Film critic Stephanie Zacharek, in a cover story, said that there were more difficult years in US history, but almost no one living now has experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic.
“My job as a film critic is to look at movies and tease out their connections both to the greater world and to our lives. If 2020 were a dystopian movie, you’d probably turn it off after 20 minutes. This year wasn’t doomily thrilling, like a fictional apocalypse. It was, in addition to being wrought with pain, maddeningly mundane, the routine of the everyday turned against us," says Zakharek.
"And COVID-19, it turns out, was the greatest gift that the enemy could have hoped for. Helplessness met its evil twin, a partner in crime that would only magnify its mad power: isolation. In March, when major U.S. cities joined others worldwide in locking down as a defense against the virus, Americans who could work remotely figured out how to do their jobs at home. So many didn’t have that privilege and lost their jobs, with no means to pay their rent or mortgage and no way to feed their families. Hunger became a major theme of 2020, presenting challenges even in countries with the means to assuage it. At the same time, parents across the world, no matter their means, hustled to take care of–and homeschool–their kids.
Meanwhile, essential workers, from grocery-store clerks to transportation professionals to hospital nurses and physicians, continued to show up for duty. We’d see clips of health care workers in the news, their faces marked by hours of wearing PPE, their eyes leaden with weariness. Sometimes unable to hold back tears, they’d describe a new addition to their daily routine: watching patients die when they could no longer keep them alive. At a designated time each evening, many of us leaned out of our windows, armed with pots and wooden spoons or just our oddball cacophony of human voices, and raised a ruckus in support of those workers. It was the least we could do, at a time when we had no idea what to do.
That began in March, the onset of a period in which most of us felt encased in our own lonely snow globes, looking out at a world that seemed to be falling apart. Realistically, the world had started falling apart long before: horrific Australian bushfires had been raging for months and would not be quelled until midyear–just in time for wildfire season in the American West, with its own brazen cycle of devastation. Pictures from either of these scenes–unsettling orange skies in normally paradisiacal parts of California, aerial views of doomy plumes of smoke covering the Australian landscape–would feel apocalyptic in any year. But in 2020, with so many of us hunkered down inside, it was particularly alarming to reckon with the fragility of the natural world. To think of it burning away–not least because we humans have failed it with our poor stewardship–invites despair", Zakharek adds.