From The Aviator to Wall-E, we rate how well film protagonists would cope with COVID-19

From social distancing to hand hygiene, many films highlight practices that are applicable to the current pandemic.

From social distancing to hand hygiene, many films highlight practices that are applicable to the current pandemic. Photo: The Aviator (2004)

For years, the silver screen has thrown our most beloved film stars into some seriously sticky situations.

From Tom Hanks surviving on a deserted island with just a volleyball for company in Castaway to Will Smith as the seemingly sole survivor in the aftermath of a mutant virus outbreak in I Am Legend.

Using the rules for social distancing and self-isolation, we rate how well film stars would fare in our current pandemic.

Mark Whatney (Matt Damon) from The Martian (2015)

Grade: B-  

The core tenet of ‘social distancing’ is to keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people if you’re unwell.

In Ridley Scott’s film The Martian, Mark Whatney (played by Matt Damon) takes this to the extreme.

Stranded on Mars, he manages an impressive 236.45 million kilometres distance for 578 days that well and truly exceeds the recommended 14 days of quarantine.

And he doesn’t even have a sniffle!

In fact, the man cultivates a garden using soil fertilised from his mission crew’s bio-waste and grows potatoes to supplement his slowly dwindling food supply.

Mark gets top points for ingenuity, but his measures are a little too extreme to secure him a higher grade.

In these dark times of empty shelves and panic-buying, it might be good to scrub up on your gardening skills and get planting.

Wall-E from Wall-E (2008)

Grade: A++

If you do decide to go into self-isolation at home or need to quarantine yourself, it’s important to keep your mind active and continue your normal practices where possible.

A prime example of this is the titular hero of the Pixar classic Wall-E, who continues his duties as Waste Allocation Load-Lifter (Earth class) – a job title from which he also gets his name.

He’s got a mammoth task ahead of him: Cleaning up Earth after the devastating impact of centuries of neglect, mass consumerism, and environmental destruction.

While he diligently attends to these duties, he also makes time for leisurely activities like watching Gene Kelly’s Hello Dolly and even falls in love with a sleek and mysterious Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator or EVE.

Wall-E goes to the top of his class for his work-life balance, even when working remotely from another planet.

Although if you are dating in the time of COVID-19, the Department of Health does advise people to avoid handshaking and kissing.

Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) from Wild (2014)

Grade: B- 

Based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of the same name, Wild tells the story of a recent divorcee who spontaneously decides to hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail on a journey of self-discovery.

On Tuesday, non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people were banned in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19.

So Cheryl’s decision to escape to nature definitely limits her exposure to hundreds of people and all that hiking is sure to boost her immune system.

But before you book flights, remember that travel restrictions are in place throughout the global community and the Australian federal government has advised against all unnecessary international travel.

It’s a good effort by Cheryl, but needs some revision.

Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) from The Aviator (2005)

Grade: B

The best advice on how to protect ourselves and the broader community from COVID-19 is to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds and to routinely clean surfaces.

In Scorsese’s film, DiCaprio plays Howard Hughes: a film producer turned aviator whose obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) involves excessive hand-washing and unusual personal hygiene practices.

For people with OCD relating to cleanliness or germophobia, the recommendations for the containment of the coronavirus and the media saturation of the pandemic may prompt further anxiety and/or unhealthy behaviours.

If you’re concerned about how your mental health may be affected during this time, please seek professional psychological support.

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