From Movie to Reality: How the 2013 Movie The Flu Reflects COVID-19


41.4 million COVID-19 cases and 1.13 million deaths as of Oct 3rd, 2020. Massive statistics has blunted the world; the world is beyond being terrified with the pandemic, but is now coping with it. Rue has arisen from many infectors who were not aware of the contagiousness of the virus. Could the world have forestalled the pandemic situation? Is it true that nobody knew about the emergence of the pandemic?

To give an answer straightforwardly, yes, there was. I affirm that there was a precise prophecy for COVID-19: the movie, The Flu (2013). In the film, a foreign immigrant labourer enters South Korea with a flu virus. The virus is airborne and has 100% of fatality rate within 48 hours after the infection. Because of the virus’s abysmal properties, the majority of the people in the city get infected by the virus abnormally rapidly. In-hae, a female doctor, decides to work at the Contagion Center and takes her daughter, Mi-reu, with her to an isolation camp for suspected patients. Unfortunately, Mi-reu gets infected and the government workers take away Mi-reu from In-hae. Ji-koo, In-hae’s friend who followed her into the camp, saves Mi-reu just before she is burned with thousands of other infected — not dead yet — patients. While the internal situation gets more and more severe, leaders of other countries force the Korean government to block the city and kill everyone in the area since they are all potential disease carriers. Surprisingly, after being saved by Ji-koo, Mi-reu recovers from the illness; in other words, Mi-reu’s body developed an antibody. Using Mi-reu’s immune system, medical scientists developed a vaccine and eventually cured all the patients. All the surviving infected people are cured of their diseases and go back to their normal but precious routine.

The general traits of the pandemic in the movie and the status quo epidemic are noticeably similar. A highly contagious virus entered into the country from a foreign region. The virus is dissipated through airborne droplet infections and has flu-like symptoms. On the other hand, viewing the two comparison targets in multi-perspectives, there are also considerable differences. The government of the movie responds to the pandemic with mandatory 48 hours of isolation in the isolation camp for all potential patients. This policy is practical for the circumstance in the movie because the incubation period of the virus is only 48 hours, and it brings a resolute consequence, in this case death, immediately. Later in the movie, the government tries to block down the specific city that has the pandemic. The decision to blockade the city vexes the patients because it is perceived as an ‘abandonment’ of the infected civilians. The patients inside the city start to protest against the government to develop a vaccine and to not give up on them. In reality, COVID-19 virus has 2-4 weeks of latent period and doesn’t have a 100% lethality rate. Therefore, the government must announce a nationwide ‘quarantine’ and minimise direct contact with others at least during the latent period. The entire world has undergone several indefinite quarantines, which has made us suffer throughout the long summer this year.

The pandemic is also treated differently from a diplomatic perspective. Both the virus in The Flu and Coronavirus have been generated from foreign countries. However, the movie only focuses on the impact of the virus in one country’s single city. As only one country is involved in the pandemic, other countries make a direct and active intervention in order to stop the virus from spreading into their countries. Several scenes show how the leaders of other countries make selfish and inhumane decisions, ordering massacres against all the civilians in the infected city. However, the COVID-19 situation has permeated all around the world rapidly. All countries have concluded that medical cooperation between countries is required to develop a vaccine. Since the status became too widespread, each country uses various defensive strategies that minimise population mobility, rather than blaming other countries and making offensive orders against foreign governments.

The Flu is generally similar to what has taken place internationally throughout 2020. The pandemic situation has grown to an extent where the world can no longer go back to life before COVID-19. The pandemic situation has resulted in much more severe and unexpected consequences than what people merely imagined through movies. The last comparison, which I hope to be actualised soon after, is how the pandemic ends. In the movie, a recovered patient with an antibody emerged all of a sudden, and everyone benefited from the vaccine: a happy ending. However, unfortunately, reality is not a movie. For how long is the world supposed to suffer? For how low long is this fate supposed to last? Nobody has the answer nor the choice, except for struggling to re-achieve our routines, now with our masks on.