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Pandemic Books.jfif

Pandemics in Stories

Humans use pandemics in pop culture, literature, art, and film to contextualize the real thing. They mirror fears of disease and societal collapse and show that survival is possible. A pandemic story is rarely about the disease itself. The focus tends to be on sociology, psychology, human behavior, morality, environment, and fears specific to time and culture. 


Contagion is a 2011 movie about a deadly fictional pandemic, MEV-1. The movie touches on societal breakdown, finding a cure, and the balance of protecting loved ones the general public.

Contagion shows how many pandemics start. Bulldozers level trees where bats live to build pig farms. Once built, bats fly overhead and drop food that is eaten by pigs. A virus from the bats mutates in the pigs. MEV-1 travels from a pig to one person. From there the disease infects millions of people around the world. 

Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede in Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011)

Credit: Still from Steven Soderbergh's Contagion (2011)

In Contagion, bad information is as contagious as the disease. Alan Krumwiede, a blogger, conspiracy theorist, and “freelance journalist,” spreads conspiracy and fear around MEV-1. Alan convinces people that the virus is genetically engineered and that the government and health officials are conspiring against them.

In order to become sick, you have to first come into contact with a sick person or something that they touched. In order to get scared, all you have to do is come into contact with a rumor, or the television, or the internet. I think what Mr. Krumwiede is spreading is far more dangerous than the disease.

—Dr. Ellis Cheever (Contagion, 2011)

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