This was originally written on April 8, 2014.
What I love most about science fiction is that ideas can literally come from anywhere. According to Wikipedia, Brandon Cronenberg got the idea for his feature film debut after lying in bed with a viral infection. He contemplated the intimacy in the fact that he got this disease from some one else around him. Then while watching some late night TV, the crowd cheered about being sneezed on by Sarah Michelle Gellar. These seemingly innocent things sparked the weird ride that is Antiviral. I will admit that the pacing is a bit too slow for this film and the overall tone is a bit too cold but the idea of it is interesting. The film follows Syd March as he works for Lucas Clinic, a company specializing in the sharing of celebrity’s diseases: colds, genital warts, things like that. Syd ends up getting himself in a bit of trouble when he tries to steal a new disease to sell on the black market. I don’t really want to go into this film more because I was recently sick with the cold that has been going around my house and all of the medical things that were happening in this film were making me slightly nauseous, and this is a good time to warn you all about the grossness of this film. Antiviral falls in the horror category of science fiction so there will be some blood and generally nasty things happening to the body. That is not a surprise because Brandon Cronenberg is the son of director David Cronenberg, who made The Fly (1986).
Yet beyond the gross aspects of this future that Cronenberg is creating, I appreciated his critiques of celebrity culture. This world he creates is so obsessed with the famous that they get the flu they just had or get cuts of meat that were genetically created from their DNA. It may seem extreme to us now but the form of dehumanization that the main celebrity focused on in this film, Hannah, is similar to the dehumanization that I see on E! News and on countless celebrity blogs. The fact of the matter is that today we don’t see celebrities as people. I couldn’t help but think about the news that Lindsay Lohan wrote down every person she slept with for some reason and how people were shaming her for her sexual history. The amount of bizarreness around the act of asking her, publishing the list with celebrities we all knew, then subtly shaming her for her own sex life that they asked her to make public was a weird form of performance theater. We try to ask the stars to remind us that they are just like us but when they do, we get a little upset. This is not only gross but due to the fact that 95% of the celebrities that deal with these wildly rigid expectations are women, the element of misogyny and racism/misogyny for women of color is strong.
Unfortunately there is no analysis on how Hannah feels about her celebrity in this world because this film is about Syd. I think the coldness of the film could have been stopped if we got a sense of what the other side of this felt like. I’m sure she felt lonely and only as good as how pretty she was. It’s demoralizing to think of yourself only being worth how much meat you sell and how much people want to have your genital warts. It’s also really gross. Because unfortunately, without Hannah’s POV, the audience is dehumanizing her just like her fans are.
UP NEXT: We go mainstream with our Sci-Fi with The Host, written and directed by Andrew Niccol adapted from the Stephanie Meyers book (Yep, that Stephanie Meyers.)