Finding hope (and laughter) at ‘The World’s End’

If you’d walked up to me on Jan. 1, 2020, and told me that by springtime I’d be working remotely and quarantined inside my home due to a global pandemic, I’m not sure I would have believed you. It would have seemed too surreal — and in many ways, it still does.

2019 wasn’t the best year for me personally, and as the clock switched over to 12:00 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, I jokingly cheered (yes, I actually cheered out loud), telling my husband how glad I was that 2019 was over. 2020 was going to be my year — it was definitely going to get better. I mean, it couldn’t get worse…right?

While I don’t ever regret being optimistic, I was pretty wrong when it came to my forecast for 2020. I don’t know exactly when life will get back to normal, but I have faith that one day it will. I’ve witnessed both the worst and the best in humanity during the past few weeks, but it’s comforting to find that the good actually does outweigh the bad.

I’ve seen people reaching out to each other, offering (virtual) support in this time of social distancing. People have been sharing supplies and donating to those who are worse off than they are. I’ve also seen an outpouring of gratitude for those who are still working on the front lines, like grocery store employees, doctors, nurses, and others who keep vital social services running.

If you’re one of those people serving on the front lines, thank you. And to those of you who are in quarantine and doing what you can to help your community by stopping the spread of this disease, I thank you too.

As we all try to find a new normal and search for moments of joy amidst so much fear and uncertainty, I’ve found two things that have really helped me. One, I’ve been crafting up a storm. I’ve been writing, quilting, and crocheting. I feel a need to create, to keep my mind and hands busy. And, I’ve also been watching movies.

One of the most cathartic experiences of the past week was watching Edgar Wright’s movie “The World’s End.” It’s a dark sci-fi comedy about a group of friends that get together for what starts as an ordinary pub crawl in a small British town, but then literally ends with the apocalypse.

The movie is really funny and clever (as are the two other comedies in this series: “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”), and it’s healing to let go of your fears for a couple of hours and just laugh.

Apparently I’m not the only one seeking pandemic catharsis in disaster/apocalyptic movies during this time. Films like “Contagion” and “Outbreak” seem to be popular streaming choices right now.

When it comes to more serious disaster films, people may find the viewing experience oddly comforting, because as scary as this coronavirus quarantine is, at least it’s not as bad yet as some of the situations in these doomsday flicks. We feel better when we’re reminded that real life isn’t that out of control.

Although “The World’s End” is primarily a comedy that helped me feel better by distracting me, there actually are some deeper themes you can pull from it.

At the beginning of the movie, we see a flashback of the friends hanging out as teenagers. Now, they’re middle-aged men with careers, and they’ve drifted apart. The apocalypse actually forces them to confront some of their real-life issues, and they grow closer to each other because of the strange experience.

The friends in “The World’s End” never would have made it if they didn’t have each other, and the same is true for the real-life pandemic we’re all facing now. True, we can’t actually help each other face to face because of social distancing, but we can still do our part. This is a time when technology truly can be used for good — FaceTime or Skype with someone who is lonely or struggling. Text your family and friends to make sure they’re doing okay. Post fun pictures of your pet on social media to brighten someone else’s day.

Don’t be that person in every doomsday movie who spends the entire story just looking out for their own self. I know we’re all scared, but we all have the capacity — and the strength — to do better. It’s going to take all of us working together to get through this.

In the final scenes of “The World’s End” movie, we see characters turning to a simpler life as the apocalypse causes massive societal upheaval. I’m trying to find the positive in my real-life situation by being more purposeful about what I buy, what I eat, how I spend my time, etc.

Finally, the coronavirus quarantine has helped me appreciate just how important my family and friends are. It really hurts that I can’t spend time with them face to face, and when I finally do get to see them in person again, it’s going to be really special. I’m going to try to stop taking the little joys of life for granted: I can’t wait to go to the movie theater again and go back to work and see my coworkers.

Until then, I’m gonna stay home and wash my hands, and when I start feeling down, I’m going to rewatch “The World’s End” to remind myself that A) it’s okay to find laughter in the middle of a dark time, and B) it’s important to focus on what really matters: people.

The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the Story Geeks podcast series. [Listen Here: AppleStitcherPodbean]

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