Opinion: It only happens in the movies … right?

Nothing is better after a long, hard week at school than to watch a good movie. Since 1888, movies have been around to provide viewers with an outlet from reality. All genres of film — romance, comedy, drama, mystery, science fiction, action, horror and fantasy — teach us about the world and ourselves, and help us relax when bored or stressed.

In fact, films transport the viewer to a make-believe world, distracting the viewer from all daily troubles — that is, for approximately one hour and 35 minutes. Sometimes the movies have a happy ending, but other times one is left telling themselves, “Don’t worry, it only happens in the movies.” But what if the horrific events actually start happening in real life? Case in point, “Contagion” and “White House Down.”

Everyone remembers 2020. The coronavirus conundrum. It wasn’t long until avid movie watchers found a film that paralleled exactly what we were experiencing, the 2011 thriller “Contagion.” “Contagion” follows Matt Damon as he tries to navigate around a deadly “MEV-1” virus that spreads from China when those who are infected touch surfaces that others touch, ultimately leading to a pandemic. According to former epidemic intelligence service officer Dr. Seema Yasmin, “Contagion” has a lot of similarities to the coronavirus. 

“Showing the transmission of this new [fictional] virus from a bat to a pig and then to humans is probably really close to the transmission of [COVID-19], probably from bats to some intermediate animal, and then from that animal to humans…until it’s spread around the world.” Sick people in the film also experienced similar symptoms, including sore throat and headaches. But that was all just a coincidence, right?

Flash forward to January 6, 2021. On that day, a terrible insurrection of the U.S Capitol Building occurred.

While watching the events of that day, one can’t help but recall a movie with striking similarities, the 2013 film “White House Down.” Just as we were all eager to hear the results of Congress’s electoral vote count, poor Joey King thought she would get a nice tour of the White House. Instead, she had to witness violent attacks from rebels, including right-wing individuals, just as we witnessed a mob of individuals wanting to overturn the election invade the Capitol and greatly disturb the Congressional session. 

Sure, there were some differences: the invaders in the movie held the president hostage rather than being encouraged by the president himself to rebel, and ironically, the attackers in the film were actually wearing masks. Despite this, the similarities are quite daunting.

Viewing news clips of Congressmen and women being evacuated from the House Chambers to a safe location mirrored the evacuation of the White House staff in the film.

Furthermore, movie scenes depict the attackers breaking valuable items inside the White House and destroying furniture, synonymous with the smashed windows and trashed offices at the Capitol.

Finally, both the film and the insurrection at the Capitol came to an end due to military intervention. And this quote from the film sums up exactly what we were thinking on that horrific day: “What is happening right here in America?”

So the next time a thriller or suspense leads the viewer to nervously remind themselves, “This is only a movie,” one might want to think again. Perhaps Netflix could add “Possible reality” to its category codes. Until then, let us hope that our reality is predominantly happy like most movie endings. And to be on the safe side, let us hope even harder that if reality is to imitate a movie about aliens in the future, it imitates “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” not “The Thing.”

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