How Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion Predicted The Coronavirus Outbreak


What usually follows an epidemic which is infinitely more terrifying than the disease itself is public panic and Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 movie Contagion has turned out to be a prophetic study amid the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The COVID-19 continues to haunt worldwide communities and there’s a growing concern that the infectious virus is already spreading in different regions across the United States. 67 countries are currently fighting the disease and more than 88,000 cases have been confirmed. While the mortality rate remains low (approximately 3% of those infected), health officials warn that the spread could spiral out of control in the coming weeks.

Inevitably, some people are drawing parallels between the coronavirus outbreak and Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, a movie with an eerily similar premise to what we’ve been witnessing in the past couple of weeks. Much like the director’s other credits, the film took advantage of an all-star cast and received universal acclaim when it premiered back in 2011. But one thing that’s so peculiar about this cinematic feature is the way it explores the various practical and psychological effects of a world-consuming epidemic, which has turned out to be fairly similar to the many ramifications of the recent outbreak.

For one thing, Contagion depicts how the fear-mongering of doomsayers can make things worse, specifically when modern technology is used to increase hysteria through rumors and perpetuation of wrong data or misinformation. As the predictable human nature would have it, we’ve seen many false claims and non-factual rumors about the coronavirus recently, compelling health organizations like WHO to express concern about a potential widespread panic.

In another parallel, the movie shows how politicians and governments put economic concerns above the well-being of the population or even try to downplay the situation by withholding important statistics and data. This closely resembles the way the Chinese government tried to deny the existence of the coronavirus or the possibility of an epidemic in the early days back in October 2019.

The last nail in the coffin involves the plot, which depicts the spread of a virus with symptoms close to COVID-19. What’s more terrifying is the ground zero of the outbreak: China.

Of course, COVID-19 is not nearly as deadly as the virus we saw in Soderbergh’s pic, but if there’s one thing that we can certainly say, it’s that there’s something to be learned from the folly of Contagion‘s characters to help us go through these dark days with more wisdom and understanding.