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The "I Am Legend" Screenwriter Has A Strong Message For Everyone Using It As A Reason Not To Get Vaxxed

In the movie, the plague is brought on by a virus, not a vaccine.

They say legends never die, and that definitely seems to be the case with the 2007 film I Am Legend, starring Will Smith as US Army virologist Robert Neville.

A wounded Dr. Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, looks out a window in "I Am Legend"
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Indeed, vaccine skeptics have given the movie a second life as "evidence" of the danger of vaccines, which in I Am Legend wipe out 99% of the world's population and turn almost everyone else into vampiric mutants.

Mutant closing in on Dr. Neville
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Except that's not at all what happens in the movie!!!

Dr. Neville walks down a deserted New York street with his dog Sam
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

You see, in I Am Legend, it is a genetically modified measles virus meant to cure cancer — NOT A VACCINE — that turns lethal and pushes humanity to the edge of extinction.

Dr. Neville clutching a gun while sleeping in a bathtub with his dog Sam
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Dr. Neville initially survives not because he refused a vaccine, but because he is immune to the virus, and he devotes the rest of his life to finding a cure.

Dr. Neville performs human trials to find a cure for the virus that turned people into mutants
Warner Bros.

Cut to the present day, and people are now citing I Am Legend — a fictional movie — as a reason not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for fear of turning into one of these guys.

A mutant screaming
Warner Bros.

In fact, in a recent New York Times story about a business's struggle to get its employees vaccinated, one woman worried about just that.

"One employee said she was concerned because she thought a vaccine had caused the characters in the film I Am Legend to turn into zombies. People opposed to vaccines have circulated that claim about the movie’s plot widely on social media"
The New York Times / Via nytimes.com

Ditto in this May 2021 story from the Washington Post about vaccine skeptics who changed their mind.

"Simmons, a Democrat, told The Post that she had been haunted by a 2007 horror movie, I Am Legend, which starred actor Will Smith. That film depicts a botched cancer cure that kills most people and transforms the survivors into monsters"
The Washington Post / Via washingtonpost.com

Why so many people get the movie wrong is a bit of an open question. As Time's Vera Bergengruen points out, far-right internet forums that propagate anti-vaccine conspiracies are partly to blame. For others, however, the Mandela Effect may be the cause.

Dr. Neville yells, "No! No! No!"
Warner Bros. / Via gifer.com

In fact, even I fell prey to the false memory phenomenon earlier this month. After asking former vaccine skeptics what made them change their mind, I included a response from someone who had also misremembered the film: "If the vaccine turned out to be like the one from I Am Legend," they said, "I’d rather be the vampire than the one running from the vampire. I got my shots a few days after that occurred to me."

Another reference in @JMPoff's conversations with vaccine skeptics: "If the vaccine turned out to be like the one from I Am Legend, I’d rather be the vampire than the one running from the vampire. I got my shots a few days after that occurred to me." https://t.co/t0LMf4D2nh

Twitter: @VeraMBergen

Many thanks to Vera Bergengruen for pointing this out.

While their misunderstanding actually led them to get vaccinated, others' belief that the film supports their anti-vaccine stance points to an even bigger issue: namely, that we shouldn't be making health decisions based on science fiction movies!

CBS News / Via giphy.com

It's gotten so bad that the screenwriter behind I Am Legend has had to weigh in. "It's a movie. I made that up," he said Monday on Twitter. "It's. Not. Real."

@marcbernardin Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real.

Twitter: @AkivaGoldsman

So there you have it. Coronavirus is real. I Am Legend, which is about a virus and not a vaccine, is not. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective — and they might save your life.

Warner Bros. / Via giphy.com

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