Deadly Diseases go to Hollywood

An article in the LA Times indicates that microscopic viruses are the biggest bad guys in Hollywood, multiplying with abandon in films such as “Contagion” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes“, as well as factoring in AMC’s zombie-centric TV show “The Walking Dead“. These infectious agents are an excellent cinematic expression of evil — invisible to the naked eye, they spread with abandon and kill scores with no remorse.

Rick Jewell, a professor of film history at the USC School of Cinematic Arts told LA Times Reporters that:

“When people are really fearful about the future, these kinds of films tend to come to the fore… Whether they’re necessarily worried about germs and things like that is beside the point. What they’re more worried about is, ‘What does the future look like?’ And right now there’s good reason to be concerned about the future.”

Therefore we are embracing killer virus movies in order or as a means to “channel our worries about unemployment, upside-down mortgages, global warming and the war in Afghanistan.”
Jewell told the LA Times:

“There have been some viruses and other health situations that have been pretty scary, and that factors right into the fears we have about terrorism, the economy getting worse and more people losing their jobs…I see these films as apocalyptic visions of the future.”

Joe Pichirallo, chairman of the undergraduate film and television program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts told the newspaper:

“We have never felt quite as safe as we did before that event… and stories that play off seemingly normal things that could end up being monsters tend to fit in with the zeitgeist…What is going to scare people and feel fresh and new…I would imagine one reason viruses and zombies are coming back is because they haven’t been exhausted.”

Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture studies at Syracuse University in New York told the newspaper that:

“Everyone was vulnerable to [AIDS], and this bred a generation of people who realized something like that could happen…The creative community was decimated by it…Back in World War II, you knew who you were attacking, and someone was going to win or lose…People go to the movies to be entertained…They don’t go with the hope that they’re going to feel worse than they did when they walked into the theater. That’s not something people want to pay for.”

Jeannine Stein concluded in her LA Times article:

“Happy endings aren’t guaranteed in real life, though, and it’s always possible that another virus like the 1918 Spanish flu — which is believed to have killed at least 50 million people worldwide — could come along. If it does, movies about killer viruses may be the last thing we’d want to see.”

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