Stories, myths, and novels give us a unique opportunity for escapism. We like to treat ourselves with a little story here and there, whether it is a story from the book, game, movie or our granddad’s half-fiction telltales. It provides us with novelty, ideas or unrealistic scenarios that we are unlikely to experience; or, inversely, a good story may present us with a probable setting and problems that are inescapable parts of the future.
Stephen King, the indisputable master crafter of the horror genre, said that a new pandemic was inevitable and bound to happen in the future in his NPR interview. Who knew that the unfortunate future was already at our door? The author definitely brings a valid point about the ubiquity that we all possess nowadays – traveling. It has become so mundane to us – to be able to just pack the bags and fly away on the next plane that being confined in one’s living space for too long breeds the feeling of missing out.
“The Stand” Stephen King’s novel that bears the clearest resemblance to our own world
So, with many people still being quarantined and trying to find a getaway from this bleak reality of ours, to no surprise comparisons with novels and movies started to pop up. People began to compare our today’s unfortunate circumstances to Stephen King’s movie projections of a doomsday scenario. Especially, his 1978 novel The Stand hits the bullseye on the topic of viral pandemic desolating Earth’s population.
Are we living in a Stephen King movie?
People started to feel like they are a part of one of such horror stories. Being trapped in their own houses with a strictly limited physical contact and uncertainty fueling up the engine of anxiety, while an unknown pandemic is ravaging outside, is quite a story. Stephen King himself is not all too surprised about people making this kind of statement. In his interview, he also mentions what he feels during the pandemic outbreak, describing a “gnawing anxiety” as a main symptom of terror.
Stephen King also shares how he deals with the feeling of stress and anxiety. It is no great surprise that his way of escaping from reality is writing. The author admits that out of twenty-four hours, twenty hours a day he still feels the nagging pressure from the pandemic, but the rest four hours is the manna that changes things upside down. He says:
And in all the years that I’ve been doing this — since I discovered the talent when I was 7 or 8 years old — I still feel much the same as I did in the early days, which is I’m going to leave the ordinary world for my own world.Stephen King – citation from NPR interview
Why do we feel like we are stuck living in a Stephen King’s Movie?
The question then is what are the constituents of our anxiety and uncertainty? Why do we feel so forlorn and lonely, despite being constantly in touch, albeit only online?
Today, anxiety is as frequent and consistent of a phenomenon as a weekly cheat day. Now with pandemic sporting around, it’s a double whammy that strikes some people’s already fragile well-being even harder. And that’s not all. Try adding a pinch of political unrest, a morsel of social turmoil and instability, and finish it off with divided and biased media that flurries various opinions at you – and you have a perfect recipe for anxiety.
With people already being anxious and uncertain, especially young adults that are on their path of becoming budding individuals, this twofold attack is very hard to suppress. The initial phase of being bombarded by an immense amount of potentialities and opportunities, while also sponging in all the different opinions and world views, is not favorable in alleviating anxiety.
This is one of the reasons why many youngsters so frequently constrict the infamous “anxiety disorder”. They are put under the duress from every layer of society. The need to constantly be on guard, filtering out the incessant stream of data that comes from every source imaginable. Additionally, also struggling to maintain sanity in order to make the “right” choices.
Real-world physical contact versus remote distant interactions
It also became apparent that we can’t comparably substitute real-world interaction with remote and artificial ones. We are, at our core, social beings that need an ever-present another human being beside us to feel secure, anxiety-free, and happy. Nowadays the lack of social contact, as we remember it, breeds the feeling of depression, pushing many to be in a constant search for someone to talk to, even if it means endangering your own life. We have all witnessed it first hand with this novel danger at our backs. People going out partying and setting up group activities despite current restrictions. This mentality can easily be explained by our basic need to interact, socialize, and initiate close physical contact.
Uncertainty and how we are influenced by it
The uncertainty factor also plays not the least role in aggravating our unwellness. We are almost forced to be on the constantly moving production line, making alterations and changes, fearing both to lose an existing job as well as not being able to find a new one. This constant strife for something that is not visually detectable, plants seeds of uncertainty in our minds.
Most of us require some type of routine organized. Some constancy that harbors security and peace that we can look back at to excavate a sense of relief. However, when this pillar crumbles and we have nothing to lean on, we are left stranded and uncertain about what to do. This “intrusion of the unexpected and the strange” as King says, is a real horror.
As such, when pandemic struck we felt even more vicious repercussions of our modern hurried lives. The uncertainty has grown so stupendously huge that many succumbed under its blunt-force and fell into the depression pit.
Losing a constant stream of sustainable income has become tantamount to being outright guillotined. Circumstances like that call for contingent actions of getting a new source of income; but at the same time the “getting paid” phrase has become exceedingly hard to attain since the job market has been teetering on the verge of collapse. Even a mere thought of such events can bring anyone shuddering in fear. And that’s the most fearful and real horror story that instills dread at this very moment. Not monsters or aliens with bizarre-looking tentacles, not even dismemberment or gore. The most horrific stories are those that are real and relevant.
Three main factors of our horror movie projections
The factors of unexpectedness, uncertainty, and anxiety are what many people associate with when saying that they feel like they are stuck in a Stephen King movie. Feeling horror and uneasiness is natural in circumstances like the pandemic. Nevertheless, this statement alone, which showcases what people are feeling right now, is not as single-layered as it might seem to be.
This new pandemic has brought to light many flaws and unpreparedness of our days. However, in no way am I berating the way we live now or saying that we had a better life in the past. No one in their right mind can tell you that we are not blessed to live in the age and century as advantageous as this one. We are endowed with the advent of technical and enlightening progress that has not only mitigated the hardships of our lives directly but also allowed us to take a birdlike perspective on philosophical problems, like equality and humanity.
Horror part as a unique experience that needs a scrupulous thought
What we need to learn from all of these current events is to be more resilient. The pandemic has brought to light not only the gloom and doom of our society; it also showed how sympathetic and collaborative we can be to help strangers and those in need. How caringly and thoughtfully we can treat our neighbors when they need help. And finally, how quickly we can act in the state of emergency and uncertainty.
Our lives have made a 180 turn in a matter of weeks, upending the standard and routinized existence into one of Stephen King’s movies. Despite the world of horror movies being considered depressing and hopeless, the real world is unbound to any constancy.
One of the most pronounced differences between the real world and the written novel is that the real world is not predetermined. Everything is bound to change, turn its color, change its shape, and get better.
We are in no way confined to the eternity of this horror piece. Maybe the next determining event will take a more romantic turn or, who knows, maybe our lives in the next decade will bear more and more resemblance to some types of SciFi movies.
We have a great lot of things to look forward to. Even though this little hitch did muddle our faring a bit, it certainly didn’t stop us completely. We are still on the same path of becoming better versions of ourselves and getting over the worst moments of our lives by believing in a brighter future.
This decently powerful jolt might be the wake-up call for all of us to reassess and reevaluate our lives anew. Like every sensible business plan, our lives sometimes need an additional check-up and re-branding so that our way of living is still in our own purview.
- Literary Hub: https://lithub.com/stephen-king-apparently-cant-decide-whether-the-stand-applies-to-the-current-moment/
- NPR: https://www.npr.org/2020/04/08/829298135/stephen-king-is-sorry-you-feel-like-youre-stuck-in-a-stephen-king-novel