Michael Bay’s Pandemic Film Looks Worse Than Anticipated

Songbird Michael Bay COVID

In case you somehow missed the news, Michael Bay is making a thriller/action film about the Coronavirus. The trailer is even worse than the synopsis sounded when we first heard about it last spring.

It’s hard for me to express my anger about the upcoming Michael Bay film without dropping f-bombs all over the place, but we try to be professional around here so I’m going to at least attempt to keep my anger contained.  Because let me tell you, the trailer is even worse than anything I could have possibly imagined based on the synopsis that we learned about back in May and I’m appalled.  Songbird looks like a horribly offensive mess that’s exceeded my worst expectations.  I’m pretty furious.

Let’s start off with the fact that they used the same music as the recent trailer for The Stand, which is another film about a pandemic that’s unfortunately being released while we’re in the middle of one.  The key difference between the Michael Bay film and The Stand is that the latter didn’t intend for it to be released during a similar event.  It was just extremely unfortunate timing.  The original book is over 40 years old and the remake has been in the works for many years, so I can’t really fault them.

However, Songbird was written, produced, and will be released all while the pandemic that inspired it is still raging on around us, and it’s even using the same name of the virus.  There’s no mistaking that it’s very much about our current situation.  There’s nothing accidental about this.  It’s all very intentional and designed to line pockets while terrifying the masses about our ongoing global health crisis.  It’s blatantly capitalizing off the pandemic and it’s really gross.  

To a degree, I understand if this is a coping mechanism for Michael Bay while going through a really stressful situation. I also write out my feelings through fiction.  It’s a great way to sort things out and I get the impulse.  The difference is that I publish my works in places like AO3, with ample warnings and mechanisms in place to keep the content in places where only those who are seeking out the content can find it.  Or, more often than not, I keep it hidden away on my hard drive for my own benefit.  Writing has some very real therapeutic value.  I’ve even written some COVID-19 related stuff!

Unfortunately, the masses are being subjected to this therapeutic writing exercise with no way to escape the trailers and chatter across mass media.  We’re going to see the commercials on TV and we’re going to see the articles as front page news on websites (yes, including this one, which is ironic, I know).   This script probably should have stayed on his hard drive instead of being flung out into the world like this.  We really didn’t need to be exposed to this in such an unavoidable fashion.  But here we are.

Additionally, a lot of the actual content of the film is extremely inappropriate and, potentially, dangerous.  While I’m a firm believer that fiction is not entirely responsible for people’s behavior in the real world, it can often be one component in the broader influence on people.  The degree in which fiction affects reality is incredibly nuanced, and I know it’s not a one-on-one correlation, but when combined with other things, it can have an impact.  Honestly, this complicated relationship deserves its own article someday, but needless to say, there is a relation to a degree, and the way this film is handling real life topics seems to be veering into dangerous territory.

The first obvious example of this irresponsible handling of real world topics involves having a character state that he’s ‘immune’ from the virus while President Trump is making the same claim about himself. This could lead to some very incorrect scientific hot takes about the virus.  It’s irresponsible to make up fictional claims about a current event while there’s already so much horrible misinformation being pushed around out there.  We don’t know how immunity works quite yet.  There have been some reinfections, and it’s unclear how long the antibodies will lastWe just don’t know.  

The police-state nature of the government in the trailer also doesn’t help things. Again, similar sentiments have been expressed by anti-maskers here in the real world, so perpetuating that point of view could embolden those who see things as simple as wearing a mask or working from home as some sort of slip into totalitarianism.  Yes, the government is asking a lot from us right now and even I have criticized some of the specific regulations that have gone into place, but this isn’t totalitarianism. It’s just an extreme situation that needs action with nobody having the perfect road map for how to handle it.

There’s an argument to be made that viewing this sort of narrative could be a sort of exposure therapy.  To a degree, I agree with that sentiment.  I explored that very thing in my article about Black Mirror back in the spring.  Hell, I even watched Contagion back when this was all starting in March.  I’m not against the idea of consuming dark media as a way to cope with our current traumas.  It can be healthy when done responsibly. 

But that’s the thing.  This isn’t responsible.  It’s self-serving and dangerous. 

If we weren’t already surrounded by this sort of dangerous rhetoric, the potential impact that this sort of narrative may not be as bad, but it’s kind of tearing the United States apart right now and we don’t need to add any more fuel to the fire.  This is not the time, venue, or way to express these sorts of ideas.  The harm done by this film will outweigh any sort of benefit.

Just write a fanfic and publish it on AO3, Mr. Bay.  It’s what the rest of us are doing.  This is like lighting a match in a powder keg and then profiting off the resulting explosion. It’s an absolute disgrace. 

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They identify as queer.

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