You are become witness to a great becoming. As you look at the media before you, you are seeing a parallel reality constructed in front of you, as two different images of what is reasonable and typical and normal grow in front of you, and the one that is realistic and focused on what is actually true and actually existed and actually happened is the quieter, smaller, less seen one.
Content Warning: COVID-19 and related medical problems.
For the purpose of this conversation I’m going to refer to ‘the pandemic’ and I’m going to refer to it in the past tense. This is because very literally, this is just factually true. The WHO has specifically indicated that COVID-19 is no longer a pandemic, and this was met by a lot of people getting mad about this change in classification. What folk skipped on past here was that it wasn’t the WHO saying that COVID-19 is now not a thing, but rather that it’s not specifically a Pandemic and now it’s an Epidemic. The difference, under WHO’s guidelines is that a Pandemic is a new, sudden, interruption to the real world and can be addressed with quick action to prevent it becoming an Epidemic.
An Epidemic is something that’s just here. It’s just everywhere. There is no more room for emergency action, there now needs to be a constant, regular and ongoing effort to deal with this disease and its prevention in every single aspect of our lives in the same way we wash our hands and sneeze into handkerchiefs. COVID-19 is now part of living, on earth, everywhere, all the time, and that means that that it’s not just a thing from a lockdown for a few months in one year.
That said, ‘The Pandemic’ then refers to the period of time between the declaration of COVID-19 as a Pandemic on March 11, 2020 to May 23, 2023. This is the period when there was a global health emergency that global action could address. We tried, and this is the world we’re in now. We live now, in a world, where COVID-19 is a constant potential presence, and regular vaccinations are the way you deal with it, and a body of people, in part fueled by liars and grifters and their own awful ableism, want to make sure that it never goes away.
If you look at media made during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re going to notice something missing, which is any diegetic sign that there’s a pandemic. Characters don’t have masks on, bystanders don’t have masks, people don’t touch elbows or kick ankles like we thought we might wind up doing permanently. There’s no palpable aura of fear in the characters that they need to get to the stores in time to get the shopping done.
And you know what, fair. Brad Pitt wants to fight twenty assassins on a train, I can understand not wanting that to be part of his life, certainly for that ninety minutes.
But think about the media you’re seeing that’s about ‘now.’ Think about the masks you do or don’t see. Think about characters in story mentioning they need to be careful, or they’re avoiding crowds. Think about the decisions and the care people are taking in stories to deal with their lives, and they’re all going to be things that don’t involve the years 2020 to 2022 happening. Think about all the things that interfered with your life, or the way that someone just might not show up for something because they had a cough and they want to be responsible for it, and then that you’re never going to see that in media. You’re not going to see a sitcom with a deliberately triple-sized cast of characters because sometimes characters just stay home and work remotely for their own medical safety and that’s okay.
You’re not going to see media that normalises good practices because to do that, it’s going to have to acknowledge that good practice and why it was a good practice and therefore, why it’s still a good practice. The way we’re going to see normal, for the next few years, in all media, is going to be a normal that we haven’t known and still don’t know. Oh, you may imagine ‘what, everything is back to normal,’ but it isn’t. It’s back to normal for some people, who are able to disregard other people, who are able to neglect. And those people don’t want media that makes them feel like they’re stupid assholes for ignoring masks and vaccines and other ways to keep people safe, and since their money folds too, media production is going to want to make sure to not annoy them. It may not cater to them, but it can at least avoid upsetting them, which means…
No sitcoms with altered office plans. Media that recognises and reacts to the Pandemic is more of a strange kind of oddity, a quirk of ‘hey, imagine making an entire movie out of Zoom calls,’ kinda thing. There will be media made in this universe, the one that features 2020, and 2021, and 2022. It won’t be the norm, though. The comforting amnesia of unreality means the liars win, because the system wants to route around potential harm to its access to minds and money.
Really, a lot of them are kind of pretending it’s still 2015, and we’re just rolling out more extra editions of 2015.
I am going to go into my later life permanently angry at the people who thought that that three year time was a great period to sell smoke machines and attempt to restart an economy on the basis of powering the great engine with more blood. But most amazingly, I’m also going to see in every piece of media I deal with going forward, the shocking, awe inspiring assertation for several years, at least until stuff starts to change and an old attitude starts to die along with those who hold it.
But right now, consensus reality is broken.