Salon has a good article on “plague movies” and how they relate to our panic over the swine flu. Some of my favorite excerpts that articulate my crazy fears better than I would:
“What most if not all of these movies share is a gloomy atmosphere of isolation and paranoia. The culture so carefully built by man over the centuries has either completely disappeared or is vanishing rapidly. Stores are closed and, very likely, have been looted. Our traditional means of law and order have disappeared. There’s no more garbage pickup. The military and the government are usually somehow involved — ostensibly, they’re trying to keep order, but mostly they’re just leading people to their doom.
These movies do more than just lay out chilly what-if scenarios. Some of them are steeped in biblical morality: How do we react when we see fellow human beings in pain? When we see someone in danger — a feverish individual, say, who may or may not be a zombie — do we stop to help if doing so threatens our own safety, or do we opt for self-preservation? In most plague movies, there’s deep mistrust of “the other,” the outsider who may be infected (and it’s often an outsider who started it all). Those kinds of stark divisions raise even bigger questions, sometimes amounting to a kind of civics lesson: What is it that keeps a society together, even if it’s just a society of a dozen or so healthy (that is to say, uninfected) people?
And maybe that’s why a real-life virus scare and a wholly fictional movie elicit the same response in us: Both make us think about coming face-to-face with our own sense of aloneness.”
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