COVID-19 Day 76: What Zardoz taught me about Coronavirus.

It was 1974, I was 3 yrs old when my mother took me with her to see her favorite actor, Sean Connery in a new movie. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a James Bond film, it was Zardoz. I was much too young to understand its plot and themes but it had a profound impact on me as a child.

The flying stone head that appeared at the beginning of the film, terrified me. I vividly remember being hiding behind the seat in front of me, whimpering with fear, while peering up at the screen between my fingers. This giant stone head featured in my nightmares for years to come, despite not even remembering the movie’s name. 

I won’t go into much detail about the plot in case you want to see it yourself (link below). Zardoz was an artsy film about a dystopian future; a popular genre in the late ’60s and early ’70s in the milieu of ‘The Prisoner’, ‘Planet of the Apes’, and ‘Logan’s Run’. In the film, the protagonist ultimately destroys paradise because perfection creates apathy and stagnation; suggesting that humanity is on a constant cycle of barbarism, to civilization, to collapse, rinse and repeat.  

It wouldn’t be until I saw Zardoz again, on cable TV in my teens, that I was able to understand the origin of this visage that haunted me. In understanding the story and context, my fear vanished, replaced by chagrin at the movie’s pretensions and plot tropes. Never again has this head appeared in my nightmares.

This is perhaps a good analogy for how we should address everything that scares us, whether that be a giant head or a virus. Instead of letting the unknown paralyze and terrorize, we should learn about it, discover its motivations, its origins, its deeper meaning. In so doing, we replace fear with understanding and gain the agency to banish its authority over our lives. 

Of course I can never unsee this.

Sean Connery will never live down this costume.


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