When it Comes to COVID-19 Pop Culture Shapes the Conversation

When it Comes to COVID-19 Pop Culture Shapes the Conversation

When Tom Hanks first announced that he and wife Rita Wilson had been diagnosed with COVID-19, it fundamentally altered the shape of the coronavirus discussion in North America. Before that, the media had focused primarily on the other side of the world, where the virus had already had a devastating impact in China, Italy and elsewhere. As one of the most beloved (and recognizable) actors of his generation, Tom Hanks served as a reality check. He made the disease seem less anonymous and indicated that no one would be immune to the pandemic.

Hanks and Wilson have since recovered, but the virus has been unsparing as it has spread across the globe. The death toll has climbed into the tens of thousands and affected people from all walks of life. The tally of positive cases includes actors like Idris Elba and politicians like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who now stand alongside hundreds of thousands of everyday civilians who have also come down with the disease.

Though many (including Johnson) were initially dismissive, public opinion has shifted as more cases have emerged. The conversation took on added severity following the death singer-songwriters Adam Schlesinger and John Prine, which made the virus (and the potential fallout) dire. COVID-19 is deadly, and there is no way to fully know who is and is not at risk.

That’s probably why the disease does not seem to carry too much stigma for those who receive a diagnosis. There has been more criticism of people like Evangeline Lilly, who ignored the warnings and failed to observe social distancing norms. However, that has more to do with bad behaviour than it does with the disease itself. For the most part, those who contract the virus can usually expect wishes for a speedy recovery.

To some extent, COVID-19 has affected everyone. Many people have or know someone who has come down with the disease, and everyone has had their lives upended as a result of the pandemic.

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