How Pop Culture Will Respond To The 2020 Pandemic, According To Jason Blum And Leigh Whannell

At this stage, nobody is quite clear on what effects the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately have on the film industry, with questions still looming about everything from how the production process will be altered, to how the theatrical experience will change. But it’s not just about the business. Pop culture has a tendency to reflect the world in which its primary audience lives, and right now we can’t be sure how that will manifest once “normal” life resumes. Will there be a flood of movies about deadly contagions? Will there be an influx of stories with isolation as a key theme? Or will movies do everything in their power to distract us from reality?

Given the prominent role that fear currently has in our society, the future of the horror genre in particular will be interesting to watch – which is why I brought the subject up when I recently had the opportunity to interview Blumhouse founder Jason Blum and writer/director Leigh Whannell. With The Invisible Man out on Blu-ray today, I had the chance to catch up with them over video chat last week, and you can watch our discussion about the future of COVID-19 in pop culture by clicking play on the video below:

In the aftermath of COVID-19, there will be two kinds of films that approach the subject matter: those that directly tell stories about life during the pandemic, and those that feature it exclusively in subtext. In the case of the former, Jason Blum predicts that we’ll likely see a number of them, but he also doesn’t exactly expect much from them. Per the producer, they’ll capture certain aspects of what life in 2020 is like, but he believes that they won’t be able to feature real insight into events because they are too close to it:

I think the idea of seeing movies about actual lockdown, I think we'll see a lot of them; I think they're going to get old really fast, and I don't think there'll be any good ones. I think the first good movie made about the actual lockdown won't happen for 10 years until people have distance on it and perspective of it. If you think about the first real good movie made after September 11th, it was 10 years past September 11th, although there were a lot of movies made before that that weren't so interesting.

There is certainly a logic to this thinking. A film made immediately in the aftermath of the pandemic about the pandemic will be able to include firm details about the experience, but it will be impossible for it to capture the lasting effect of the stay at home orders because the world will still be changing as its being made. As Jason Blum says, it may be a full decade before we fully understand how the ongoing events end up reshaping everyday life, and the movies made then that reflect on this time will really have something to say.

The more subtle approach, however, is a different story – and Jason Blum seems to suggest that it could cut both ways as far as both intention and reception. Using romantic comedies as an example, he noted that the way that the stories “feel” will be altered, even if the events of the last few months are never specifically mentioned. Said Blum,

I do think that the way movies will feel, nothing to do with lockdown, but a romantic comedy made in 2021 versus a romantic comedy made in 2019 never mentioning COVID, I think those movies will feel entirely differently. I do think that.

Picking up the baton, Leigh Whannell also considered the situation from the perspective of the audience, and added his belief that there may not be much of a demand for stories set during the 2020 pandemic. What we are living through currently is traumatic on a societal scale, and when it comes to watching movies in the aftermath the writer/director doesn’t feel like people will be aching to watch big screen stories about that trauma. Said Whannell,

I agree, yeah. I think people want escapism. The last thing you want to see when you get out of lockdown is a movie about lockdown. I think people will be like, 'Take me to another planet. Just get me...' I guess at this stage, going to a restaurant is another planet. Human beings are funny, though. I always feel like as soon as they open the floodgates and say, 'It's fine to go back to restaurants,' we'll be happy for about an hour and then all of a sudden we'll be like, 'Why did we even come here? It is so expensive. We should have just stayed home.'

Given that we are still in the middle of the pandemic, any firm answers about the future in this regard are obviously totally up in the air, but it’s something we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on as movie fans.

On that note, entertainment is definitely a wonderful resource in these crazy times, and now audiences can watch one of 2020’s best films at home. Following its SVOD release in the wake of its limited theatrical window, The Invisible Man is now available on home video in all formats, including digital, 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD. Pick up a copy, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interview with Jason Blum and Leigh Whannell.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.