Hollywood has largely avoided acknowledging the pandemic, a refusal to reckon with the world as it exists now. Films either fleetingly mention it in the past tense or reduce it to SNL-level punchlines. Some believe pandemic life can't translate to visually engaging cinema, but that's a failure of imagination. The success of HBO's The Last of Us shows the audience for darker, pandemic-themed stories exists. International film-makers have found ways to weave the pandemic into narratives. Hollywood's focus on fantasy and escapism over current realities raises questions about creative courage.
The 1918 flu pandemic went unremarked in silent movies. Film-makers depicted outbreaks long past or from fictional sources. Hollywood has applied similar denialism to recent crises. Not until Philadelphia (1993) did a mainstream film truly address the AIDS epidemic. After September 11, Hollywood digitally removed shots of the Twin Towers. Spike Lee's 25th Hour stood out for acknowledging post-9/11 reality. By examining the historical precedent, it becomes evident that Hollywood's avoidance of the pandemic is part of a pattern.
Great film-making helps us make sense of our troubled current era, of which the pandemic is an unignorable piece. Cinema has always helped us process the world. Movies willing to acknowledge the reality of the pandemic can provide catharsis and a sense of shared experience. By pointing at the massive thing that happened, filmmakers can help audiences navigate collective trauma. It is time for Hollywood to embrace the responsibility of cinema as a medium that reflects and interprets the world we live in.
Pandemic-themed stories have the potential to educate and create empathy. Through compelling narratives, audiences can gain a deeper understanding of the impact of crises on individuals and society. Hollywood should not shy away from exploring the complexities of pandemic life. By depicting the challenges, sacrifices, and resilience of people during these times, films can foster empathy and inspire collective action. Pandemic storytelling has the power to connect us, remind us of our shared humanity, and motivate us to address ongoing issues, both globally and locally.
Film-makers have a unique opportunity to shape cultural narratives and influence public perceptions. By avoiding the pandemic, Hollywood risks perpetuating a narrative that ignores or trivializes real-world struggles. The power of film lies in its ability to challenge societal norms and provoke critical thinking. By embracing pandemic storytelling, film-makers can contribute to a larger conversation about the current state of the world and encourage audiences to reflect on their own experiences. It is time for Hollywood to step up and use its platform to address the most pressing issues of our time.
As audiences crave authenticity and relevance, Hollywood must adapt to the changing landscape of entertainment. By acknowledging the pandemic and incorporating it into storytelling, the film industry can stay connected to its audience and remain culturally significant. This is an opportunity for Hollywood to show creative courage and push the boundaries of what cinema can achieve. Pandemic-themed films can spark important conversations, challenge societal norms, and provide a mirror to our collective experiences. Embracing the reality of our troubled times is not only artistically fulfilling but also essential for the continued relevance of the film industry.