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The Effects of Coronavirus on Pop Culture

by Liam Mauger

The coronavirus has impacted many aspects of our daily lives from the masks, social distancing, and closures of certain stores and services. As with any other international situation as impactful as this one, the virus also has embedded itself into pop culture.

Take music, for example. References to the coronavirus have been made in many popular songs like “7.62 God” by Pooh Shiesty, “Ice Cold” by Lil TJay, and “Let Your Love Be Known” by Bono. There have also been entire songs dedicated and even named after the virus, including “Quarantine Clean” by Young Thug, Gunna and Turbo, “Levels of Concern” by 21 Pilots, and the aptly named “Coronavirus” by Cardi B, a fan-made musical rendition of one of the rapper’s Instagram rants about the virus. There are many more examples, but basically, the usage of coronavirus in music is mainly for entertainment, not to make some serious statements. Perhaps this shows that pop culture can be a way to soften the impact and make people worry less about the pandemic, which can be desired for some with all the constantly broadcast doom and gloom surrounding it.

Another example is on social media, where coronavirus content of both the more and less serious kind exists. On the one hand, memes and jokes about the virus can be seen on almost any popular meme page, as well as many Twitter accounts. On the other hand, social media is an effective way for organizations and representatives such as @Surgeon_General and @CDCgov to get official information released about the virus. This is because social media is more accessible than other forms of communication to a wider range of people, and can get out updates to the public quickly. There are also frequent debates and discourse on social media relating to the virus, with some claiming it is fake or overexaggerated. In this way, social media can be both serious and not serious, informative yet sometimes untrustworthy.

Another way Covid-19 affects pop culture is live television, and a big aspect of this is the way certain programs had to change their normal procedures to fulfill coronavirus guidelines. Programs like TMZ, SNL, and late-night talk shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Late Night with Seth Meyers changed from their usual in-studio performances to at-home video calls, and live audiences were removed. Seeing big pop culture programs done in this way, with everyone wearing masks and such, reminds the viewers of the power of Coronavirus, and the fact that it is a commonly discussed topic adds to that. This potentially has a demoralizing effect on its viewers. In addition, commercials and the like have been referencing coronavirus since Canada went into stage 1 lockdown, often working in imagery like masks and social distancing. Of course, there are cartoons and such that poke fun at the virus, but for the most part, television treats it seriously.

Coronavirus has had an objectively negative impact on many aspects of pop culture. Movie theatres, conventions, meet-ups, concerts, and more have all been discontinued, severely hurting a range of professions and stifling creativity. However, even in such a time, the culture persists.

When serious events happen, there will almost always be content and references related to it, and that content and those references are normally a part of pop culture. Some of these references are informative and cautionary, which is good, but people also want to not worry about the coronavirus, and the less serious pop culture content made involving it helps them do that. Not only is pop culture impacted by coronavirus, it can also serve as both a source of information and as an outlet for coping. There is a fine line between overstating and understating the pandemic, and different kinds of pop culture communicate that differently.

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