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 youtu.be


LAURENCE FISHBURNE: On What We Can Do Right Now

"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 youtu.be


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."

YouTube youtu.be


JENNIFER EHLE: On Vaccines

"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 youtu.be

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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.