The cast of ‘Contagion’ creates coronavirus PSAs, but Kate Winslet gets burned by Twitter
The 2011 thriller “Contagion,” in which a fictional virus decimates the world population, has seen spikes in viewership since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. So Columbia University decided to work with the film’s stars to launch their own PSAs. It seemed like a constructive idea, but such an effort has shown there’s a sensitivity around how celebrities or influencers should speak out about the pandemic.
The backlash on social media is clear: Doctors and healthcare professionals are the true influencers when it comes to medical advice, not actors who once played doctors or scientists in movies.
Last week, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health worked with actors from the film—Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and Jennifer Ehle—to produce five PSAs and a compilation video (below) for the pandemic, which as of Tuesday has claimed more American lives than 9/11. The PSAs were all shot by the actors themselves, and written by “Contagion” screenwriter Scott Z. Burns under the guidance of the same Columbia doctors who worked as consultants for the Participant Media-produced film.
In most of the PSAs, the actors encourage social distancing and listening to scientists and doctors. Those have steered clear from criticism on social media, but Kate Winslet’s script gets too technical and makes her appear as a source of medical advice.
The video is being ridiculed on Twitter, with most of the backlash appearing on a post from U.K. news outlet Sky News.
In Winslet’s PSA, where it’s obvious she is reading her lines, the actress explains in scientific terms how handwashing can get rid of the virus. She says in the video that she learned the correct procedure while she was preparing to play an epidemiologist in the film “Contagion,” when she spent time with “some of the best public health professionals in the world.”
“The virus is washed away with that grease when the soap molecule attaches to it. Yep! Yep! A scientist taught me that,” she goes on to say as she scrubs her hands with soap in a sink. “Why else would I know it?”
Twitter users basically say she’s unqualified to give medical instructions and she should stick to film scripts. Columbia University could not be reached for comment.
“Hi Kate, I starred in the nativity at school as Jesus but that doesn’t mean I go around healing the sick or making the lame walk. Here’s the thing ok it’s not real it’s just pretend,” reads one comment on Sky News’ post. “Oh good I was hoping that a person with zero qualifications in epidemiology would advise me on something they know absolutely nothing about,” reads another.
The fact that her character does not live through the pandemic in “Contagion,” and her character in “Titanic” barely made it out alive, was not lost on commenters too.
“Kate Winslet fucking died in Contagion!! I’m taking no advice from her!” reads one tweet. “Can we also get her take on how ships can avoid hitting icebergs? I’ve heard she’s also an expert in that given other starring roles,” reads another tweet.
“Kate Winslet giving advice about a pandemic is all fine and dandy, but if she offers you advice on how to stay alive after your luxury cruise ship starts to sink, tell her to fuck off. That plank had space for TWO people,” reads another.
Commenters also gave hypothetical examples of other actors and the advice they might give with the wisdom they’ve accrued from their films.
“What’s next? Richard Gere giving the army tips on the best strategy of how the military should play their part in this because he starred in ‘An Officer and a Gentleman?’” asks one Twitter user in a comment on Sky News’ post. “Can Russell Crowe give tips on how to be a gladiator?” reads another Twitter comment. “Tomorrow Harrison Ford will teach us the best way to raid a tomb,” reads yet another.