Opinion: Coronavirus – Two key lessons missed from Disney’s Merlin and from Jaws’ Mayor

by | Mar 30, 2020 | Space Arts, Space politics

With the Coronavirus Covid-19 now paralysing the world – and, by the way, parts of its space industry – let us hope that some good comes of all of this and that governments can learn from it. In fact, they would have been wiser to have learned from two famous movies beforehand.

Disney’s underrated Arthurian legend-based animated movie The Sword in the Stone (1963) has, as one of its main characters, good wizard Merlin, who by the way, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage rockets engines are named after. He (spoiler alert) cleverly beats his evil witch rival Madam Mim in an “animal transformation duel” by finally turning himself into an infective virus.

The lesson here is that unless a nation’s medical defences are up to scratch, all other defences are essentially pointless.

In the Sword in the Stone (1963) the wizard Merlin in his goat transformation faces down Madam Mim’s dragon, but (spoiler alert) it is his virus that wins. Courtesy: Disney

The second film to learn from is that original Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jaws (1975) and what its Mayor did – or rather did not do.

In the film, Larry Vaughn (as played by Murray Hamilton), Amity Island’s reluctant-to-act Mayor character, puts business and keeping the beaches open ahead of dealing with the threat to lives (in his case a giant shark). The result is that innocents get killed and the Mayor’s reputation is ruined.

World leaders who followed a similarly negligent profits-before-people, wealth-before-health style of decision-making during this Coronavirus crisis, are now finding out that it was about as ill-advised as the Mayor of Amity Island’s ill-judged choices in jackets.

Thus, the second lesson is that while gruesomely garish jackets never killed anyone, not taking firm action early enough – in this case not shutting borders, not imposing hard lock downs, and not ordering the necessary medical, protective and testing supplies in time – is likely to result in thousands of extra deaths.

Larry Vaughn, the Mayor of Amity Island (Murray Hamilton) refuses to act despite pleas from Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and a shark expert (Richard Dreyfuss). His choice of jackets was poor too. Courtesy: Jaws (1975)/Universal Pictures

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