The joy of embracing onscreen misery in a time of crisis

Anya Shah May 5, 2020
The joy of embracing onscreen misery in a time of crisis

Billions of us across the globe have settled into a confined existence that redefines what a daily routine means. As the sofa becomes the centre of many households, it’s perhaps unsurprising subscriptions to streaming services have increased.

What’s interesting, though, is the content people are gravitating towards. My Instagram feed leads me to believe everyone is listening to mindfulness podcasts and watching reruns of classic films. However, I have started to notice a different, darker trend no-one is talking about.

Two separate well-known streaming services recently championed Contagion, a 2011 film about a pandemic that ravages earth. It was one of the most watched films that day. Have we swapped using television as a form of escapism for something that might help us come to terms with the nightmare we’re living in?

Misery loves company?

After a quick scroll through the Netflix archives I realised this obsession with the dark has been lurking in popular culture for a while. From true crime shows to dystopian films such as The Hunger Games and gruesome post-apocalyptic tales such as Bird Box, it seems fascination with the macabre has a strong foothold in our lives.   

So why are people turning to the morbid, particularly during a time of crisis?  The most obvious answer might simply be that disaster is on our minds. With round-the-clock news channels screening relentless coverage of the crisis, it’s no surprise our decisions are being influenced.

Dark Arrows movie. Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Happy endings

Perhaps a more optimistic message can be drawn from this? Could watching and reading doomsday material cast a more hopeful light on our own situation?

While things certainly aren’t good, we’re not living in a world ravaged by zombies, the earth hasn’t been destroyed and every day brings us a step closer to defeating coronavirus. Although our lives have been changed forever, we will defeat this virus. We aren’t fighting a losing battle – unlike many of the people in these films.  

By watching films and TV shows where the worst happens and there’s no way back, we’re reminded we still have hope. That’s not to say the next time you need a pick-me-up you should watch World War Z instead of a Hugh Grant rom-com – but perhaps in uncertain times goodness can be found in the most unusual of places.

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A 22-year-old Durham graduate, currently on furlough leave as a junior copywriter at Immediate Media. Looking for ways to stay creative during this time, as well as learn new skills.