When Trolls: World Tour premiered as a premium streaming option last Easter weekend, you would have thought I won tickets to Cannes Film Festival the way I was bouncing around the house at the prospect of a new movie. I might as well have, because both scenarios would’ve ultimately kept me at home anyway for the sake of public health.
That was about a month into the madness. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced March 23, 2020 schools would close for the rest of the academic year and it felt like the rest of my home state followed suit. I worked remotely for several weeks after that day and am still gaining back my footing in an office setting a year later, mask and all.
I’ve typed “COVID-19 pandemic” so many times in the last year I feel it should be pre-set in any email, news story or text message I compose. Often it feels like day-to-day is a blanketed by an amalgamation of Coronavirus buzzwords: unprecedented times, six feet, Donald Trump, mitigation, outdoor seating, online school, temperature check, HEPA filter, contactless delivery.
Now that weather is cresting 60 degrees in the sunny afternoons again, spring comes as an anniversary of what started possibly the most difficult obstacle for each living generation today. This month painfully reminds me of how many news articles about a distant, rampant virus I closed out of my web browser about this time last year, assured nothing that grim would ever hit the U.S.
“This will all be over soon.”
By no other explanation than the grace of God, I’ve had an extraordinarily easy go in the pandemic in comparison to many other Americans. I’ve kept my job, home, and, most importantly, lost no one in my immediate circle to Covid. But like a deep tremor in the Earth’s foundation, I continue to feel the shared mourning, anxiety and bottomless anger. It’s not just my community, it’s everywhere. Being unable to escape those feelings is so daunting. I admit I feel weak.
We’ve all been leveled by this common experience for an entire year. It’s humbling, really, to think that all walks of life have sought something so instinctual in the face of trauma and tragedy: comfort.
One constant comfort in my life, one that I basically founded this blog to honor, is film and television.
Perhaps it harkens back to sick days at home in elementary school, when my mom would leave me to my own devices with chicken soup and a stack of VHS tapes (and then later DVD’s). Something about a good movie or series binge feels almost nurturing in its ability to take your mind somewhere else for a short time. Pre-Covid, a few episodes a day or a movie before bed may have offered short reprieve from a hectic work and family life. Stuck inside, movies and TV quickly became the best part of my day most weeks as I ached for something to look forward to.
There was a time I felt hyper-aware of my media consumption and how “cool” it may or may not be. But with so much already at stake, it seemed we all collectively dropped pretension since the start of the pandemic. The world watched Tiger King together and told the celebrities singing ‘Imagine’ in their mansions to shove it. As a nation in crisis, there wasn’t room to seek irony or status quo in media consumption; we no longer felt ashamed of what brought us the littlest bit of joy.
That said, I fell in love with 90 Day Fiancé— like, all of the 90 Day franchise– during quarantine. I hadn’t “gamed” since about 2008, but during the stay at home order also turned me onto Xbox with my husband. We both discovered Fortnite and I downloaded Spyro: Reignited trilogy, leading to many hours with furious thumbs on joysticks. I revisited film franchises like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and How to Train Your Dragon. I watched old favorites, made new ones and burned up my comfort shows and movies for what felt like a zillion times on end.
In many ways, the pandemic has renewed my appreciation for filmmaking. The multi-billion dollar industry, full of flaws and corruption and lore, operates on the wholesome notion to bring magic to life on a screen. For independent efforts, filmmakers got especially creative to fulfill mitigation requirements and budgetary limitations– by no means an easy feat all in the name of entertaining.
While Hollywood is not without its problems, the continued effort to storytell through tragedy inspires me. Film and television speak a universal, simple language to make audiences feel; feel joy, excitement, shock, chills, catharsis. And despite hours parked in front of my television since this all began, any moment of feeling something other than dread over the past year was a gift.
Are better days on the horizon? It’s certainly possible. The optimist in me also feels a return to normalcy within our grasp. But with such continued uncertainty, we all know nothing is guaranteed. It’s difficult, at best, to remain positive a full year later. My best advice: continue to put safety above all else. Practice safety in ways that have been drilled by experts and convey respect and compassion for others by practicing safety. Behind that, prioritize your own comfort. Turning to comfort within ourselves or from others is a different kind of safety, which existed long before quarantine and will prevail long after. Comfort keeps us safe from the cruel or bad days.
And I’ve learned that on many bad days, there isn’t much a good movie can’t fix.