Health experts urge Hollywood not to 'sensationalise or trivialise' the pandemic in fiction

Tom Beasley
·Contributor
·2 min read

Watch: Trailer for pandemic heist thriller Locked Down

Health professionals have warned Hollywood filmmakers to approach the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic carefully if they tell stories set during the crisis.

In the wake of the Michael Bay-produced thriller Songbird and the upcoming heist movie Locked Down, cinema has been urged not to “sensationalise or trivialise” the pandemic which has claimed almost two million lives worldwide.

Read more: Social media criticises pandemic thriller Songbird

Veterinary pathologist Dr Tracey McNamara, who worked on Steven Soderbergh thriller Contagion, spoke to Metro along with numerous other health experts to express their concerns.

“There is no need to [sensationalise] as there are plenty of real-life dramatic moments that could be put into a movie Soderbergh-style,” McNamara said.

Jude Law as conspiracy theorist Alan Krumwiede in 'Contagion'. (Credit: Warner Bros)
Jude Law as conspiracy theorist Alan Krumwiede in 'Contagion'. (Credit: Warner Bros)

She added: “There is no need to create ludicrous scenarios as was the case in the Dustin Hoffman film Outbreak.

“The truth is even more frightening and that is what Contagion presented. That is why it was such a compelling film.”

Read more: Crew quit Mission: Impossible after Tom Cruise COVID rant

Dr Jonas Nilsen of digital health firm Practio, urged filmmakers to “avoid exploiting conspiracy theories” in telling their stories, which could risk diminishing support for crucial health measures like vaccines.

He added: “We know from research that anxiety can lead to irrational actions and that anxiety can be a catalyst for conspiracy theories.

“I hope that the people behind the movies are aware of their social responsibility and have consulted experts from health authorities while making the movie.”

Sofia Carson in pandemic thriller 'Songbird'. (Credit: STX Films)
Sofia Carson in pandemic thriller 'Songbird'. (Credit: STX Films)

Unsurprisingly, Hollywood is currently putting together several high-profile projects against the backdrop of the pandemic.

Locked Down will see Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor as a warring couple who bond over their plot to exploit the abandoned streets of London to carry out an audacious heist at Harrods.

The movie is being released on HBO Max in the USA on 14 January, with a UK release on the way soon.

Read more: Disaster movie fans better equipped for pandemic

Meanwhile, Songbird received a critical drubbing when it arrived on VOD platforms just before Christmas, with some considering its depiction of a mutated COVID strain to be insensitive.

Director Adam Mason said he understood the controversy, but never set out to make something exploitative.

He told BuzzFeed News: “I would hate to think that I contributed to any negativity. I was really setting out to make something that was cathartic, not just for me but for anyone who might watch the film.”

Watch: Trailer for pandemic thriller Songbird