Forget your Outbreaks and Contagions. Even your World War Zs need not apply.

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The Thing (1982)

If it is the perfect encapsulation of the Coronavirus pandemic experience you seek in a movie, then look no further than John Carpenter’s masterpiece from 1982, The Thing. While other contenders try hard, with their smuggled monkeys (Outbreak); adulterous, infectious wives returning from business trips (Contagion); and seemingly mysterious zombie infections (World War Z), this 1982 version of The Thing strangely manages to weave the detail of our new reality into a prescient 109 minute tale about a shape-shifting alien.

When it arrived in cinemas, The Thing was deemed a failure in both commercial and critical terms. Based on the 1938 science fiction novella Who Goes There by John W Campbell Jr, and previously adapted for the screen as The Thing from Another World in 1951, John Carpenter’s The Thing was written by Bill Lancaster, and released at a time of economic stress in the United States. Its box office competition was the much more hopeful and family friendly alien movie, E.T: The Extraterrestrial. In contrast to that story of love and empathy conquering all, The Thing is a dark, grisly, and sinister film, the ending of which is bleak and intentionally vague. But, like many films that were considered failures in their own time, The Thing has become increasingly relatable as the years have worn on. …


The question of when to return to cinemas is a quandary with large ramifications

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Photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash

We’re devoted film fans. We mark time, not by the hands of the clock, but by release dates. We view history, not in terms of human experience, but in terms of the way it is reflected in cinematic evolution. Some might call it obsession but, to us, it is passion; a love of the art form; a chosen way of life. That chosen way of life — like all others — has now been irrevocably changed by the arrival of something for which the most apocalyptic of dystopian movies failed prepare us, apparently.

This gives rise to a dilemma of epic proportions. When cinemas re-open, will we attend, or will an abundance of health-based caution keep us away a little longer? …


While nostalgia can be comforting on an individual level, large-scale nostalgia is where the wheels come off

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Photo by Jim Witkowski on Unsplash

Nostalgia is the common sensation defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.” We all experience it, on occasion — when a particular song comes on the radio, or we spot an old movie while channel surfing. Stumbling across a dish that Grandma used to make, or hearing Grandpa’s catchphrase can evoke a wave of memories that leave us feeling warm and fuzzy inside because, naturally, this unconscious game of historical, cultural association tends to be played through a rose-tinted lens.

The United Kingdom spends a lot of time and energy on nostalgic endeavour in a way that is tied to national identity. World War II is a particular focal point — not just through the entirely appropriate official days of remembrance, but also through local and regional festivals, such as 1940s weekends and events. This specific period of time is invoked often, as an example of strength through unity; of surviving hardship and violence, and of helping our neighbours defeat tyranny. That rose-tinted lens highlights the British role in bringing an end to Nazi atrocities, and in creating a different future for itself and Europe — often leaving the efforts and sacrifices of the rest of The Commonwealth and, indeed, the rest of the world, unacknowledged. …


The British attitude to immigration remains steeped in hypocrisy and classism

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From the U.K’s Daily Mail

With Coronavirus wreaking havoc across the globe, and causing severe economic strife to countless countries, news that the United Kingdom (along with Germany) has begun chartering flights to bring seasonal workers in from other countries has prompted some breathless speculation across social media.


We thought it was Brexit that revealed the truth about the U.K. We were wrong.

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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Remember that time the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights — Professor Philip Alston — told the world that the Conservative government of the United Kingdom had long possessed all the resources necessary to lift millions of children out of Dickensian levels of deprivation, but they chose not to?

That was in November 2018. It entered the public discourse again in December 2019, when U.K citizens had the opportunity to vote that same Conservative government out. But, they chose not to.

That should really have been the thing that revealed the truth about the U.K; the way that vast swathes of voting adults felt able to turn a blind eye to more than 4 million hungry, poverty-stricken children, in order to consecrate the premiership of a man whose own colleagues have long described him as incompetent, at best. …


It’s a means to an increasingly grim end

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Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

I recently received a letter from the Art Department of the High School my children attend.

“Given the recent and historic funding issues that impact on smaller rural schools like ours, we have a constant challenge to be able to source affordable materials. In order to maintain the high standard of provision that we want to offer students, we are asking parents for donations toward the cost of materials.”

I was not surprised to receive this letter. Funding for the Arts in local schools — in Yorkshire and around the United Kingdom — has been steadily stripped away over the course of the last nine years, as the Conservative government has staged a root-to-branch overhaul of state education. …


It’s an eye-opening game.

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Photo by Caterina Berger on Unsplash

When we are young, particular birthdays serve a purpose for all genders in terms of legal minimum ages. In the U.K, for example, the age of sixteen coincides with leaving secondary education, and it means you can apply for a provisional driving licence. It is also possible to leave home, start full-time employment, consent to medical treatment, and, with parental consent, enlist in the armed forces and marry. The age of eighteen in the U.K provides the right to vote, get a commercial pilot’s licence, gamble, or enter into a contract. By 21, you can adopt a child.

These are all exciting milestones to pass — especially when you are young and keen to get on with the business of living your life. Soon enough, though, you’re turning 30, and everyone starts making jokes about getting old. For all genders, the age of 30 often brings with it a sense of being a ‘real’ adult. We remember how, as children, we thought the age of 30 was really grown up. Moreover, the popular perception is that, by our third decade, we should have some kind of sense of direction in our lives — whatever it may be. …


The cruel ironies of wilderness-based reality TV

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Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

For several years now, the American reality television landscape has been filled with shows that follow a similar narrative: White Americans head out into the wilderness , and have to survive while building a home, or making food, or mining for gold… or any number of manufactured scenarios. It is almost always white American men, although very occasionally, a white American woman may join a team. Thanks to the tax credit that followed the creation of series Deadliest Catch, Alaska is a favourite location for these types of shows — though, sometimes, the Canadian wilderness such as Yukon is used too. …


Social context is key. So is accountability.

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Photo by Ricky Turner on Unsplash

In media criticism, social context is absolutely key. Media products do not exist in a vacuum — they are created by people who are influenced by many social factors, using technology from a particular era, and delivered to an audience who bring their own experiences to bear on it, influenced by all of those same things. In every way, when we view media products — especially movies — they provide an important snapshot of the social context in which they were created. That’s why the application of a modern critical lens to older movies is a vital and valuable exercise. …


Most movie heroism, of men and women, is underpinned by the victimisation of women — and, ironically, that’s the only kind of gender equality in cinema

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The Bride (Uma Thurman) in Kill Bill

It’s fairly standard Hollywood screenwriting. The hero can’t be a hero until they overcome something. There has to be some kind of obstacle to greatness that makes their journey to greatness even greater. If that obstacle can then be spun to act as motivation of said character as well, then that’s even better. But, have you ever noticed that - whether the hero in question is a man or woman - their heroism is disproportionately dependent on the victimisation or sacrifice of women?

For male heroes, it’s often a dead wife or daughter. Or, it’s a wife and/or daughter under threat. Or, it’s a wife and/or daughter who previously rejected him, and he wants to win them back regardless of their feelings on the matter. Sometimes, it’s the male hero’s mother. From Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, to Iron Man and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice — male heroes are regularly motivated to greatness by the emotional and physical pain inflicted upon women. …

About

Sarah Myles

Freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction. Credits include Film International, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Channillo, and Flickering Myth. https://www.ko-fi.com

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