Fiction to fact: When movies become real life

Muhammad Omar Iftikhar

You may call it predictive programing or down straight coincidence. There is no such thing as a coincidence. Predictions are made by years of in-depth research and analyzing trends with human and consumer behavior leading such studies.

A plethora of movies produced in the US did predict a virus taking over the world. Outbreak (1995) is about a deadly fever that spreads in the African jungle. This dangerous airborne virus threatens the US when the monkey carrying it is smuggled to the US from Africa. The virus begins to spread across towns and the army is called in to save the people. 28 Weeks Later (2007) is about a Rage Virus that spreads in London affecting millions. Many are killed because of starvation. I am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith was set in 2009 when a genetically re-engineered measles virus, created as an antidote for cancer, kills 5.4 billion out of 6 billion population. The rest, nearly 588 million population, turns into vampires who are vulnerable to sunlight. Will Smith’s character, (Dr. Robert Neville: a former U.S. Army medical doctor and scientist) must find a cure to end this predicament and save the humans who are still normal and living in isolation.

Perhaps among the movies showing a plague or a virus affecting the world, Contagion (2011) resembles the most with the Coronavirus epidemic of 2020. This movie is about how people are being affected by an unknown disease affecting their respiratory system. The Department of Homeland Security, USA, fears that this is a bioweapon spread to cause panic during the Thanksgiving weekend. Wikipedia writes, “In a flashback, a bulldozer knocks down a tree in a rainforest in Asia, disturbing some bats. One flies over a sty and drops a piece of banana, which is eaten by a pig. The pigs are slaughtered and prepared by a chef who shakes hands with Beth in the Macau casino, transferring the virus to her.” Too real, isn’t it!

Such a depiction of the future seems nothing short of wizardry. Hollywood movies are known for implementing such science and the viewers do find these predictions exciting and often horrifying too. The chaos being observed around the world because of the Coronavirus spread is real and is growing with each passing minute. The movies may have informed us in the past but considering them fiction we did not pay any heed to such stories turning into a reality.

The movie Contagion has been the talk of the town for its eerie resemblance with the state of affairs. The movie, intended to be released as fiction – we hope so – was based on jargon that we may not come across in real life. But the movie’s script and the story was nevertheless based on research. Those who conceived the concept and those who wrote the screenplay would have pondered on several factors before actually going on with the movie’s production.

The question is what now? With the Coronavirus now raising havoc across the world, we must remain isolated. Even if we have to leave our homes, we must maintain a safe distance with strangers, friends or family. One must understand that fiction, as portrayed by Hollywood movies, is not entirely fiction. They do use fictional characters to show a story that may as well have realism attached to it. This pragmatism and logicality may be presented subliminally through dialogues hidden between the words.

Whatever he had seen as fiction has – at some point in time during the last two decades or so – translated into a reality. This truth and authenticity has always been too great for the population to fathom. From Dan Brown’s antagonist, Bertrand Zobrist (Inferno, 2013), who develops a virus to cause infertility in humans to control population to the movie such as Contagion that discussed our reality of 2020 in 2011, the fiction we enjoyed while watching and reading is now raising havoc in our lives. Are we prepared for what will happen in 2035? Not a chance!

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