Culture Clips: The Newest Bond Villain is the Coronavirus


James Bond has tussled with some pretty terrible, ruthless nemeses in his ludicrously long career. He’s battled men with golden guns, steel jaws and razor-sharp hat brims, and he’s always managed to come back to jolly old England with his mission complete.

But now, it seems MI6 has come up against an adversary even too tough for 007: the coronavirus.

The release of No Time to Die, marking Daniel Craig’s last appearance as Britain’s most famous super spy, has been moved from April to November in reaction to the flu-like, occasionally lethal bug. A few days ago, fans were asking distributors Universal and MGM to do just that and “put public health above marketing schedules.”

James Bond isn’t the only action hero adjusting on the fly to the pesky virus. Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise’s intrepid protagonist of the Mission: Impossible franchise, pressed pause on his own adventures: Filming for Mission: Impossible VII, which was being shot in Venice, has been delayed.  And obviously, moviegoing in China—the second biggest movie-market on the planet—has gone way down (most movie theaters there have actually been shut down for weeks). Experts are suggesting that the movie industry has already lost $5 billion from impacted markets.

But if in-theater movies are suffering, streaming services may thrive. After all, if you can’t go out to see a movie, you can always bring a movie in. Still, even those businesses have not come through the coronavirus scare unscathed. Disney+ just cancelled a two-day launch event in Great Britain because of the disease. (It’s an understandable decision under the circumstances, perhaps, and not nearly as embarrassing as when one of its Jungle Cruise boats in Orlando actually sunk.)

Of course, it’s not just movies being impacted. Many singers and bands are cancelling performances in Asia: Green Day has cancelled shows there. Avril Lavigne has cancelled the Asian leg of her “Head Above Water” tour, which was set to begin in Shenzhen, China, next month. (In a statement, Lavigne said she was “completely bummed out.”) BTS nixed several shows in its homeland of South Korea, while Canadian rockers Wolf Parade cancelled shows in Europe. And a number of multinational record companies are cancelling travel plans for their employees, too. (As are tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, and Twitter, with Facebook, Google and Microsoft cancelling upcoming conferences.)

Perhaps holograms are the answer—just like the one depicting Whitney Houston that made its American debut in Las Vegas yesterday. (Another Whitney Houston hologram is making the rounds in Europe already, with 24 tour stops.) Of course, it won’t necessarily help those buying tickets unless they, too, send holograms, but still. We all do what we can.

Also doing well? Companies that make masks. They’re all the rage in airports these days, and apparently they’re becoming more fashionable. And naturally, the Internet is (ahem) awash in instructions of how to scrub your hands. (Slate suggests that you should probably clean your smartphone, too.)

Pope Francis has been sidelined by sickness himself as of late—with a simple cold, the Vatican says. But with the beginning of Lent, the pontiff suggested we rid ourselves of another sort of disease: getting angry online.

“We live in an atmosphere polluted by too much verbal violence, too many offensive and harmful words, which are amplified by the internet,” Pope Francis said in his Ash Wednesday address. “Today, people insult each other as if they were saying ‘Good Day.’” (The makers of The Bachelor would echo Francis’ advice—and imploring fans to stop bullying its contestants.)

Most experts classify alcoholism as a disease. Actor/director Ben Affleck has struggled with it in real life, which made his role in The Way Back (in which he plays an alcoholic basketball coach) all the more difficult. The film’s director, Gavin O’Connor, said that Affleck had a “breakdown” on set, and that some scene takes hit the cutting room floor because they felt all too real. “It would be too hard for an audience to watch, too personal,” he said. And Affleck himself was candid about his struggles in an interview with the Associated Press.

I don’t know all the answers. I’m only an expert in my own failings. But the more expert you become in your own failings, interestingly, the less likely you are to repeat them, I’ve found. That is how my life has been getting better. I have a better relationship with my kids today than I did three years ago. I have a better relationship with my ex-wife, I think, than I did three years ago. I think I’m a better actor. I think I’m a more interesting person because most of the growth that I’ve had has come from pain.

It’s not just actors who struggle with substance abuse and addiction issues, of course. Teens are sadly susceptible, too. But there’s a bit of good news on that front: A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that the average age at which teens and young adults first start using drugs is going up. Better to not start at all, of course, but Karl Alcover, the lead author of the study, called it “great news, because delaying drug use prevents early exposure, which is associated with a variety of negative health consequences, including increased risk of drug use disorder and long-term impairments such as depression, neurocognitive deficits, involvement in risky behaviors, and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Alas, teens still must deal with junk food advertising. Experts say that teens are “especially vulnerable” to the messages in such advertising, leading to the United States’ swelling obesity rate. “There is no way we can address the obesity crisis unless the marketing is drastically lowered,” insists Dr. Jennifer Harris, senior research advisor for the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Finally, a follow-up on last week’s Culture Clips, where we spent some time talking about the wildly popular social video app TikTok. Plugged In isn’t the only entity concerned with the app: Reddit CEO called it “fundamentally parasitic,” and CNBC says that TikTok also boasts plenty of “influencers”  encouraging teens to desire (and buy) wildly expensive-looking things at knock-off prices.

But not all of TikTok’s influence is quite so suspect. Why, 81-year-old Steven Austin—better known as “Old Man Steve”—has become an influencer in his own right, streaming cooking videos to nearly 600,000 followers. “I’m not really a cook and I don’t really cook in my TikTok videos. I just do stuff like make a sandwich or make some toast,” he said.

If we all have to stay inside while the coronavirus rages, at least we know we can always watch Old Man Steve make toast.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I hope for Ben Affleck's sake that The Way Back is a success. He's had it so incredibly rough these past few years, loosing his role as Batman, going through alcohol recovery and getting one of his movies cancelled through Disney's purchase of Fox, and I just hope that this new film will be a win for both him and Warner Bros.

Personally, I'd actually like to see the movie myself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What was the Affleck movie that got cancelled by the merger?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy 

McScam. It was going to be a movie about McDoanld’s fraud scam in the 1990s and would’ve starred Matt Damon. And while it hasn’t been outright cancelled per se, it has taken a bit of a detour due to the merger.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ag, okay. Thanks for explaining that to me. Sounds like a fascinating concept for a movie.