This year has been so unlike any year I’ve ever experienced. I read news stories and articles about older people (than me!) talking about the unprecedented nature of 2020 compared to events like the Great Depression, World War II, the 2008 financial crisis…Even for them, 2020 takes the cake!
If a historian or some random student from the future would look at this year, compared to other years they’ve studied, would 2020 be classified as the worst disaster ever? I’ve gotta think “Heck Yeah!”
It’s more like an 8 year old writing a story for her grade 3 class. “First there was this crazy virus that made everyone buy all the toilet paper, and then people had to stay home and get all their food from Amazon, except the Amazon was actually on fire, and so there was no school for like six months!!”
Now I picture a scenario with my family and I coming up with a pitch to movie execs for the greatest disaster movie ever made. It should probably star The Rock. And my daughter, Beth-Rose, because she’d keep him in his place. They’d probably make a great team! But seriously, I think the pitch would go something like this;
Scene 1 INT DAY
Slick, overfed Hollywood producer lounges behind his oversized desk, fiddling with his Fitbit. He’s a little concerned, because it’s almost 3:30 and he’s only got 2100 steps in. He decides that he’ll get out a little early and head over to LAX Crossfit on La Cienega Boulevard and get in some plyometrics. If he parks across the street at Starbucks, he can pick up a latte on the way in. Boom! That’ll give him time to finish up and meet his girlfriend at Fat Sal’s Deli for an early dinner. Winning!
Mr Producer Man calls his secretary. “Hold all my calls, ’cause I’m leaving early.”
“But sir,” his secretary protests. “You’ve got that big pitch in 20 minutes. The writers are already here!”
“Dang!” he thinks. He glances once more at his Fitbit. Oh well. He sighs. Maybe he’ll just have a cobb salad at Fat Sal’s.
The writers file into his office. “What the heck!?” he wonders. These are the strangest writers he’s ever seen. Four people stand awkwardly in front of his desk, looking completely out of place in his office.
The oldest is a man of about 60. He’s slightly balding, wears glasses, and obviously works out. His chiseled chest and arms are almost splitting his shirt open.
Beside him is a woman, blonde, beautiful, smiling radiantly. She looks thirty, but her eyes say 50. She’s dressed elegantly in a red pantsuit.
Next to her is a young man, not yet an adult. He slouches morosely, dressed in baggy chinos and a stained red hoodie. Even though it’s uncomfortably warm in the office, his hood is pulled up over his head.
Finally, the fourth person of the group is a young girl, around 12, with long, strawberry-blonde hair. She smiles and pirouettes grandly.
“You’re the writers I’m meeting with?”, he asks doubtfully.
“You betcha!” the older man answers. He flexes his contoured pecs rhythmically. “We’ve got the humdingest movie idea for you! Think “Earthquake” meets “Jurassic Park”, only with race riots and an unhinged world leader! Without a doubt it’s gonna be boffo!”
The woman smiles demurely. The man-child checks his phone. The young girl does the splits.
Mr. Producer Man is dumbfounded. He doesn’t know if he should call security or look for hidden cameras. Reluctantly he decides to hear them out. The strange group sits down on the couch, with the exception of the young girl. She performs a perfect cartwheel and finishes with a mighty flourish in front of the window.
The Producer leans back in his contoured leather chair, pressing his fingertips together. “Alright, you’ve got 5 minutes. Hit me.”
Abruptly the pretty woman sits forward and smiles. “The year starts out well enough. Early on, everyone’s happy in suburbia, kids are in school, folks are working, people are going about their normal daily routines.”
The man jumps in suddenly as she pauses. “But then, a crazy virus is unwittingly unleashed on an unsuspecting world! In no time, people begin getting sick in Asia, then getting on planes and flying around the world.” He waves his buff arms around wildly, nearly knocking a lamp off the desk.
“Pretty soon, whole cities become infected, and governments don’t know what to do! It’s madness!!”
The woman reaches over and places a calming hand on his agitated shoulder. She smiles brightly. “Doctors and scientists from all over the world try and trace the virus. At the same time, different country’s governments issue wildly differing orders to protect their citizens, but panic ensues. Politicians contradict their scientists, ultimately confusing the populace. Pretty soon, people are becoming sick and dying. Now governments shut down their borders. Next everyone is sent home to isolate themselves. Finally, schools everywhere are closed.”
She gazes earnestly at the producer. “Because of all this, people are feeling helpless, confused and afraid.” She pauses, and the room falls silent.
The World Shuts Down
The young man suddenly speaks. “There needs to be a Tarask.” The Producer looks over and blinks. “Pardon?”
“A Tarask”, the boy says again. “If you’re doing a disaster movie, then there should be a deadly Tarask annihilating people. I mean, it’s the perfect villain.” He returns his attention to his device without another word. The young girl sighs, rolls her eyes, then executes a perfect Jeté. “Maybe there should be Tarantula Moths also!”, she mumbles under her breath.
Once again the man stands up and begins pacing in front of the producer’s desk. “Pretty soon, things are going to Hell in a handbasket.” He stops and looks at the producer. “Businesses shut down, people are laid off or lose their jobs entirely. Grocery stores stay open with a skeleton staff. There’s a run on toilet paper. Whole cities are sold out. Even the movie theatres are closed!” The producer raises an eyebrow. The man continues.
“After a couple of months of being cooped up, tired of watching Netflix and renovating kitchens, the people start to revolt! Eventually some emerge from their recently updated single family homes and march on government offices. People are angry and the police are nervous. No one’s wearing masks!” The man is once again flailing his arms.
“Meanwhile, in a mid-sized city in America’s heartland, a Black man is arrested by zealous and power mad cops. In front of onlookers with cell phone cameras, the man dies with a cop’s knee on his neck. As a result, the country is outraged. People of all races take to the streets, calling for police departments to be disbanded and defunded!” The man has become visibly upset again. “It’s madness I tell you!”
Cities in Flames
“Now, things get really ugly. Demonstrators set fire to a police station. As a result, the cops beat a protester. A full-scale riot ensues! White police shoot black protesters, and every day more people riot. Cities are in flames and mayors are helpless! Ohh, the humanity!!” Finally the man takes a deep breath, his bald head is glistening.
The woman stands and moves next to the agitated man. “Come sit down, honey. You’re getting upset.” She guides him to the couch and then turns back to the producer. Her smile is sweet.
“The President goes on tv everyday, telling the people that everything is great. At the same time, he sends secret police to the rioting cities. Soon they’re arresting people for wearing masks while walking their dogs! At one point he tells people to drink bleach and take malaria pills. He blames the virus on his political opponents. He publicly calls his chief virus specialist he’s an idiot…
Just then, murder hornets arrive.”
The producer, startled from his reverie, sits up. “What!? Murder hornets?”
At that, the boy looks up from his phone. “Yeah. That was my idea. Murder hornets. Big, fricking man-eating hornets the size of your head. Suddenly they show up and start carrying little kids away. After that no one’s safe.”
The producer slowly nods his head. “Okay,” he says quietly. “So what about a love interest?”
The young girl looks up from the floor where she’s executing a flawless pas de chat. “That’s easy! Justin Bieber and his wife Hailey Baldwin start an online reality show from their multimillion dollar quarantine compound, depicting their storybook romance in 15 minute segments for all the world to see. It’s the sweetest thing, really!”
The man, sufficiently recovered from his anxiety attack, resumes his pitch. “Amongst the chaos of the world shutting down, three unlikely heroes emerge from the darkness. First of all, an aged scientist who stands up to the mad president and provides sound, credible scientific advice. Secondly, a government doctor with loads of experience dealing with nasty outbreaks of Ebola, SARS and killer mosquitos, who everyone wants to be their mom. And thirdly, a 15 year old autistic gamer who invents a virus-killing facemask. In his spare time he also creates the worlds largest hornet killing electric tennis racket. Together this terrific trio of timely do-gooders travel the world in their carbon-neutral solar airplane, bringing hope and science to the world’s vulnerable.”
“With the virus completely eradicated, police and people of all colours and races hug and high five throughout America! The people are united by their shared experiences, and the economy is saved! Also, the last murder hornet is contained safely in a cage in a sub-basement of the Smithsonian Museum. Our unlikely heroes return to their unassuming lives with the gratitude of the world.”
The smiling woman stands and moves next to the fit man. After a moment she takes up the pitch. “The president goes live on tv to tell America that he alone created these three people in a lab in the sub-basement of the White House. But even as he speaks, four large men in white coats approach him and throw a black hood over his orange head. Quickly he’s pulled from the camera’s view, shouting “You’re fired!” at the top of his lungs. Instantly a graphic card that says “We’re experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by” replaces the live scene in the Oval Office.”
“Shortly after, a new president, a little older and a lot more sane, takes over the country, and the long road of healing and rebuilding begins.”
The Final Scene
The buff man continues his pitch. He’s looking pleased with himself.
“The scene cuts to an area along the Mexican border. A half constructed wall is being dismantled by a group of convicts in orange jumpsuits. One of them, the largest, is standing before the barrier. His mop of yellow hair is uncombed, revealing a large bald patch above his forehead. His grey skin shows no trace of his once orange spray tan. He gestures grandly to the wall.”
“This wall isn’t coming down that easy. I ordered it. I got it built when no one else could! It’s all me! I build the best walls!”
“One of the convicts picks up a rock and chucks it at the wall. A three foot section cracks and falls to the ground. The orange con pauses a beat and says, “I’m pretty sure this section was built with cheap Mexican labour, and materials from Chyna!”
“The credits roll.”
The man, finished with his pitch, bows grandly to the producer and returns to the couch. The four of them look expectantly at the producer. “Well?” they all ask.
The producer turns toward them in his big leather chair. He smiles dismissively. “That’s quite a story you’ve got there. You know, our last disaster flick, “Zombie Vegans From The Amazon”, grossed over 300 mil. I just don’t see your little idea doing better than 18 million.”
The boy looks up from his phone. “18 million? Heck ya!”
The producer chuckles. “You don’t understand, son. The only way it makes that much is with the Rock as your star, but he’ll cost a lot more than 18 million. No, I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. It’s a crazy idea, with viruses and rioting and hornets. Therefore, no one will buy it, because people nowadays want some element of reality. Ultimately this just doesn’t have it. Maybe try down the street at Disney, or one of those wacky New Zealand studios.”
The four writers get up and head out the door, with the girl waving her arms grandly. As he leaves, the young man mumbles, “I told you there should have been a Tarask.”
The producer, smiling to himself, grabs his iPhone and heads out of the office. Now he’s looking forward to his Cobb salad.
Presently, he steps out onto the sidewalk and turns right. At the same time he sends a quick text to his girlfriend letting her know he’s on his way.
An old man is coming toward him, weaving a little as he approaches. He’s coughing violently. The producer tries to give him a wide berth, but the old man stumbles into him, sneezing in his face. “So sorry!” he wheezes, before passing on.
The producer wipes his face with his hand and continues on. “Great!” he thinks. “Just what I need now is to catch a darn cold!”