At war with the Axis Powers in the middle of the last century, the United States called on Hollywood, the film industry, to promote the cause of freedom. The studios responded with some of the most memorable war films ever produced; even while the fighting raged in North Africa, in Europe and the Far East. Today, America--and the rest of the world-- is faced with another deadly enemy, this time an invisible one.
Where, in fact, do the studios stand, like their World War Two counterparts, in getting the message out to “stay safe,” “wear a mask,” “social distance,” and “shelter-in-place”? What platforms are being used to convey the message?
Back in early March, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom called for a state of emergency effectively shutting down California; along with the lockdown came orders to close theaters and limit film production by the studios, bringing about a near standstill in new film releases and distribution. Much of that order is still in place today. By mid-summer, when the virus surged for the second time in the state, a relaxed lockdown was reinforced but with a different set of rules for Hollywood, as reported by Ethan Sacks for NBC News;
“California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a second lockdown on July 13. This time around, people in the industry are considered essential workers. California can't afford the alternative: ...the industry supports more than 700,000 jobs that account for $16 billion in wages in the state.” (NBC)
Excluding the streaming service Netflix, the five major studios in SoCal--Warner Bros, Universal, Sony, Paramount and Disney--all had different reactions to the industry crippling pandemic measures. Most turned to whatever means they had at their disposal to get the word out to their audience; they turned to social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and others. A breakdown of the footprint of each studio on social media reveals some striking differences. (Figure One) By far, Facebook is the platform of choice for the studios, Disney the leader with over 50 million followers.
However, presence on the other sites lags far behind Facebook; except for Disney once again on Instagram, with a follower booking of nearly 30 million. It doesn’t take a great deal of analysis to understand Disney’s strong lead on Instagram; the demographics would probably show most are below the age of 30, where Disney targets its films. Not included here are the many and various non-theatrical platforms--such as disk sales and online streaming-- at the disposal of each studio for product distribution since it doesn’t reflect what each has done in light of the pandemic.
Amid the grumbling of studio executives, someone had the foresight to engage the audience with various bulletins using hashtags and tweets; beginning about the time Governor Newsom ordered the first lockdown order in March, 2020. Warner Bros. issued a tweet at the end of the month including the hashtag #ControlTheContagion that reintroduced the cast of its 2011 film; that, sadly enough, had a rather racial undertone to it when the virus in the film came from Hong Kong. The fact that it had connections to China was conveniently overlooked when the cast reunited for its “infomercial PSA.” (ABC)
Warner Bros. most recent COVID-19 related tweet on 10 February 2021, contained the caption;
“Heroes wear masks. Even villains wear masks! You should, too. #MaskUpAmerica @CDCGov @AdCouncil”
The studio had actually only tweeted less than a handful of times regarding the pandemic between its initial tweet back in March, 2020 and the most recent one in 2021.
That pattern in fact, was prevalent in the other studios’ online pandemic presence as well. Much of the focus was on getting the audience to find where the Marvel comic heroes were saving the world as opposed to the real life ones in the Intensive Care Units from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Universal Pictures issued a bulletin on Instagram regarding a 12-month rollback of its October, 2020 release date for the film “Halloween Kills,” feeling it was inappropriate due to the number of deaths in Los Angeles county alone. The bulletin went out to its 3 million plus followers in July, 2020.
Paramount issued several messages across its platforms leading up to Thanksgiving, 2020 using the hashtag #AloneTogether and four “tips”;
The studio also rolled back the release of its film “A Quiet Place; Part II.” As with other studios, the tweets and hashtags were very limited in release as the industry struggled with staying alive financially, at the expense of immersing itself in becoming part of the solution; that is, all except Sony.
No stranger to catastrophic events such as the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami (Wikipedia) that caused 16,000 deaths, Sony was the first, and possibly only, film corporation to establish a fund for COVID-19 relief;
What’s significant about the unilateral move on the part of Sony wasn’t just its stepping up, but the fact that it established the fund in April, 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic and just a few short weeks after Governor Newsom ordered the statewide lockdown. Unlike Disney and the others, Sony wasn’t interested in make-believe Marvel comic superheroes, more concerned with “providing assistance to medical first responders, children and educators working remotely, and members of the creative community in the entertainment industry.” (Global Relief Fund)
In its first announcement on 02 April, the studio received 2300 likes @Sony on Twitter.
By no means does this brief look at the film industry and its response to the pandemic reflect on its dedication to its employees, its audience, the state of California and to the world as a whole. Certainly the studios place staying solvent as their first priority. As well, limited social media presence through posts, bulletins and hashtags doesn’t mean they are not seriously concerned with the existential threat posed by the virus. Deaths related to the coronavirus stand just below 50,000 for Los Angeles and the immediate counties in that region. (NY Times) Compared to that “other” Hollywood of 1940-45, the Internet Movie Database lists 30 movies related to World War Two; many were left out. (IMDB) Today, with the reach of the studios through an all pervasive network of social media platforms, there doesn’t appear to be an explanation as to why Hollywood isn’t exerting more leadership in getting the message out to stay safe, mask up, social distance, and...stay home.
Incline Village, Nev. (EOC)-- Yet another story about refugees in peril being rescued by daring radicals on the high seas. This time it takes on a different twist, not the usual heroes such as Doctors Without Borders, but an elusive London street artist who uses the name of "Banksy" as a pseudonym. His identity has been speculated in various media reports, but the story is not about the artist, but the rescue mission.
#COVID-19: Mask Rejection & Freud
"...If we may assume as an experience admitting of no exception that everything living dies from causes within itself, and returns to the inorganic, we can only say 'The goal of all life is death‘, and, casting back, 'The inanimate was there before the animate‘ " (Freud, S., Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1920)
The Birx-Fauci Fail: A Brief History
Clearly, the task force was designed using Centers for Disease Control (CDC) medical experts and immunologists on point, with the Surgeon General's office and Admiral Giroir of the Health and Human Services (HHS), among others. The briefings aired on national television were composed of those members with Vice President Mike Pence as task force director. The briefings gave considerable attention to charts and graphs related to surge and mitigation and evolving from those briefings was a mitigation plan using stay-at-home, testing and face protection mandates. All were in some way or another related to the physiological aspect of medicine, there were no team members related to psychological and social aspects. Then came the "June Swoon."
James C. L'Angelle
University of Nevada, Reno
New York University, Visiting Student
Social Media, Spring 2021
Copyright © 2021 reconpresseusa - All Rights Reserved.