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Stephen King’s The Stand, 2020 Versus 1994

I’ve just finished watching the second episode of the new adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal pandemic novel The Stand, currently streaming on the American subscription service CBS All Access, and I doubt that I will be watching a third one. So far the updated, big-budget dramatisation has proven to be a pretty mediocre affair, despite its contemporary theme, with poor character introductions and rather inept flashback scenes, making it a tough sell when a plethora of prestige television shows are readily available elsewhere.

Up to now the critical reaction has been mixed, with much of the praise and online chatter focusing on the promised changes in the storyline to match current cultural and social mores. Which indicates that some of the positive noises about the show are being skewed by the same kind of neo-liberal virtue-signalling that we saw around drab “reimaginings” like Paul Feig’s all-male-to-all-female Ghostbusters movie in 2016 or Gary Ross’ equally shallow Oceans 8 in 2018. Never mind the quality, feel the right-think. The irony of course being that purposefully women-led films like Steve McQueen’s sophisticated pulp thriller Widows or Andrew Bujalski’s slyly feminist Support the Girls, both released to modest financial success in 2018, were more or less ignored by the tub-thumping legions of keyboard activists.

In any case, more than one reviewer of the CBS All Access show has made reference to the original television adaptation, the 1994 miniseries originally broadcast in the United States by ABC. While very much of its era, and flawed in its own way, it says much for the new version that it can be compared unfavourably with one produced nearly thirty years ago. Fortunately readers can judge this for themselves since the older show is widely available in various qualities on YouTube. Enjoy!

2 comments on “Stephen King’s The Stand, 2020 Versus 1994

  1. Too traumatised by the original adaptations of It and Langoliers to be going near 80s/90s King adaptations. I did enjoy Cat’s Eye though, but I’m afraid to see how it’s aged.

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  2. The 80’s esque setting reminds me all too much of The Day After. To me the context for “The Day After” and “Threads” involved having witnessed a certain Senator’s horrible temper firsthand, and having such a strong gut feeling of something very, very sinister in a Dolchstosslegende that put the Senator more or less above any criticism, despite Presidential talk.

    My favorite Stephen King stories were always “Salem’s Lot” and “Silver Bullet”.

    That said whatever the artistic merit of the 2020 and 1994 versions of “The Stand”, I think it’s a story that should have been put on a shelf for a while.

    There was a brief time during WWII when Dalton Trumbo agreed not to have his book “Johnny Got his Gun” reprinted or made into a movie. He didn’t regret putting the message out there but decided WWII was not really the time for it. I believe similar should apply to any story that has even an outside chance of increasing vaccine hesitancy in even a tiny percentage of people who see it.

    Namely, the story portrays a pandemic created in a government laboratory. There’s a chance that watching something like that could inspire vaccine hesitancy in some people.

    We are in a time, when the world can’t afford anything that could promote vaccine hesitancy. The world is starting one of the most aggressive vaccine campaigns ever attempted. The purely logistical and technical challenges are bad enough, without the already frightening percentage of people around the world who are afraid to get this vaccine. Head of the US NIH Dr. Fauci thinks herd immunity might require a vaccination rate as high as 90%. So we want 10% or less of the population unvaccinated and a good number of those limited “seats” are taken by people with valid medical reasons to opt out. There’s also a chance that some of the vaccine makers might have to “tweak” the vaccine for this new British strain-after a technology is proven safe they can do this much more quickly like annual flu.

    In Ireland, it’s not clear that your government has a constitutional right to mandate vaccines. In the US, the biggest market for the miniseries, mandatory vaccines were backed to the SC in 1905, but the issue is extremely polarized and potentially explosive. In both countries, there is an active and determined group of anti-vax activists and at least 25% (by some estimates at a lot more) have expressed at least some vaccine hesitancy.

    As a strong proponent of free speech, I don’t advocate such things lightly. In normal circumstances, I would advocate education and open dialogue to discourage people from believing everything they see in a work of fiction. However, these aren’t normal times.

    This isn’t to say that people should never get tot see the 2020 version of The Strain of course. However, I feel very, very strongly that it should have been delayed until herd immunity has been achieved in every country where it is likely to be watched and any difficult politics around the issue have settled.

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