All thoughts below are mine and mine alone. Also, spoilers for The Thing (1982).
Paranoia, isolation, madness, violence, infection. No, I’m not talking about The Thing. I’m talking about 2020.
Watching The Thing in 2020 is a bit surreal. The Kali Krew watched The Thing back in early March (and the 2011 remake/reboot/prequel but the less said about that the better) before the pandemic really started sinking its teeth into our hides. Before the unrest, before the election.
Watching it at the end of a very tiring year it hits a little differently. At the end of 2019, we thought 2020 would be a much better year. And, looking back on it, 2019 wasn’t that bad, it just felt very, very long.
Which brings me to The Thing.
It feels like we’re living in the Antarctic wastes of The Thing. Especially now that winter has hit. When we stand next to (six feet apart) people at the store we can’t help but wonder if they might be contagious, or a carrier. Or actively sick and either going out because they have no choice or…well, just because. We miss people. We miss our families. We miss taking spur of the moment trips just because.
Did I mention we’re tired?
Paranoia almost feels like the catchword of the year. I know that I’ve had to shift a lot of friends this year because my opinions on them have totally changed. That sounds like I jettisoned every friend that disagreed with me but that’s not it. I think debate is healthy and I’d never drop someone for being different than me. Until it comes to subjects that I’m not going to move on. And two of the major ones this year, equality and health, are not subjects that I’m willing to compromise on too much.
It’s also very much present in The Thing. I know that’s not a piping hot original idea. It’s basically the whole movie. In The Thing Nauls cuts MacReady (and his hair) loose without even having any confirmation that he is infected. Doc is holed up, waffling between wanting to come back inside (and indulging in some arts and crafts and construction projects) and wanting to stay isolated in his hut. Childs and MacReady are at odds the whole movie on how things should be run. And UFOs are confirmed to be real.
If you watch it thinking about the year and its many, many events it’s very interesting how many parallels can be drawn. Even the ending fits very well. Childs and MacReady are sitting by the fire after the destruction of the alien and neither knows if the other is infected as the fire burns low and they know they’re facing their inevitable demise. I have heard it described as a nihilistic ending but I’ve never really thought of it that way. Just a realistic ending. It’s ambiguous because you don’t really know what’s going to happen after the fade out. It could go to hell or it could be ok.
And that’s how I feel about the end of this year. There is some cautious optimism that next year will be better. Or it might not. We just don’t know. We’re just staring at each other in the cold, waiting to see what will happen. I hope it does. I hope everything turns out ok after the credits.
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.