My “year of COVID” started with me getting the flu the same exact week my work closed itself to customers and sent many of us to work from home. I took two days off to feel gross and panic about having COVID. When I went to CVS to get a flu test, I passed a mother with her son. She saw me in a mask and literally pulled her son away from me, hissing at him to not to touch anything. That was how the pandemic started for me.
A year later, it’s kind of shocking how normal my life feels now. I started to write that my life hasn’t really changed that much, but it has. I only worked at home for six weeks, but my husband’s been working from home for a year. We adopted a dog and have now planted our second annual garden, both of which I doubt would have happened without COVID. Though we’ve ordered takeout frequently, I have been to actual restaurants all of three times in the past year, insisting on patio seating every single time. We cancelled plans to attend a wedding my husband was supposed to be in. We’ve done the extended family Zooms. I’ve visited family in person and felt anxious and guilty each time.
Hope’s on the horizon, though. The vaccine rollout in Tennessee is chugging along, and with warmer weather upon us, it’s easier to get together with friends outdoors, which I’m comfortable with. I prefer outdoor activities anyway. It’s kind of a horrible milestone, but with so many people already having had COVID and that many more getting the vaccine, the risk of catching it gets lower each day. So even though it will be a few more months before I’m eligible for my shot, I’m feeling much better about the immediate future than I did at this time last year.
However, there’s one thing about approaching the post-pandemic phase that I don’t like. And that’s COVID storylines in TV shows.
My husband has recently been bingeing his way through the show 911. I’ve been trying not to get sucked in, but it’s a good show. It has a good mix of characters, a nice balance between episodic and ongoing storylines, and great LGBTQ representation and racial diversity within the cast.
But! As we have caught up to the episodes that are coming out now, they introduced it. Show characters are wearing masks. Parents are dealing with online school. Offhand comments about certain shops being closed or items scarce are popping up in the dialogue. Heck, even Zoom meetings have made an appearance. And 911 isn’t the only show doing this. I’ve even seen new book announcements from my favorite authors that feature pandemic plots. It’s everywhere.
I get that art and media are important ways that society works through collective emotions. And as far as TV and movies go, I like that having COVID storylines in shows means actors wearing masks, which allows producers to more safely continue working and creating. That’s definitely a good thing. In another year or two or three, I might be interested in a fictional show about COVID. But right now I don’t want anything to do with it. I’ve made it through the past year unscathed, relatively speaking, and it is still way, way too soon for me. The COVID outlook is looking up, but it’s far from over. I’m still living through a pandemic as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t want to see any random COVID storylines until they’re something I can look back on as firmly in the past.
Throughout a lot of my life, shows and books and movies have functioned as an escape, a chance to be someone else for awhile, to live vicariously through a character. My media tastes have changed as I’ve gotten older in that I read and watch and listen in an attempt to understand the world around me and how others experience it. I read a lot more nonfiction than I used to and listen to political podcasts. But in between the heavy, important stuff, I take a break with a beach read or a funny podcast that doesn’t take much thinking. It’s how I retain balance and sanity. I can’t do that when taking a break from pandemic life to watch a show means watching fictional characters live their own pandemic lives. So for now, I’m skipping every book, show, or movie that so much as hints at COVID.
What are your thoughts on COVID storylines in media?