Hollywood movies are usually presented as a form of entertainment, but their plots often conceal a specific agenda. “Disaster movies”, films about the end of the world through various mass crises, are particularly interesting as they all follow the same basic formula and glorify the same entities. In this article, we’ll look at the disaster movie ‘Contagion’ and how it “teaches” its viewers who to trust and who not to trust during a crisis.
Disaster movies exploit the latent fear that recent events caused on the psyche on the masses, tapping into the anxiety and trauma they cause in order to create tension and terror in the viewers.Then, the “agenda” aspect of these movies kick in as they propose to the viewers the best (and only) way these issues can be resolved. Specific groups and agencies are cast as honorable, helpful and trustworthy during the time of crisis, while others are portrayed as hindrances and even traitors.The drama that follows becomes a case of predictive programming, as the steps taken in the movie to resolve the problem will thereafter appear normal to the masses if they ever occur in real life.
“In all cases, the disaster causes a kind of ‘state of emergency’ that hands all powers and modes of transportation to state authorities: the police, the army or “the crew”. Portrayed as the ultimate recourse, these institutions are the only ones capable of facing the dangers, the disorder and the decay threatening society thanks to their structure and technical knowledge. (…) As if it was impossible to present to the general public a disaster that is not resolved by state authorities and governmental powers.” ~ Ignacio Ramonet, “Propagandes Silencieuses” (free translation)
“Another constant found in disaster movies is the infantilization of civilians. The full amplitude of the catastrophe and the danger the masses are facing is often hidden from them. They are kept out of any decision making process, with the exception of managers and technical specialists (engineers, architects, entrepreneurs) who are sometimes called to intervene in the crises, but always through state authorities.
The general public is often distracted with pointless entertainment and encouraged to obey without question to a ‘paternal and benevolent’ elite that is doing everything (to the point of self-sacrifice) to protect them.These aspects, along with others, prove that disaster movies, beyond their entertaining value, also present a ‘political response’ to a crisis. Behind a naive mode of fantastic storytelling, a silent message is communicated to the public: the ruler’s profound desire to see entities such as the army, the police or ‘prominent men’ take charge of the restoration and the rebuilding of a society in crisis, even if this means partially sacrificing democracy”. ~ Ibid.
“Oh my God, someone do something about this virus! This guy lost his wife and child, that’s awful! AAArgh!”.
“If a crisis like this happens, the government will disappear, democracy will be suspended and NGOs will take over”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) - which was accused, in the wake of the H1N1, of spreading "fear and confusion rather than immediate information". In the movie however, the WHO is an important factor in the resolution of the problem.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the American Red Cross manage the civilians. Contagion, shows viewers how emergency situations could quickly lead to martial law, which would automatically lead to the creation of civilian camps ran by FEMA, who needed some good PR after Hurricane Katrina.
Of course, the U.S. army is all over the place since martial law is defined as the "imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis".
“Conspiracy theorists are corrupt liars that are dangerous to public safety and they should be arrested. Do not listen to them. They make money off phony cures. HOWEVER, those who make even more money off phony vaccines are good. Listen to authorities and get the vaccine … or you’ll die.”