Michael Bay’s Upcoming Film ‘Songbird’ is an Insensitive Travesty

Opinion

The upcoming release of 'Songbird' is proof of Hollywood's lack of sensitivity when it comes to issues affecting real people. The plot is tacky and borderline offensive, creating a film no one should watch. Photo courtesy of STXfilms

The upcoming release of ‘Songbird’ is proof of Hollywood’s lack of sensitivity when it comes to issues affecting real people. The plot is tacky and borderline offensive, creating a film no one should watch. Photo courtesy of STXfilms

By Hannah Ashtari, Assistant Community and World News Editor

It’s no secret that celebrities are so far removed from reality they are rarely able to hit the right mark when it comes to relations with normal, rational human beings. At the very best, a misstep from one of the Hollywood elite is annoying and insufferable, but something we can all move on from at the end of the day. One example is Gal Gadot’s “philosophical” cover of ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, which saw millionaires preaching to us from their mansions about the dangers of materialism, while working class Americans lost their livelihoods. Another is Vanessa Hudgens’ despair at the cancellation of Coachella, and ensuing attempt to rationalize prioritizing absurd music festivals over real lives. “Like yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible…but inevitable?” Hudgens said.

At the very worst, however, Hollywood’s “let them eat cake” mindset ends in real, damaging consequences. Songbird, Michael Bay’s latest film billed as a pandemic inspired horror movie, falls into that last category.

It’s difficult to know where to begin when unpacking the insanity and stupidity of Songbird. It’s set to release in 2021, and while it’s quite bold of Bay to assume that movie theaters will even be open and safe by then, we’ve still been blessed with a trailer. And yet, just that is enough to make clear that Songbird is the work of an absolute maniac who looks to exploit the uncertainty, suffering, and loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trailer opens up with a worn-out looking KJ Apa roaming the streets while facetiming his girlfriend, a perky yet subdued Sophia Carson. It then takes an abrupt turn in tone, from fifteen seconds of rom-com cheesiness to a montage of unsettling, yet tackily filmed dystopia: a billboard displaying a death count of 8 million, newscaster voice overs informing us that it’s the 213th week of lockdown while the COVID-23 virus ravages the land, Alexandria Daddario peering apprehensively around a curtain, footage of soldiers in gas masks imposing martial law, and the phrase “quarantine camps”, all while Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” plays in the background. I thought the worst I would see from Apa and Daddario would be Riverdale and the Percy Jackson films respectively, but it’s already clear Songbird is worse.

The trailer then begins to elaborate on the actual plotline of Songbird. Rather tragically, Carson’s neighbor has caught the mutated virus, and the “sanitation department” has come to get them both. Carson’s character then decides, stupidly, to let a different infected neighbor into her apartment, which results in a message from her thermometer slash virus screening technology slash phone informing her that, “armed guards will be arriving” at her apartment for unclear reasons, and any attempt to leave will result in her being, “shot on sight”. Then the trailer shows another montage, this time displaying more of the bizarre dystopia and Apa’s resulting attempt to save his girlfriend from an evidently tragic fate. He appears to enlist the help of Craig Robinson, The Office’s Darryl Philbin.

It’s clear from the very get-go that Songbird plays into people’s worst fears about COVID-19. First, we see the apparent mutation of the virus into COVID-23. In March of 2020, Google search trends saw interest in the word, “mutation,” reach an all time high- clearly, it’s something on people’s minds. Using this- something that if it were to happen would be an irreparable and deadly situation- as the main driver of the plot of the film isn’t a clever utilization of real world events to make the film more relevant, it’s idiotic. Songbird’s setup of a four-year lockdown and the shots of a razed and burning city, and the imposition of military rule echo the baseless cries of conservatives who claim that simple measures to promote social distancing are human rights violations that will result in the absolute collapse of society. Already, the comment section of the trailer and its hashtag on social media are flooded with people wailing that the film is Hollywood’s attempt to condition Americans to accept that Songbird’s world will soon be reality. “Two words: Predictive Programming,” one commenter said. “This scamdemic has been planned and scripted for years,” another said. The creators of Songbird have absolutely disregarded the consequences of their film, feeding the fires of already malignant civil unrest and falsehood in favor of releasing a mediocre movie to make some money at the box office.

This doesn’t even begin to cover how ill-timed the film’s release is. Making a pandemic inspired movie right now, as health professionals warn that the winter will bring a second wave of COVID-19 and most European countries re-enter lockdown following a skyrocketing of infections, is akin to making a film about John F. Kennedy’s assassination between the moment the shot was fired and when the bullet entered his head. Most people had already accepted there would be a movie made about COVID-19, given Hollywood’s apparent necessity to document and profit off of everything, but does it really need to be now, as people are still suffering, dying, and losing family members?

But the most abhorrent thing about Songbird is how utterly disrespectful it is. The film’s apparent vilification of medical workers as people who either couldn’t do enough to contain the virus or liars who are fabricating the entire disease to allow for government control is a slap in the face to every healthcare professional, doctor, nurse and hospital volunteer who has risked their life for the past nine months. The dramatization of the pain and trauma of the virus is sickeningly inconsiderate to the people who have had COVID-19 and are dealing with its lasting health effects. The entire production is disparaging to people who have lost loved ones in the pandemic. And for the people involved in this clownery to receive a paycheck at the end of the day? Disgusting.

When all this is said and done, though, it won’t make a difference. Like the rising and setting of the sun, the one percent can always be counted on to exploit the normal working class in any way they can. It’s up to you as the moviegoer to make sure Michael Bay doesn’t have a single dollar in his hands and ensure Songbird is a spectacular flop. Because it’s disgraceful. Because it’s selfish. Because it’s unethical. And because it’ll probably be a bad movie anyways.