Walking the lonely streets of Winston-Salem the other day, I paused in front of Aperture Cinema.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was a regular customer. Film is an immersive art form like no other, powerful and moving, and one of the few ways we have left to share the same story. I miss seeing movies in a real theater.
On my way home, I thought about some of the movies we might see in a few years. I don’t think it’ll happen immediately — we’ll be sick of the topic for a while — but at some point we’ll start seeing stories about the coronavirus experience.
There’ll be a rom-com along the lines of “Sleepless in Seattle,” but in which a young couple meets and falls in love right before being locked down, thus having to carry on their budding relationship via Zoom. Maybe there’ll be a remake of the dark comedy “The War of the Roses,” about a long-married couple who get deathly sick of each other while being sequestered together.
Of course, there’ll be dramas about loved ones lost to the pandemic. And documentaries about how various government officials dithered.
What we’re not likely to see are many action/adventure movies based on the virus. Certainly, we’ll see none featuring lockdown protesters as heroes. Will Smith won’t be carrying an assault-style rifle into Subway. Keanu Reeves won’t be brandishing a handgun and screaming in a CNN reporter’s face.
It’s not because Hollywood is liberal — Hollywood has a long-standing love affair with firearms. But Hollywood tends to imbue its heroes with admirable qualities, like courage and perseverance, and worthy challenges. Hollywood presents the qualities of true heroism, not the fake stuff that tries to pass for “fighting for my rights.”
I can’t help wondering about these protesters. I know they’re not all motivated by the same thing, nor do they all fit the caricature of being up in arms because they can’t get their nails done.
Peggy Noonan pointed out a couple of weeks ago in The Wall Street Journal that many who want to continue the lockdown are people who can afford it, while those who are pushing back are the people who need to work to survive. “People are in economic distress and worry that the foundations of their lives are being swept away,” she writes. “How does name-calling help?”
She’s right. Some small business owners are desperate, as are many low-wage employees who feel they have no choice but to return to risky circumstances. (It turns out Elon Musk is more Dr. Doom than Tony Stark.) Neither group has received the necessary assistance from the government or any other organization to keep playing it safe.
But some of the protesters aren’t so much the people who need to work as people who demand their return so that they can be served — consequences be damned.
I want to be understanding, I really do. I know they’re struggling with the same feelings of isolation as the rest of us. I’m in a very privileged position, comparatively, but I’m not immune to the stress myself, not by any means. Walking through the same three parks is getting tiresome. I’m on the eighth season of “The Office” and the other day I teared up when Dwight Schrute bragged about his beet farm.
But the ones who are yelling in nurses’ faces — do they think they’re heroes? The people who are filming themselves cursing at the working stiffs who tell them that face masks are required to enter their stores — somehow, wearing pants and shoes is no great imposition on their freedom — do they think they’re doing something noble? I sympathize with their frustration, but as sympathetic as I can be, there’s nothing admirable about brandishing guns toward unarmed people — even politicians — or demanding the right to risk other people’s lives. It’s just selfish. Robert Downey Jr. will not take the role.
So we’ve moved into a modified Phase 2 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan this weekend that doesn’t include movie theaters, but does loosen the reins on restaurants. As eager as I am to sit in a diner again, lingering over my coffee, I’m not going to, not until the Journal’s headlines read “No new cases reported in two weeks” rather than “Local virus cases take sharp uptick.” I’m going to do my damndest to delay my gratification as long as I can.
Not everyone will agree, and that’s the way things go. But if you must participate, please, please, make it easier on the business people who are trying to accommodate you. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. It’s not that hard.