Culture News

Multiple Teachers Are Currently Trapped in Quarantine with Matt Damon

The Good Will Hunting star has been locked down in Ireland with his family and multiple teachers since early March

Jason Bourne

In a recent interview with Irish radio show Fully Charged, Matt Damon revealed the charming circumstances of his family's lockdown in Dalkey, Ireland.

Dalkey is an upscale suburb of Dublin where the Contagion star had arranged to stay with wife, Luciana Barroso, and their three daughters while he was filming The Last Duel with director Ridley Scott and co-star Adam Driver. The couple brought teachers along for the trip to make sure their children stayed on top of their education, but ever since the project was put on hiatus in early March, Damon, his family, and those teachers have all been locked down together.

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Culture Feature

The "Contagion" Stars' Guide to Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic

The stars of Soderbergh's prescient film Contagion have teamed up with Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health to offer a bit of science to help you get through this real-life pandemic.

Spy Culture / "Contagion"

If there's one thing to learn from the current coronavirus pandemic, it's that Steven Soderbergh is an underrated director.

Just kidding: Steven Soderbergh is a beautiful gift from the movie gods, and everyone knows it. The real lesson of today's upside down world is: Learn how to properly wash your damn hands. If you've yet to amass an entire playlist of excellent 20-second song clips to wash your hands to (we recommend the Friends theme song up until the chorus), then you've got plenty of time to learn while you play with your cats, count your cans of beans, and stare yearningly out the window like you're in a Baroque portrait.

But to help things along, the stars of Soderbergh's prescient film Contagion have teamed up with Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health to offer a bit of science to help you get through this real-life pandemic.

Contagion resonates for many reasons, from the film's chief medical consultant contracting the virus himself to the film's stark depiction of loss of life: Empty shelves in the grocery store develop into violent looting; bleary scenes of empty, trash-filled streets turn into scenes of mass graves. But then, through the miraculous work of the CDC and one female doctor's daring risk, a vaccine is developed within a year. Slowly, order returns to the world. Shopping malls resume the march of capitalism. Teens go to prom (sort of).

But the overarching theme of Contagion is that people need each other, and in times of crisis it's possible to honor our interconnectedness more than our distance (cultural, social, and economic, as well as physical). With that in mind, four of the actors who play the film's most poignant roles have these home-made messages for you (with all science coming directly from the scientists on the frontlines of this pandemic).

MATT DAMON: On Listening to Experts

"We can all do this together...just by staying apart."

#ControltheContagion - Matt Damon and the Contagion cast talk about COVID-19


"A pandemic means that the virus is everywhere, but it won't be every place at the same time. So, if it's not where you live today, you can bet that that's going to change. If you don't know anyone who's sick yet, you can also bet that that will change."

COVID-19 PSAs from the cast of CONTAGION: Laurence Fishburne

KATE WINSLET: On How Stopping the Spread Is in Your Hands

"We all want a cure. But until we have one, we need to be that for each other. Starting now."



"Paranoia is a kind of virus, as well. It requires fear and misinformation to spread, and we don't need scientists to cure that–just compassion and common sense."

COVID-19 PSAs from the cast of CONTAGION: Jennifer Ehle


Instagram's "Until Tomorrow" Craze Follows the Model of Infectious Diseases

The #untiltomorrow challenge on Instagram actually has a lot in common with the spreading COVID-19 pandemic

Nearly half the population of the US and about a third of people around the world are now under some form of quarantine as part of the effort to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With instructions to remain at home and maintain physical distance between themselves and others—outside of completing essential tasks—people have been driven more and more to the warm embrace of the Internet. With a pandemic spreading outside, digital forms of socializing that avoid the risk of spreading COVID-19 are more essential than ever. But in the case of Instagram, the newest meme challenge to take over the platform shares some things in common with the coronavirus—it's been going viral in more ways than one.

Compared to other viral trends that people simply join for fun, or because a friend called them out to participate, Instagram posts with the hashtag #untiltomorrow work more like an infectious disease. An embarrassing image posted under the hashtag is the most obvious symptom, and it carries with it the contagion. If you interact with one of these posts in the 24 hour period during which they remain active, you will be exposed to the infection, and it won't be long before you're likely to start infecting others.

It works like this: One of your friends will post a goofy, unflattering, or just generally embarrassing photo, tagging one person and including the hashtag #untiltomorrow. After 24 hours they will delete that post, but if you are foolish enough to like the image before that time is up, you will receive a message from your friend explaining that it's your turn. You will be conscripted to post an embarrassing image of yourself with the infectious hashtag and to tag the person who infected you.

So far the #untiltomorrow has been spreading quickly, with over 550,000 active posts as of Thursday morning—compared to 350,000 on Wednesday night. While many people will have a natural immunity to this new contagion (otherwise known as indifference), for the rest of us our only hope is to spread clear and correct information about the danger and to avoid contact with the infected. Maybe stay off of Instagram for a while. There are lots of other ways to spend your time: Go outside, go see a movie, do something with your friends, or...oh wait.

If #untiltomorrow continues to follow the patterns of an infectious disease, it's going to get even more popular in coming days. Of course there are a number of important distinctions between the challenge and an actual infectious disease. For a start, its incubation period is much shorter than COVID-19, and the signs of infection should be immediately recognizable to anyone who has been informed—not to mention it's not going to kill anyone. Still, it will be interesting to see if the hashtag takes over all of Instagram, or if the spread of information will begin to "flatten the curve," causing the challenge to slowly disappear.

While the stakes are nonexistent next to the millions of lives at risk from the coronavirus, the trajectory of the #untiltomorrow challenge should be a reminder to everyone of how quickly infections can spread and to be careful not to contribute to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Culture News

The Doctor Behind "Contagion" Has the Coronavirus–and He Has a Warning

"The very best tool we have is isolation and confinement. We need to protect ourselves," he emphasized.

Gizmodo Australia / "Contagion"

No one understands the horror behind Steven Soderbergh's eerily prescient film Contagion better than Dr. W. Ian Lipkin.

Dr. Lipkin was the lead medical advisor for the 2011 film, which tracks the global outbreak and devastation due to a novel virus that mutates from first infecting bats to pigs to humans. The film resonates with loss of life: Empty shelves in the grocery store develop into violent looting; bleary scenes of empty, trash-filled streets turn into scenes of mass graves. But then, through the miraculous work of the CDC and one female doctor's daring risk, a vaccine is developed within a year. Slowly, order returns to the world. Shopping malls resume the march of capitalism. Teens go to prom (sort of).

Amidst all the disturbing coincidences between Contagion and the real-world coronavirus pandemic, there is one that's dangerously missing. Dr. Lipkin, the director of Columbia University's Center for Infection and Immunity, appeared on Lou Dobbs Tonight to announce that he, himself, has contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

"I have COVID as of yesterday," Dr. W. Ian Lipkin told Fox's David Asman. "And it is miserable, it is miserable." He added, "If it can hit me, it can hit anybody. That's the message I want to convey."

Lipkin urged Americans to continue to practice social distancing in order to curb the spread of the virus. "It's extraordinarily important that we harmonize whatever restrictions we have across the country," Lipkin said. "We have porous borders between states and cities and unless we're consistent, we're not gonna get ahead of this thing…What New York, Chicago and Washington have done has been very, very helpful and I would like to see that implemented broadly across the United States."

"The very best tool we have is isolation and confinement. We need to protect ourselves," he emphasized.

Globally, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have risen above 400,000, causing more than 18,000 deaths. Unless social distancing is practiced on a wider scale, those numbers will continue to escalate.

But one of Contagion's most glaring themes, aside from the ease of infectious transmission, is our human need for social contact. While we have tools to support that need without physical contact, too many people are ignoring the severity of the matter.

Another doctor who consulted on Contagion, Dr. Mark Smolinksi, warns that the message of social distancing is not being received. Smolinksi told ABCNews that he's disturbed by how many people who are still socializing and carrying on with business as usual. "It should look like it did in Contagion," he said, referring to the eerie scenes where "the streets are empty. People are sheltering at home."

When shown videos of young college students celebrating spring break in Florida, he said, "It was disheartening to watch," and I thought, 'Wow. How did the messaging fail to get out there?'"

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Charlie Brooker Predicted the Future (Before "Black Mirror")

A group of Big Brother housemates have yet to hear about the spreading viral pandemic...which is the exact premise of Dead Set


Picture this: There's a viral pandemic quickly sweeping across the globe.

Wow, you pictured that really quickly, good for you. Now add a wrinkle: The cast of a reality show (Big Brother) has been sealed off from the world for almost the entire ordeal. They have no idea what's going on, but they're about to find out. While their isolation was a condition of their participation in a silly TV show, it has also served to protect them from the spread of a lethal contagion and kept them oblivious to the tremendous changes unfolding in the world around them. While they've been sheltered away, society has somehow very quickly approached the brink of collapse. Will they even believe it when they find out how much has happened? Will it seem like just another twist in the "social experiment" of reality TV?

If that sounds exactly like what just happened to 14 unsuspecting housemates on Germany's Big Brother, congratulations on keeping up with entertainment news while a global health crisis destroys civilization—must be nice. It's true that the cast of the current season of the German version of Big Brother (much like Jared Leto) had been kept in the dark about the developing COVID-19 pandemic since their isolation in early February—and found out in a live televised event Tuesday night on German network Sat.1. But if you just think the whole concept sounds kind of like the plot of an episode of Black Mirror, that's because you haven't seen Dead Set.

Dead Set was a miniseries that aired on E4 in the UK in 2008. The brainchild of Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, its plot matched the current situation almost perfectly. While the cast of Big Brother (in London in this case) has been sealed up in their panopticon home, a virus has rapidly taken over the world outside, and it's at last reached the point where they're going to find out. The main difference is that, rather than the coronavirus, the outbreak in the miniseries is spread through biting, and causes its hosts to take on aggressive behavior and a corpse-like appearance… Okay, they're zombies. It's a zombie show about the world collapsing while Big Brother housemates are cut off from the world—with all the confusion, drama, and gore that implies.

It's also streaming on Netflix now, so if you've already watched Contagion five times, and you need some new escapist/masochistic viewing, the entire run of Dead Set is two-and-a-half hours of pandemic horror-prophecy.

The greatest threat to the human race has always been our own bodies.

Our vulnerability to infectious diseases has caused the greatest calamities in recorded history, from the Black Plague to the astounding threat still posed by the common flu. But behind each health catastrophe is a story of blind greed or hubris, with humans spreading diseases due to rampant consumption, ecological destruction, or just plain ol' bureaucracy. Such is the case with the coronavirus, which, despite emerging in humans only recently, has made historic disruptions to everyday life. The World Health Organization recently declared the virus a pandemic, in addition to being a global emergency.

Luckily, we have movies to turn to in times like these to educate us on how to survive (and prevent) a global pandemic. So what can we learn from virus outbreak movies?

1. Contagion

Contagion is an especially relevant thriller that follows the global spread of a deadly virus, along with researchers' attempts to contain and cure the disease. As the plot progresses across several lines of perspective, we witness the mass social disorder caused by the pandemic.

But the real twist comes at the end, when we see the virus' source [SPOILER]: A bulldozer plows through a Chinese jungle, which disturbs a bat that infects a pig, which is then handled by a chef who doesn't wash his hands before shaking hands with Gwyneth Paltrow, who is Patient 0. So the lesson here is that the virus is entirely humans' fault for engaging in deforestation, and also wash your f*cking hands.