How Flu Shots Make Appearances At The 2019 Golden Globe Awards

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Hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh brought a public health message to the  76th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)Getty

“And the 2019 Golden Globe for Best Public Health message goes to.”

Infectious disease prevention messages at the Golden Globe Awards are usually as common as nominated movies that star Asian American actors. However, both made appearances on Sunday night at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California.

First, Crazy Rich Asians, which is the name of a film and not a description of any of the attendees, was a nominee for Best Motion Picture in the Musical or Comedy category. Then, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh surprised the crowd by introducing some health care personnel who then offered audience members free flu shots. Just check out the video in this Tweet:

Yes, that’s LMFAO’s song “Shots” blaring in the background. Of course, LMFAO was originally singing about alcohol shots and not flu shots, which is not the most positive of public health messages. But heck, a shot of science into the Golden Globes is a plus, so I won’t quibble. As you can see, Oh told the audience, “you know you wore a sleeveless gown for a reason!” Oh, my.

Meanwhile, Samberg said that the personnel were “from the Rite Aid at Echo Park.” Samberg added, “if you are an anti-vaxxer, just put a napkin on — perhaps over — your head and we will skip you.”

Holy public health, Batman. This along with Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther, a superhero movie actually starring a Black American, getting nominations make for a memorable Golden Globes of firsts.

Of course, offering these audience members free shots was largely symbolic since I am guessing that pretty much everyone there could have afforded the $15-$30 that it costs to get a flu shot. But Hollywood making such a statement is important. Some celebrities may have helped and continue to help the anti-vaccination movement become what it is today by advancing claims about vaccines that are just not supported by scientific evidence. For example, on November 23, 2018, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Terry Rossio (@TerryRossio), who worked on Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean, and ShrekTweeted out the following:

My heart goes out to all the parents of vaccine damaged children, who have to not only endure the sadness of their loss, but also the vitriol of ill-informed and insensitive people (such as those here). Anti-Vax is equivalent to calling someone a N-word and makes as little sense.

Except that he didn’t use the N-word, he used the actual N-word in his Tweet. What the Shrek? Equating a racial epithet to “anti-vax”? A screenwriter should know what would come next in such a story. Not surprisingly, what resulted was a number of Tweets back explaining how absurd equating these two words was, is, and will always be, including the following Tweet from Dictionary.com:

You know you have problems when a dictionary has to tell you that something is “profoundly offensive.”

The trouble is Hollywood has a platform that science, medicine, and public health don’t necessarily have. There may be numerous fans hanging on a celebrity’s every word. Thus, celebrities can be targets for someone who wants to sell a bogus “alternative” to established, science-backed medical measures. In some cases, the impact of getting one celebrity on board can far outweigh years of scientific studies and data. Remember, unlike doctors and scientists at academic and government institutions, celebrities may not have to disclose who happens to be lining their wallets. So be careful when a viewpoint is endorsed without supporting science being provided.

At the same time, celebrities can use their platform to help advance real science, real medicine, and things that actually benefit public health. For example, Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and author of the book Vaccines Did Not Cause My Daughter’s Autism, Tweeted the following about Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot:

There is a difference between the make-believe world of movies and real life, a difference that not everyone always realizes. But when these two worlds meet to help each other, it can be a wonder-ful thing.

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