So. That was a very fitting conclusion to a very enjoyable class. It seemed as if Contagion touched on various themes we had discussed regarding other texts. While watching what I thought was an excellent movie (thanks in large part to the acting. What a cast!) I couldn’t help but wonder whether Soderbergh’s depiction of pandemic was accurate or not. Indeed it is a fair assumption to make that certain aspects of pandemic and the nature of viruses were exaggerated in order to create drama. This article looks into the degree of realism in Contagion. The procedures taken by officials and the questions left unanswered make the film, according to the article, slightly inaccurate.
This article by NPR discusses the real-world case of Ebola in terms of the film. They make a good point by saying the grim reality of Ebola is nothing compared to the highly dramatised image we get of MEV-1, the seemingly indestructible virus which spreads like “wildfire”. Thus people might be inclined to regard Ebola as a disease similar to the one in Contagion. This is a dangerous comparison to make in a world where the threat of pandemic is ever-present.
Finally, a bit of trivia: Consultant Dr. Ian Lipkin – professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health – said the virus in the film is one he created based on some traits of the Nipah virus from Malaysia in the late 1990s which spread from pigs to farmers. (IMDB)
Hope everyone has a good winter break!
Great follow-ups to the film. I’ve seen the film now three or four times and I’m still trying to sort through the logic of the final scenes. On the one hand, it would seem that global capitalism has rendered us more vulnerable than ever: both in terms of how food is produced and shipped and in terms of global air traffic potentially spreading a virus between major global cities. That seems to be the point of tracing the spread from the bats to the pigs to the hotel chef to Gwyneth. (Also, is there some suggestion that she may have deserved the infection due to her infidelity?) This chain of transmission seems to send the notion that every touch is potentially deadly. But Laurence Fishburne’s little speech at the end to the janitor’s son about the history of handshakes (Nemesis, anyone?) seems to suggest that the film doesn’t want us to stop such demonstrations of our non-threatening human exchanges. Is it just that we need to keep washing our hands between handshakes?