Ebola fears infecting North American pop culture
Giant Microbes' plush Ebola Virus toy is shown in this image from the website.
As fear of the deadly Ebola virus grows in North America, the disease is triggering some bizarre phenomena in popular culture, from Ebola-inspired plush toys to Halloween costumes to bad jokes that can clear a city bus.
Here are some of the ways Ebola has ‘infected’ North American culture.
Cuddly Ebola plush toys
What better way to assuage the public’s fear of a deadly virus than to market it as a stuffed kids’ toy?
The U.S.-based company Giant Microbes has been selling plush versions of infectious diseases for years, but their snake-like Ebola virus appears to have become a bestseller. The US$9.95 toy went out of stock earlier this week and remains unavailable on Giant Microbes’ online store as of Monday.
“Since its discovery in 1976, Ebola has become the T. Rex of microbes. Share the love!” the toy description says on the Giant Microbes website.
The description adds that the virus is a “great teaching tool for students of all ages.”
Giant Microbes says the toy has sold out multiple times since the Ebola outbreak hit this summer.
Giant Microbes sells its virus plush toys with educational tags describing what they do and why they’re dangerous. Their product lineup includes many ‘cuddly’ versions of microscopic diseases, like the tentacled E.coli bacteria, the black and green gangrene bacteria and the white and black Mad Cow disease.
Ebola television series
Acclaimed movie director Ridley Scott announced plans last week to develop an Ebola television miniseries, based on the best-selling 1994 novel ‘The Hot Zone’ by Richard Preston.
Scott has reportedly held the TV rights to ‘The Hot Zone’ for 20 years, but he’s waited until this latest Ebola crisis to translate the book to screen.
Preston’s non-fiction novel describes the outbreak of an Ebola-like virus in Virginia in 1989. The book surged up the bestseller charts in 1995 as Zaire dealt with the effects of another Ebola outbreak.
‘The Hot Zone’ stoked fears of Ebola during the 1995 outbreak in Zaire, and it’s surged back up the New York Times bestseller list in recent months with the latest outbreak in West Africa. It was 13th on the New York Times’ list of non-fiction books for Oct. 26.
Bad Ebola jokes
A few tasteless practical jokers have faced serious consequences for pranking people about the virus while taking public transit.
An airline passenger on a flight from Philadelphia to the Dominican Republic sparked panic earlier this month when he said “I have Ebola” during the flight. Another passenger told a flight attendant, and Hazmat teams boarded the plane as soon as it landed in the Dominican.
“I was just kidding,” the man said afterward.
Another practical joker spooked a bus full of people in L.A. last week when he pulled off a surgical face mask and shouted: “Don’t mess with me, I have Ebola.” The man then left the bus and has not been located since.
The driver of the bus was hospitalized for observation and the bus was thoroughly cleaned after the incident.
Ebola Halloween costumes
With Halloween around the corner, Ebola is already inspiring some contentious victim and Hazmat-related costumes. Earlier this month, a British supermarket chain pulled two Ebola-inspired costumes from its shelves after they sparked public outrage.
The costumes depicted a bloody cheerleader and a bloody football player.
Other Ebola-inspired costumes take the Hazmat suit approach. The television show ‘Breaking Bad’ popularized a yellow, breath-masked version of the suit, but Ebola has sparked a surge in other forms of the Hazmat costume.
The website brandsonSale lists an ‘Ebola Containment Suit Costume’ as one of its most popular items this season.
“The deadly Ebola virus has landed in the United States and the crisis has reached new levels of domestic escalation. You are sure to be prepared if any outbreak happens at your Halloween party,” reads the item description. “This will literally be the most ‘viral’ costume of the year.”
Users on Twitter have also tweeted their Ebola Halloween costume plans.
now that its october and ebola is in the US i guess i found my halloween costume pic.twitter.com/hKF3oDqF0d— Rebecca Black (@MsRebeccaBlack) October 2, 2014
I ordered this breaking bad costume for a Halloween party but I guess it will also protect me from Ebola pic.twitter.com/sgOZ5n8BrU— mario the guy (@_aidanflynn) October 9, 2014
Ebola in Winchester? Just got my Halloween costume pic.twitter.com/cr0sjNCfNV— Smack High™ MA (@SMACKHigh) October 5, 2014