Plandemic

Plandemic (released 4 May 2020) is a viral documentary based on false claims about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the risks of wearing face masks. The video runs approximately 26 minutes long as an extended interview with Judy Mikovits, a virologist formerly known for her discredited study on the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). In the video, she makes a series of debunked claims which include the conspiracy that the COVID-19 pathogen was manufactured and released from labs and that masks cause illness rather than protect from it. Plandemic has been removed from YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo to prevent the spread of false medical information; however, the removal occurred after the video had already achieved viral success (Plandemic is still accessible on less mainstream internet platforms). The film was one of the first instances in an increasingly public debate on the role of social media sites in ensuring the spread of accurate medical information. Pandemics, in our cultural histories, are not records of biological occurrences but are linked to the societal fears of their time. Conspiracy theories around pandemics are nothing new—Plandemic reflects growing anxieties about governmental power and globalization. The dangerous falsities Mikovits professes share common themes of an omnipresent elite class onto which the disappointments of capitalism may be projected with other prominent conspiracies of the moment such as QAnon. Such projects expose the aesthetics of modern information as the key form for spreading these well-timed lies. The video, which is produced in the manner of a high-quality documentary, is able to posture as whistleblowing to exploit the knowledge gaps of the public.          

Among Us

Among Us is a mobile and PC video game created by InnerSloth which has achieved viral fame during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the game was launched in 2018, it reached widespread popularity during the pandemic from social media forums like Twitter and TikTok. Among Us takes place on a spaceship where a space crew has been infiltrated by alien imposters. Imposters are trying to prevent the crew from returning home while crew members must discover and eject the imposter before the imposter can murder all the members or sabotage the ship. The closed system of the game feels like a reflection of quarantine life as does the ever-present suspicion of an external threat. Though not designed with a global pandemic in mind, the character design resembles simplified, colorful hazmat suits which furthers the resonance Among Us has found at this cultural moment. At its most positive, the game illustrates the value of working together to overcome an external, virulent threat; however, the thematic paranoia and escapism imbued in play seem most relevant to its recent success.