dealing with, there were still many parallels between the imaginary pandemic being played out on screen and the real life pandemic we are battling today. On several occasions, I found myself criticizing the public’s response to the epidemic and yelling at the TV things like “Why are you STILL not wearing your mask??” and “Why would you be so CLOSE to someone that you don’t know in public??” Some of the biggest parallels I was able to draw were based around the public’s response to the ongoing crises.
The first thing that really stood out to me was how the public failed to listen to expert advise on social distancing, and the public also failed to wear masks to protect themselves and others, much how citizens today are handling the pandemic. At no point in the movie were “uninfected” people required to mask up as we do currently. Granted, that may be due to the lack of a possibility of being asymptomatic in the movie. I also found it super strange in the movie how people were rioting and looting as if that was solving any of the problems at hand, but again, so have people in this day and age. What I really don’t understand is the rioting against a virus, in both the movie and in real life. I don’t understand why people riot against a microorganism that literally cannot change its behaviors in response to your protests. I guess this aspect of the film could be summed up as the stupidity of the public.
Another relatable aspect of the movie was the empty grocery stores and stocking up of canned foods and hand sanitizers. At the beginning of the COVID mess, my mom spent hundreds of dollars on non-perishable foods, as it seemed people were doing in the film as well. The dad yelling at his daughter to not touch anything in the store also hit really close to home for me (LOL). Although it hasn’t gotten to the point of raiding my neighbors houses for groceries, the fear of not having food due to the virus was/is a very real concern for both citizens in the film and citizens today. This leads me to another, more broad, parallel that I picked up on, which is the fear evoked by not knowing and uncertainty. The fear of not knowing whether or not you’ll get food or the fear of not knowing how long this all will last is very real and , honestly, very rational in my opinion. I thought the movie did a good job of not really tending to the uncertainty it evoked, especially at the end when the movie ended very vaguely with the production of the vaccines. It kind of emphasizes that we never know when it will end, or if it ever really will.
The last big parallel I picked up on was the dishonesty of the government/health organizations with the public about the severity of the situation as a whole. In both the movie and real life, the government and health officials downplayed the severity of the virus. In the movie, they withheld information involving the number of deaths from the public in an attempt to not elicit irrational fear. However, when the janitor overheard the conversation, he was able to figure out just how much the public was actually in the dark. In our situation today with the coronavirus pandemic, I feel as if our government and other country’s governments have been less than honest with us about many aspects of the virus, especially concerning when and where it was first isolated. In the US, our government definitely downplayed the severity of it and its contagiousness, leading to the ultimate failure of our country to successfully fight this pandemic. In the movie, places were being quarantined and guarded by military officials to ensure a lock down, which I think would’ve been a good idea for our country to have explored in the initial stages of the spread of the virus.
Overall, it was kind of ironic in a twisted way to watch a movie about something that is literally going on outside of our own windows currently. It was funny at times to think some of the comments I was thinking about the movie in comparing our actions with theirs, and thinking about how funny it is that I am even able to draw these comparisons. Watching the movie was a humbling experience in many ways, mostly because it helped be realize that our situation could always be worse, especially with a more lethal virus. It was also fun to be able to think about the microbiology of it all and how one tiny organism can cause such non-tiny chaos and damage and quite literally change the world as we know it.