Exposure therapy: why we're obsessed with watching virus movies

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  2 weeks ago  •  41 comments

Exposure therapy: why we're obsessed with watching virus movies
Streaming numbers for Contagion and Outbreak have been huge, suggesting people are choosing exposure over escapism

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

I n flagrant disregard for the old adage about the show going on, the entertainment industry has ground to a halt. Reports of coronavirus outbreaks put a stop to production on everything from the teen soap du jour to a high-profile Elvis biopic. (Get well soon, Hanx.) With movie theaters shut down across the globe, studios have pulled their big-ticket releases en masse with an eye on a more clement climate by late summer or fall. Even if the theaters were still running, it’d be a moot point, given the populace’s general reluctance to leave the house for any high-density social areas. Everyone’s hunkering down to spend what could be a very long stretch of time at home, and in terms of movies, that can mean only one thing: these are boom times for streaming.


When old films go viral: how coronavirus gave Contagion an unexpected afterlife

The usual lineup of publications have all run their own guides to ideal quarantine viewing options, whether that means the absurd pleasures of fiasco Meet Joe Black, the soothing comforts of the Nancy Meyers canon, or the germaphobe terror of Safe. Others have taken this as an occasion to revisit films that speak more directly to the phenomenon at hand; screening rentals and downloads of Stephen Soderbergh’s disaster thriller   Contagion   have soared, as have considerations of its chillingly realistic simulation of a pandemic. On Twitter, colleagues have recommended Ling Ma’s recent novel Severance and the 2011 cult sci-fi thought experiment Perfect Sense, more dystopian accounts of worldwide sickness.

The 1995 film Outbreak – the original release of which hits the 25-year mark this week, a creepy cosmic wrinkle of chance – has also enjoyed a huge surge in streaming views (as of writing, it’s the third most watched film on Netflix in the US) as its subject matter grows increasingly, stomach-churningly relevant. It would appear to be a perverse quirk of the modern human condition that compels us to seek out media foregrounding that which upsets us, but this has been hardwired into our pathology for millennia. Viewers have been flocking to these films for a sanctioned version of exposure therapy, in which an inconceivable menace can be experienced and survived. (That, or everyone just wants to watch the scene from Outbreak where Kevin Spacey gets infected.)


  Jude Law in Contagion. Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

For some psychological profiles, keeping fear out of sight only enables it to expand in size and intensity. Such films as Contagion and Outbreak – or less literal projections, like the zombie armageddon of 28 Days Later – allow audiences to vicariously live through the end of days and survey what will be left after. It’s a form of emergency preparedness for the mind, rendering thinkable the unthinkable and theorizing where the average person’s place in all of it might be. It’s a disquieting way to kill two hours, as affirmed by the sheen of dread covering every “I rewatched Contagion today, oh boy” essay. All the same, it theoretically leaves the viewer a bit tougher and more inured to whatever horrors may still come.

But I’d contend that there’s a faint futility to analyzing apocalypse viewing of any sort, because when something occupies as much mental real estate as the widespread panic of Covid-19, everything becomes apocalypse viewing. If it’s impossible not to spend every waking hour obsessing over the precarious state of the public’s health, it’s likewise impossible not to project those anxieties on to anything one might choose to watch.

To speak anecdotally: just last night, I did what all the reports said to do and tore my eyes away from the news to spend time on the couch with my loved ones. The safe refuges of Mad Men and 30 Rock reruns, however, didn’t afford the instant morphine wave of relief they usually do. Any premise or plot development could be contorted into an unnerving parallel with the viral elephant we desperately wanted to keep out of the room.

Don Draper has a panic attack after his shameful secrets are nearly outed for the umpteenth time, and his shaking feverish sweats bring to mind only one thing. Liz Lemon advises Jack Donaghy that his elderly mother may not be long for this world, and that he would do well to get whatever closure he can with her while there’s still time – that one doesn’t even require much of a stretch. With the stakes this high, anything and everything can be a hypochondriac trigger.

For the first time of my life, moving pictures have proven insufficient consolation from the day’s stresses. At times like this, the viewing equivalent of the fight-or-flight response should drive the Homo sapiens toward the full-on confrontation of disaster movies as a method of gaining control or the warming effects of escapism as a haven of denial. But even those of us usually in the escapism camp can only take that defense so far. It’s starting to seem like the only real therapy is the detached, unplugged, attention-commanding simplicity of chopping vegetables.


jrDiscussion - desc
smarty_function_ntUser_is_admin: user_id parameter required
Buzz of the Orient
1  Buzz of the Orient    2 weeks ago

Having been in voluntary lockdown for almost two months I was able to elude cabin fever by reading books (a few years ago an old friend sent me an e-reader loaded with 244 books, and I've been re-reading the novels of my favourite author, John Grisham), spending too much time on the internet and watching movies on seven cable channels that show foreign movies 24/7, most of which are in English.  There has been no focus on virus topic movies because perhaps doing so would be considered some kind of sick joke here these days.  I recall that one of the first virus-type movies I ever watched was The Andromeda Strain, which I thought was a pretty good movie.

1.1  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    2 weeks ago

The Andromeda Strain... one of my favorite books.  Not many know that Michael Crichton studied microbiology back in the 1960s.  He wrote the book while he was in school. 

The information in the book about adaptation, mutation and immunity brought forth in the Andromeda Strain are as viable today as every.   

Buzz of the Orient
1.1.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1.1    2 weeks ago

The sci-fi movie was released in the early 1970s, and I think it was the first movie about a virus epidemic.

1.1.2  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.1.1    2 weeks ago

Invasion of the body snatchers...?  Sort of the same premise?

2  CB     2 weeks ago

Perrie and anyone, serious question. Can this highly contagious virus travel via our money?! How long can it live on dollars we exchange during the crisis? I heard a non-elaborated on statement Monday (CNN - Chris Cuomo/Don Lemon chatting in the "hand-off"): the coronavirus adheres to paper products better than metals.

Offbeat: In my area, I have observed long lines with shopping carts and people with hand held items, mostly the stores are not telling people to maintain "distance" of any kind in checkout lines.

Buzz of the Orient
2.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  CB @2    2 weeks ago

Since you're so concerned about that, maybe you should just pay with credit cards.

2.1.1  bccrane  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1    2 weeks ago

Yeah and touch the screen and buttons that every butt scratcher, finger licker, nose picker and full hand sneezer touched before you.

I believe that every surface that can hold and transmit the common cold will do the same for this.

2.1.2  CB   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1    2 weeks ago

I do pay with a debit card and cash too. In fact I am up at 6:00 AM PST to head out to the store before the shelves consistently empty (I hope not!) Overnight this question came to me, because cash registers could be "teaming" with this? I mean, I don't know. I want advice. (They don't call it "dirty, stinkin', money for nothin'! (Smile.)

You make a good point, thank you!

2.1.3  CB   replied to  bccrane @2.1.1    2 weeks ago

I carry alcohol wipes in my car to the bank. Guess, I will take them inside the stores for the terminals.

Buzz of the Orient
2.1.4  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  bccrane @2.1.1    2 weeks ago

Wrap your finger in a kleenex - I do that at the ATM.

2.1.5  CB   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1.4    2 weeks ago

Hmm, do you have an issue with finger sensor contact? (Just wondering how you fair on it.)

Buzz of the Orient
2.1.6  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  CB @2.1.5    2 weeks ago

Because, being in my 80s, I'm in the most vulnerable and susceptible class for mortality, living in the most stricken country, I am overly careful.  

2.1.7  CB   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1.6    2 weeks ago

I am sorry, Buzz. The question I asked was somewhat eclectic. My apologies for not being clear. I was running this morning and am still in "hurry" mode here at 10 PM PST.  What I meant was sometimes when I touch the "contact" screen with something other than my skin ("fingerprint") the screen does not properly read for me. I was wandering if you had a similar "issue." 

Now it is clear to me that you do not have an issue with using Kleenex on the touch screens; or wait! It just occurred to me you may be speaking of the keypad?!  (What a day.)

After all I have done today. I did not get toilet paper from the stores. A good neighbor brought some over for me and mine - after I collaborated with her efforts of the day. All's well that ends well.

I was thinking: Two years ago it was the thread of wild fires in California nearly sent us running. Last fall it was the power outages due to high winds and fires which did not happen, but was all around me and mine. Now, the Coronovirus and stores can not keep stock of a stable: toilet paper.

Interesting (all).

Buzz of the Orient
2.1.8  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  CB @2.1.7    2 weeks ago

I have not had to use a touch pad out of the house, and the ones at the bank are push button keypads so there is no problem pushing them with a kleenex-wrapped finger.  In fact I am double protected because I don't go out these days unless I'm wearing disposable gloves.  Of course I dispose of the Kleenex when I have accomplished my button-pushing.

2.2  bccrane  replied to  CB @2    2 weeks ago

Another Offbeat: In our area there are quite a few properties that are summer cabins and hunting cabins which usually sit vacant until summer and fall, they are now occupied by people fleeing the cities of the south here in Michigan.  Just hope they are not bringing an unwelcome guest with them.

2.2.1  CB   replied to  bccrane @2.2    2 weeks ago

Me too! Sending you good environment thoughts! Special delivery!!!

Paula Bartholomew
2.3  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  CB @2    2 weeks ago

Here, a lot of grocery chains are putting in a new safeguard for seniors, the disabled, and those with underlying health problems.  They are reserving set hours for those people to shop to minimize exposure to possible infection.

2.3.1  CB   replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2.3    2 weeks ago

Just got back in! Found some paper towels! Got up to go fishing around early this morning: Did'nt 'net' any toilet paper (Blah!) Made a round of stores. Promises. Promises. And mo' promises!!! I saw a story about "Senior Hour" being a thing right now. They are so appreciative of consideration from the 'youngsters.' One man commented he loves the concept, but only 1 hour is ridiculous! He's a riot!

Perrie Halpern R.A.
2.4  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  CB @2    2 weeks ago

Cal that is an excellent question. In fact, money is very dirty, even in the best of times. 

As for the people online, they are really cracking down on social distancing in Europe. If you feel crammed in, just nicely ask the person to take a step back. That is what I have been doing.

2.4.1  MUVA  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2.4    2 weeks ago

When there isn’t a virus I tell people to stand back.

2.4.2  CB   replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2.4    2 weeks ago

Your governor is on television daily. He is good, interesting, thorough, and in his element.  A drink with no-chaser type, I presume. True story, during one outbreak back some time ago, I put some money in the microwave to sanitize it. Some of it burned, the second time I did it. So now, I will try (first time) setting my dryer on "Sanitize" and putting me bags of money in there for a go! (Chuckles.)

2.4.3  CB   replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2.4    2 weeks ago

I just pretend a fit of coughing. HA!

What is it about human nature allows us to forget about those dark, damp, musty, and smelly places we have all experienced other people 'produce' a fist full of dollars from? We simply extend our hands to take all that filthy, diseased, soiledyet yummy paper!

2.5  FLYNAVY1  replied to  CB @2    2 weeks ago

The answer is yes, the virus can be transmitted via money.  Paper seems to be a little less hospitable to it, where hard surfaces like coins allow it to survive longer.

Use your debit cards folks! 

2.5.1  1stwarrior  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @2.5    2 weeks ago

Don't see anyone taking the mail service (post office) being looked at????

2.5.2  CometRider  replied to  1stwarrior @2.5.1    2 weeks ago

Right after retrieving my mail I wash my hands.

2.5.3  evilgenius  replied to  1stwarrior @2.5.1    2 weeks ago
...the Postal Service is an essential service for purposes of its compliance with state or municipality shelter-in-place orders or other social distancing restrictions.


2.5.4  CB   replied to  FLYNAVY1 @2.5    2 weeks ago

Are we doomed already for what's in our wallets and purses? And for the love of truth, why are stores not reacting to this concern? As transactions are taking place in stores at a frenzied pace!

2.5.5  FLYNAVY1  replied to  CB @2.5.4    2 weeks ago

The smallest of cracks in any sort of dam or dike can cause it to fail over time. 

The same thing is true here CB....it's about the details.  

2.5.6  CB   replied to  FLYNAVY1 @2.5.5    2 weeks ago

Hollywood should make a movie about our money turning against us. Our vaults and safes infected with a new invisible and indestructible microbe that as humans wipe away one evolution of it; another takes its place—like the indestructible and indomitable Michael Myers in Halloween!!

Trout Giggles
3  Trout Giggles    2 weeks ago

We watched "Outbreak" during a training day when I was in the Air Force. I guess it was to teach us about leadership and universal precautions

3.1  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Trout Giggles @3    2 weeks ago

The Navy uses Twelve-O'clock High for it's leadership training movie.  I guess Outbreak would be good as an example of the need to not follow an illegal order.

3.1.1  1stwarrior  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @3.1    2 weeks ago

When I went through Squadron Officers School and Air Command and Space College, the AF used "Twelve-O'Clock-High" and "We Were Soldiers" - both good leadership films.  Unfortunately, couldn't watch the "Soldiers" - too many memories - had to walk out - staff and students understood.

3.1.2  Kavika   replied to  1stwarrior @3.1.1    2 weeks ago

Ia Drang, I can't go back there niijii.

3.1.3  1stwarrior  replied to  Kavika @3.1.2    2 weeks ago

Worst experience I had and still dream about - we "inserted" two squads of "Boot Marines" at Camp Carroll - young Jarheads - most still not shaving - camo's still bright and shiny as were their boots - on a Tuesday.  On Friday, we returned and picked them up in body bags and took them back to the Iwo - crying and frustrated as hell the whole flight.  Even lost my M-60 and was charged $741.84 on my next paychecks for a replacement.  No injuries to the crew, but the chopper took a couple hits.

Yeah - Tet - Not good.

It Is ME
4  It Is ME    2 weeks ago

I can tell ya at least one thing from "Observing the Crowds" at the stores since No. 19 showed up.

The 20 to 40 year old's act just like the Movies ! FUCKING MORONS !

My wife and I were in COSTCO last weekend, and we noticed this Old, slow walking, bent over little man with a Vietnam Vet Hat on, trying to get wherever he was going. These so-called….. "Caring" Young ones.... were bouncing of this little old guy to get to what they wanted, not even caring that they ran into this "Little Old Man". You could see his frustration building. My wife and I decided to ask what help he needed. He insisted he would get there, but eventually he was Okay with my wife and I picking up what he needed. We told "Jerry" (He introduced himself), it wasn't an inconvenience, so he finally gave us his list. There were only (3) three items on it. We told him to go over to the "Self Checkout, and we'd be right there, as we only had (4) items to get anyway. We got back with his and our stuff, and got in line. We talked a bit, and all of a sudden, two or three folks (again in their 30's and 40's)  just moved right in front of us in the line because they saw a "Gap" apparently.  This Little Old man noticed, and apparently had had enough, and shuffled over to these people and pointed out that they had butted in line. They started to argue a bit with him about their jrSmiley_54_smiley_image.gif predicament, so I stepped up next to him and looked right at them.

He let them have it after that:

"THE FUCKING LINE STARTS BACK THERE", as he pointed to the rear. "Not where you just walked up" !

The folks....hopefully embarrased, went to the back of the line. One of the employee's came over and patted him on the back. "Good Job" he said. 

We got checked out, and walked him to his car to help load his (3) things. He shook my hand, and patted my wife on her face and said thank you ! 

BEST FUCKING DAY...… EVER ! jrSmiley_13_smiley_image.gif

Perrie Halpern R.A.
4.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  It Is ME @4    2 weeks ago

I don't think that it's because they were young. I think it was because they were A-holes. 

It Is ME
4.1.1  It Is ME  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.1    2 weeks ago
I don't think that it's because they were young. I think it was because they were A-holes. 

Both "YOUNG" and "Assholes" ! jrSmiley_78_smiley_image.gif

Maybe "Bernie Supporters" ?

The Support of "Free" ….. support required by, and from "Others" ( me,me,me ) is a " CONTAGIOUS Selfish DISEASE " thing after all ! jrSmiley_103_smiley_image.jpg

On an Off Topic Note:

I watched the Biden v. Bernie debate (no crowd allowed) the other day, and Joe actually had a cognitive thought (for once) when Bernie Kept pushing his "Medical for all' as usual. 

Joe flat out called out Bernie on his "Med for ALL" after Bernie said that his plan would have been able to stop this …… Pandemic.

Joe noted that "Italy" had Bernie's type of "Med for ALL", and it did NOTHING to Stop this Spread of the new 19 Illness. Bernie was stumped for an answer back. jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif

5  CB     2 weeks ago

Okay, my early morning run netted me little to nothing in paper products (which are needed soon). There shipment did not come last night.So I am off again—to Walmart Superstores (x2)!

6  CB     2 weeks ago

(Giggles!) Happy St Patrick's Day Y'all!!!

7  CB     2 weeks ago

28 Days Later

Critical views of the film were positive. Based on 225 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes , 86% of critics gave 28 Days Later a positive review, with an average score of 7.4/10. The site's consensus reads: "Kinetically directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later is both a terrifying zombie movie and a sharp political allegory." [12] On Metacritic , the film received a rating of 73 (out of 100) based on 39 reviews

I Am Legend

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes the film had an approval rating of 68% based on 213 reviews, with an average rating of 6.33/10. The site's critical consensus reads, " I Am Legend overcomes questionable special effects and succeeds largely on the strength of Will Smith's mesmerizing performance." [61] On Metacritic , which assigns a rating to reviews, the film has an average score of 65 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [62]

Sourced (for both movies): Wikipedia.


I choose these movies not so much for their cinematic "atmospherics," but because of how they made me aware and feel. Both movies gave me a sense of hopelessness, isolation, and an experience of not trusting the reality we place so much real estate in. I can watch both again. In fact, I think. . . I will.

8  CB     2 weeks ago

The Happening

Rotten Tomatoes , a review aggregator , reports that 18% of 176 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, " The Happening begins with promise, but unfortunately descends into an incoherent and unconvincing trifle." [13] At Metacritic , the film scored a 34 out of 100 based on 38 reviews from mainstream critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". [7]

Sourced: Wikipedia.


One of those movies that left me going, "Hmmm." Too scary to even breathe after. The trees and flowers are able to retaliate with an infection order to kill ourselves. I never forgot this movie. In fact, it is the reason to this day, that I:

Think before I prune.


Who is online

Sparty On

42 visitors