I liken the end of an era to seeing a movie about it. Time has passed, and now we can look back on this thing with clarity. With a rise in vaccine rates, we can except an onslaught of pandemic films.
My roommate and I recently attended a Rooftop Films event showing of a short film entitled Stop and Go. The film detailed the journey of two sisters traveling across the country to rescue their grandma from a COVID-infested nursing home. It was humorous and light with moments of emotional clarity and familial affection peppered in — everything you want to see after a shared lived experience. It was as if we were saying, “I’m so glad that’s over and we can laugh about it now.” For a blissful hour, it really did feel like looking back on a pandemic that had come to pass.
Or maybe it was the lack of masks in the audience informing my dissolution with reality.
The importance of audience understanding
It was a great film, really, I highly recommend it. I’m just confused about when we all collectively decided that the pandemic was over, despite hospitals filling back up. I see so many people ditching the masks entirely, not even bothering with the courtesy. Maskless grocery stores, maskless concerts, influencers going to massive super-spreader events every weekend without fail. Did we clock eighteen months with COVID and decide that frontline workers don’t matter anymore? I wasn’t aware that the virus had an expiration date entirely of our choosing.
I thought the audience of a pandemic film would be a little more self-aware. Too many maskless people laughed at the antics of the anti-mask sister — a real-life, exhausting familial staple. It felt so… unreflective. Inconsiderate. The stars of the film went through the trouble of writing and producing within the confines of quarantine. You can’t wear a mask to the showing?
The lack of audience understanding does an absolute disservice to any form of art. To reduce Stop & Go to a solely comedic experience doesn’t allow for observation of anti-mask or anti-vax family members within pandemic films.
For the first time ever, many people were put in danger because of their relative’s carelessness. A lot of us didn’t know how to put that gut-wrenching fear and anger into words.
Build and release
As the sisters race against the clock to get their grandma from the nursing home, they also race against their sister who just got back from a cruise full of sick people, and is now trying to pick their elderly grandma up. Of course, there’s an abundance of humorous begging and pleading for their sister to be cautious, but Stop & Go captured the anxiety of arguing with relatives playing recklessly with a global virus.
Anxiety heightens throughout the road trip — a student’s angry parent, a broken-down car, a kidnapped dog — until the very end of the film. As the tension breaks, it feels like the producers allowed us to take in that moment of respite. Stop and Go serves as a release from pandemic tension, if only for a moment.
And, for all the irony of a film made during a mask mandate, Stop and Go felt like a breath of fresh air.
Lauren is a 19-year-old Politics and Creative Writing major at NYU. She currently lives in Hamilton Heights, but is from a small town in Ohio near Lake Erie. She's previously been published in online zines such as Unpublished, Lithium, and Luna Collective.