A movie health alert

Contagion

Starring Matt Damon, Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow; directed by Steven Soderbergh

This is an official CDC MAN Info Service Message Distributed via Movie Alert Network 
October 1, 2011, 12:20 EDT (12:20 AM EDT) CDCMAN-00320-2011-03-27-ADV-N

Monitoring Increased Levels of Allergic Reactions in the U.S. as a Result of the Outbreak of the film Contagion at Movie Theaters Summary


As a result of the recent release of the film Contagion in neighborhood malls and movie theaters across the country, the federal Centers for Depiction in Cinema and Projection (CDC) is releasing this advisory to warn potential moviegoers that their exposure to this film may result in an allergic reaction to similar films that depict pandemics. Individuals who are highly sensitive to realistic films showing the spread of germs and people getting sick and dying are warned to stay away from these locations, or secure protective measures before entering. There have been reports that several screenings have detected elevated levels of entertainment in addition to the doses of the fear and paranoia that attend the spread of mysterious and potentially untreatable infectious disease.

Background

The media that distributes visual images and the locations that project them began showing a film called Contagion on 9 September 2011. It has since spread to a number of locations throughout the nation. The film depicts the initiation of an infectious disease, and the rapid and alarming spread of that deadly virus around the globe. It follows the vectors of disparate individuals as they become infected, seek to quarantine the sick, coordinate a response, find a vaccine, administer that vaccine, protect themselves and their loved ones, and develop conspiracy theories about its source and control. Since the initial release of the filmic virus, a number of individuals became infected with an exaggerated fear of germs and the spread of infectious agents. Some individuals even became agitated when other movie viewers seated nearby coughed or sneezed while watching the film. The pathway of the film virus is through light entering the vitreous fluid of the eye and hitting rods and cones associated with the retina.

Most concerning is the side effect of this virus. Many of those exposed to this realistic unfolding of a pandemic have now become allergic to similar films that attempt to depict such an epidemic or exaggerate the humanistic responses to actual viral infections. People who are already predisposed to such films may find that the activities and scenarios played out in Contagion are nonetheless very predictable and obvious. However, what is unique about this particular outbreak are the more realistic behaviors and responses exhibited to the fear and suspicions created when millions die from an untreatable illness. There is a mad scramble to find a cure, and yet people take risks — within reason — to seek that cure. People are also seen taking steps to protect their loved ones, but not in a manner that is egregious and displayed with over-the-top violence and mayhem. For these reasons, any person who survives their exposure to Contagion may find it exceedingly difficult (in extreme cases producing anaphylactic shock) to be exposed to yet another film portraying the ramifications of a pandemic — such as zombie-esque contagions, space-bearing spores, invading alien contaminates, or mutated agents that transform or kill millions of human beings, even those who might get a thrill out of such mass gore and violent action.

What the Federal CDC is Doing

The Centers for Depiction in Cinema and Projection continues to conduct near real-time on-screen monitoring in theaters across the nation. With these recent reports, the CDC has increased monitoring across the country to ensure that the American people have the most up to date information.

Recommendations

The federal CDC recommends that:

• Movie theaters showing Contagion be prepared to have extra paper towels in the restrooms as patrons exposed to the film may exit the showing with a strong desire to wash their hands before interacting with other humans.

• Convenience and grocery stores near theater complexes showing Contagion should stock up on hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, and face masks in order to provide viewers with these items when they finish witnessing the film because they may feel a strong need to protect themselves from pathogens in their environment.

Jennifer Ehle in Contagion
2011 Warner Bros. Pictures

• Comminutes should be prepared for the situation when some viewers of Contagion may exhibit an acute fear of all forms of human contact and thus may barricade themselves in their homes to prevent any possible exposure to mysterious illnesses.

• Video outlets (such as Netflix, Blockbuster, Redbox) should feel free to remove copies of the following films, as viewing Contagion will contaminate interest in these similar pandemic-esque media (they will be seen as repetitive, hyper-exaggerated, or just plain silly):

­­­­­o The Andromeda Strain
o Outbreak
o The Crazies
o 28 Days Later
o 12 Monkeys
o The Omega Man
o I am Legend
o Resident Evil
o Blindness

The Centers for Depiction in Cinema and Projection (CDC) protects potential moviegoers’ health and safety by preventing and controlling visits to potentially crowed multiplexes and the mental and sensory injuries that may ensue; enhances movie viewing decisions by providing credible information on critical movie issues; and promotes healthy movie-going experiences through strong assessments of films with local, national, international, supernatural and intergalactic influences.

Doug Young is the film critic for The Statesman and heads up the Center for Depiction in Cinema and Projection.