Lockdown - The Movie

“It’s like a science fiction movie – but we’re all in it!” is an observation from the early days of the pandemic that’s stayed with me.

Here’s the film critics:

“LOCKDOWN 1 was a real, gut-wrenching thriller, with loads of suspense and unexpected twists and turns. Would people listen to the nerdy, doom-mongering scientists, or side with the venal politicos Almost everyone in the world was an extra in it – the biggest blockbuster of all time.”

But the launch of the next movie in the franchise, LOCKDOWN 2, has hardly been met with the same

As The Guardian called it: “Like most sequels, LOCKDOWN 2 lacks the visceral impact of the original. The plot is predictable, and most people simply can’t wait for it to end. Killing off arch-villains like The Trumpenator and Bad Dom may have made sense to the script writers, but global audiences have voted with their feet – or at least their backsides – and stayed away in their millions.”

Fortunately, we already have a new contender for a super villain if LOCKDOWN 3 ever gets made – she’s called Aunty Vaxxer, blessed with the superpower of lasering conspiracies.

So are we entering a new phase where boredom rules, if only as an antidote to the roller coaster of surprises we’ve been white-knuckling on this past year? Although naturally I welcome the change, listen to five minutes of Joe Biden and narcolepsy beckons. A good man, it seems, and perhaps necessarily dull. In the UK, satirists are already nostalgic at the disappearance of the PM’s evil Svengali, Dominic Cummings, and worried at the prospect of someone turfing out the bumbling and easily parodied Johnson.

Are We Becoming Boring?

I’ve found the pattern of our conversations with friends online has become highly predictable. First, a Covid-19 round-up, high level analysis of the world’s plight, US elections etc, before a deep dive into the real meat of the conversation: what have you been watching? All the rest is foreplay, because this is where we really want to be; sharing our passive viewing habits, and like true addicts, desperately asking where we can get our next fix. A potential universe of discussion topics is reduced to questions like:

‘Is series 4 of The Crown a patch on the early ones?’

‘How many times on average do they use the F word in an episode of Succession?’

‘Will they make a new season of Ozark during lockdown?’

The questions aren’t so troubling – more so is that I have the time, mental bandwith and compulsion to actually answer them! As in, “No, Olivia Colman isn’t a patch on Claire Foy.” (True.) “ It’s 33!” (I counted.)…and… “Yes, they are finding ways to film in pandemic times.” “How does that work?” A deep rabbit hole opens up....

The discussion may include short detours into the worlds of sport, food and music, but will inexorably turn back to the screen. When this pandemic is over, we’ll all need a course of what novelist Thomas Pynchon called ‘Tube Detox.’ And that was decades ago, before the invention of streaming, when choice was miserable compared with the explosion of ‘content’ we have today. We’ll resist – “Of course I can quit after one Queer Eye,” the addict intones. But we’re not even fooling ourselves.

Living Sci-Fi

We are already leading a Sci-Fi life. The long promised, once futuristic, ‘videophone’ is ubiquitous in all its guises. Virgin’s hyperloop transportation pod hurled human cargo -safely-through a tube at speed for the first time on November 8 th ; they are targeting goods sent at up to 1,000 Km per hour in the near future. We continue to create functioning human organs through the magic of 3D printing, while we gawp with wonder at the first ever images of a Black Hole.

So what’s happening globally now is our movie -we’re the reluctant stars, and have more influence than we probably believe in writing the next part of the plot.

I’m drawn back to a wonderful observation by media commentator Marshall McLuhan, uttered some 50 year ago:

“There are no passengers on spaceship Earth-only

That’s us. Me and You. The beautiful question I suggest all of us ‘crew’ should be asking is: “What kind of a world do we want to create, for ourselves and our children?” Then re-start our life’s work as a race – thinking and acting in ways that bring that imagined better time even a tiny step closer.

If it comes to the filming of LOCKDOWN 3, let’s rest easy knowing we’ve done all we can to make it, if not a happy, then certainly a happier ending.

November 27th 2020