Most of us are spending a lot of time binge-watching these days, because really… what else do you do when you’re stuck inside? We can only complete so many puzzles, and eat so many snacks (we’re averaging at about 10 meals per day currently, how about you?) before we look to the TV to offer up some entertainment, quarantine style. Naturally, this has lead a lot of us to revisit the 2011 virus-thriller Contagion, because really — could anything be more fitting?
The film follows fictional pandemic which kills 26 million people worldwide, and features a star-studded cast including: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, and Jennifer Ehle. Gwyneth Paltrow also made a short-lived appearance — no spoilers, but if you know… you know.
Over the past few weeks, the film has experienced a major resurgence, as viewers draw parallels between the fictional plot and our current reality. In fact, Warners Bros. (the film’s producer) says Contagion was the 270th most viewed film in their catalog in December 2019, and since 2020 it’s become their second most watched title. The only movies getting more viewers are from the Harry Potter franchise.
Oscar winning Writer-director, Barry Jenkins is among those admitting to recently adding Contagion to his must-(re)watch list. He told The New York Times, “I was really curious to see how well it would line up to what is happening right now. It was shocking. It felt like I was watching a documentary that has all these movie stars playing real people.”
And now someone who noticed the recent influx in viewers has found a way to leverage that interest. Columbia University got the stars to film a series of PSA-style videos, providing the internet with critical information about COVID-19, along with helpful instructions pertaining to current public health recommendations.
Statements like “Wash your hands like your life depends on it, because right now… it just might” and “COVID-19 is very real” were shared by the likes of Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, and Jennifer Ehle.
In Damon’s clip, he explains that the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia, asked the stars if they would have a “virtual reunion” to film these PSAs, and says that all information shared was carefully vetted by public health experts and scientists. Given the nature of social media today and the rate at which information (and subsequently, misinformation) can spread, it’s reassuring to see celebrities utilizing their platform to provide helpful information and, more importantly, encourage widespread cooperation in our efforts to #FlattenTheCurve.