Changes in Media due to COVID

A scene from Grey’s Anatomy, season 17 episode 1. The whole cast was wearing masks and eerily depicting the very real-life situations occurring due to the pandemic. (Screenshot Taken by Gretchen Stern)

Over the past year and a half, shows and movies have had to combat the effects of the coronavirus in a battle of TV vs. COVID. 

In an industry where sharing spaces and seeing facial expressions is essential to success, COVID presented a new challenge for directors and actors everywhere. When things were really locked down in the height of the pandemic, production stopped — people had to think of a way to remedy the situation, and fast. 

Films like Black Widow were delayed, so producers focused on the only type of content they could really make: shows and movies about the pandemic. 

Corona was the first feature film, and then broadcasts and late-night shows like SNL switched to sketches of celebrities at their homes. Everything new meant that viewers watched others talk through zoom calls, or watched shows about people trying to live their lives normally in a pandemic — such as in Social Distance

Then, as 2020 neared an end, movies like Death to 2020 came out, looking back on the year’s shocking events. 

This year, people have seen shows that have included COVID in new seasons. In Grey’s Anatomy — where they set season 17 as taking place in April of 2020 — all the characters are wearing masks and staying safe as best they could. 

“The whole premise is that they work in a hospital with new cases coming in constantly. They incorporated a lot of the political aspects COVID had as well with the debates about vaccinations and not having enough supplies for people at hospitals,” said Aditi Yerra, a senior at LRHS. “They definitely deep-dived into the whole COVID situation, and I think they did a really good job depicting the hardships. A lot of people don’t see what the hospitals and doctors were going through at that time and how difficult it was.”

Brooklyn 99 is another example of a show involving COVID. In their latest season, they started off wearing masks until they got their vaccine, and then spent the rest of the season dealing with things like police reform and police brutality that were so prevalent in everyone’s minds last year. 

“In You, they tried to incorporate COVID, but they talked about it like it was already over, which just seemed weird because it is still a very real issue. They mentioned the pandemic in the show multiple times but then that’s all they did, so it felt unnecessary,” said Genevieve Fontenot, a senior at LRHS. 

Right now, if television is going to incorporate COVID, they should make sure to recognize it as not a thing of the past because then it seems like they are dismissing something so important. 

The coronavirus is a significant part of human history and has changed our world forever. It has caused many deaths and struggles for people all over the world, so if films are going to mention it, they must acknowledge its full impact on the world. 

While there are numerous examples of films at least mentioning the events of the past year and a half, many people agree that the coronavirus should be kept out of the film industry. 

“TV is supposed to be different from reality, an escape. I think it is too soon to incorporate it because we are still going through the pandemic and feeling its effects,” said Fontenot.

Yerra fully agreed. “I don’t want to see this on television shows because I’m living it in real life. I understand wanting to depict real-life and touch on those subjects, but for me, it was just kind of exhausting to watch it and live it at the same time, rather than looking back on COVID as a past event.”

The conclusion is clear: Most people feel it is too early to add the pandemic to storylines right now. Mask mandates and vaccines have helped production move a little faster than last year, and while viewers appreciate this, people now want films to mostly reflect life before COVID.


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