So watching the 2012 movie “Contagion” while “Social Distancing” during the Memorial Day 2020 weekend may sound like a depressing thing to do.
Yet I actually enjoyed it once I got past the Kate Winslet death scene. It was a little too real until then.
I will skip to the ending which explains the beginning first.
Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays U.S. patient zero, got the virus by shaking hands with the chef who prepared her meal in a Hong Kong hotel. The chef, who was in the midst of preparing a pig for roasting just prior, didn’t wash his hands beforehand, merely wiped them on his dirty apron. He then clasped her hands while taking the photo.
Of course the pig had been purchased live at a pork farm. It had also been infected by a virus found in bat guano. The bats had been turned out of their natural ecosystem when the company Paltrow works for ironically mowed down trees in which the bats had once made their homes in an Asian forest. The bats fly over the pig farm.
You get the drift.
We are still the cause of our own destruction through our desire to mine every resource, grab every bit of land we can, to turn a profit. Environmental consequences be damned.
The human misery we experience is generally of our own making.
There are also other elements of what we are currently experiencing in the COVID19 pandemic. The exponential rapidity (R naught) with which the virus is spread through coughing, sneezing, touching something an infected person has touched. Contact tracing. Using large structures constructed for other reasons to set up huge federal field hospital operations. The lag time and inadequacy of government intervention to aid people struggling to survive in an economy that is closed. The rush to find a vaccine.
The societal breakdown was more rapid and widespread than we have experienced. In our life, essential workers have not stopped working, and rioting and looting in the streets has not occurred. Despite the social media posts showing people going berserk and getting themselves tased because they refuse to sign for a traffic stop violation, we have been marginally civil to one another.
(Okay, except for the people in Michigan trying to intimidate Governor Gretchen Whitmer with their AR-15s on the Capitol steps in Lansing.)
There is even an anti-vaxxer narrative. Of course the web site provocateur with 12 million followers (Jude Law) pushing it has no problem making money off the fear and suspicion of the government he is promoting. Celebrity capitalism at its finest, right?
There is even a dollop of hope thrown in. A vaccine is found when a brave researcher (Jennifer Ehle) uses herself as a human Guinée pig to skip over controlled clinical trials. The vaccine is quickly scaled to dole out to the world based on your birthday month and day in a lottery system reversal of the Shirley Jackson short-story.
And Matt Damon, who played Paltrow’s naturally immune husband, throws a belated at home Prom Night party for his daughter and her boyfriend at the end. (Although why CDC researchers never study Damon’s immunity to see what it is that protects him from the virus remains an unsolved mystery, given the focus on anti-body studies as in our own current situation.)
But hey, it’s only a two hour movie to document a world-wide pandemic from start to finish. Would that COVID19 would have passed on so quickly.
Strangely the movie made me feel better about being home, alone, staying in on a Memorial Day weekend. No family barbecue. No walking on a beach somewhere. An afternoon nap the only novelty in the “Groundhog Day” of my coronavirus experience.
Because re-watching the movie convinced me I am doing the right thing, no matter how much I am dying to get to the beauty shop and have my hair – which is now three different lengths and four different colors – more stylishly coiffed as I am used to having it.
It’s not worth it to me to risk my life for something a box of L’Oreal off Amazon, a couple of hair ties, and barrettes can temporarily cure.
Because right now there IS no cure for this virus. I don’t care how much hydroxychloroquine Donald Trump allegedly takes.
And if real life follows the script, that two hour movie was about a year-and-a-half minimum outside an air conditioned theater.
Just about in line with everything Dr. Anthony Fauci has told us as our real-life contagion continues to unfold.
Real life. As strange as fiction, it turns out.