Living in the time of COVID-19 has left us to respectfully practice the noble art of social distancing. We're all (we hope) in a state of self-imposed exile, with nothing keeping us connected but the very technology that we all feared would kill us someday. It still might do that, just not now.
We're two weeks into this thing, and already things are getting weird for a lot of people. You may be quarantined with a loved one, a roommate, or a significant other. If that's the case, then chances are good that you're getting to know them in a variety of highly personal ways. Others may be quarantined alone, fully exiled, with nothing but a phone, a Wi-Fi connection, and a very loud voice out of an open window with which to let the world know, "Hey, I'm still here."
We have many examples in the realms of genre when it comes to the various ways and means of self-distancing. Characters from books, shows, movies, and games have been teaching us these lessons for years, and now we're finally in a position to put those lessons into practice. Sometimes it involves following their example, and sometimes it's good to look at them and say, "Hey, let's not be like this." Every so often, one of them has no choice but to self-distance. In those cases, they simply make the best of it.
Which characters in genre really, truly, deeply "get" the nature and ways of social distance? Here are nine of the greats.
LOTR The Fellowship of the Ring - Extended Edition - The Midgewater Marshes
Aragorn — The Lord of the Rings
In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn (Son of Arathorn) had to live the entirety of his childhood secluded in Rivendell. Only there would he be safe from Sauron's minions, who wanted nothing more than to cut down the man who could be King.
When he grows up and leaves Rivendell, he stalks the woodlands as a ranger, only talking when he has to. He defends the Shire, but when it comes time for him to relax in a tavern he just sits in the corner, smokes his pipe, and smolders. He doesn't want your company. He gets so comfortable with his "Strider" persona that he almost has to get electroshock therapy to remind him of who he really is, and what his birthright ultimately promises.
Star Trek Voyager, Seven's definition of "Fun"
Seven of Nine — Star Trek: Voyager
You need fun? Fine, Seven of Nine will schedule it for you. She doesn't see the point of it, and she doesn't see the point of doing anything with her fellow Voyager crew members. She does her job, does it well, and all she needs at the end of the day is her cozy Borg alcove. Fun is not required.
She social distances because she sees no point in doing otherwise, so it's up to Captain Janeway and the Doctor to teach her how to socialize. It's not an easy process.
Eventually, she starts to let others in, and by the time we see her in Star Trek: Picard, she's obviously let more than a few people in. Still, she never suffers fools. If she chooses to spend time with you, then you must be very special indeed.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Nintendo Direct 9.4.2019 - Nintendo Switch
Tom Nook — Animal Crossing: New Horizons
This guy, good lord. Tom Nook, the corporate cult racoon, wants to go and live on a deserted island. It's his life, go for it.
Wait a sec! He wants you to come too! Is that really social distancing?
It definitely is, because once you get to your little island in this relatively new version of the classic game, this black-eyed creep barely leaves his tent. He has you go out and do every single chore on the island, and he also puts you in constant debt. He makes self-distancing work (financially) for him, and it really brings in the bells. Going out for a random "celebration" to pat himself on the back for the construction of a new museum (one he had almost nothing to do with) doesn't excuse this behavior.
Tom Nook is the leader of a social distancing cult, and he will lead you to financial ruin as well as plentiful wasp stings. Be very careful when talking with him.
FROZEN | Let It Go Sing-along
Elsa — Frozen
Because of her mysterious ice powers, Elsa socially distanced herself from her sister for most of their childhood. She was terrified that she would cause her sister harm, so the doors were locked, the gates were shut, and no snowmen were built. Do you want to build a... NO GO AWAY.
When she finally had to enter society, Elsa's powers could not be contained. Everyone in her kingdom was afraid of magic, so they were afraid of her. She was shunned as a freak, and she escaped into the mountains.
What does she do? She socially distances like she majored in it with a double minor in musical theater and fractal science. Don't want me and my magic around? Fine. I'll build a castle of ice and sing a banger of a song while doing it. Elsa truly lets it all go, completely alone, and for a brief period in the first of two Frozen movies, Elsa lives a life of chilly self-quarantine. It wouldn't last... but that song does. That song never dies.
If someone tries to tempt you to stop socially distancing too soon? Maybe they ask you repeatedly to come out and build a snowman? Be like Elsa. Tell them to let it go, because you're not going anywhere. Fun will commence another day.
Desmond's Intro (HD)
Desmond — Lost
When we finally saw what was in the hatch at the beginning of the second season of Lost, we met Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick). His sole purpose was to press buttons at proper times. When he wasn't doing that, he was adhering to a somewhat strict regimen of keeping himself entertained.
He gets pretty good at it, but when newcomers show up and he gets to hand the button-pushing job to someone (anyone) else? This dude is gone baby, gone. He could not have gotten out of the hatch fast enough, because social distancing doesn't allow him to reunite with his beloved Penny, or "Pennahh." He gets stuck on the island anyway, and we're glad — he's one of the best characters that ever appeared on this series. See you in another life, brother.
Moon - Best Scene - Sam Rockwell
Sam Bell — Moon
Who wants to take a three-year contact to work alone on the moon? Worth mentioning, your only company will be a Kevin Spacey robot. Sound extreme? Not for Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) in this movie. He signs right up.
He manages to get through two-plus years of this job, but then the isolation really hits and he starts to hallucinate. He can't cope, and we're not surprised. This is self-distancing on a truly horrifying scale, and seeing Rockwell act it out in this movie (in a masterful performance) is highly unsettling.
How seriously do you take social distancing? This serious? Rockwell serious? Let's see what you've got. (Though we can't say we recommend it. Please take care of yourself.)
DOCTOR WHO "The Name of the Doctor" Shocking Ending **SPOILER ALERT** with John Hurt - BBC AMERICA
The War Doctor — Doctor Who
The Doctor socially distances himself so hard that he socially distances himself from himself. He doesn't even consider this version of himself (played by the late, great John Hurt) to be a true Doctor, so he buries him within his own consciousness. For all intents and purposes, this guy doesn't exist.
This is self-self-distancing, and it is not easy to do. The War Doctor is buried so deep that it takes a jump into his own memories for The Doctor to remember/acknowledge this secret version of himself, the one who broke the promise.
It's not entirely fair, because the War Doctor is the Doctor; they are one and the same.
It doesn't matter, though, because when the War Doctor is back together with two of his future selves (Matt Smith and David Tennant) in "The Day of the Doctor," they look at him with nothing but dread.
Thankfully, the War Doctor iteration of the Timeless Child (let's not go there now) finds peace and acceptance in the end. Self-self-acceptance!
Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan: Mars
Dr. Manhattan — Watchmen
Maybe it's easier to practice social distance when you are constantly experiencing every moment of time all at once. Whether it is or not, Dr. Manhattan gets so fed up with the human race in the original Watchmen that he just screws off to Mars and builds himself a fun clock castle.
In the HBO sequel TV show, he still proves to be a master of the art. He has continued his self-distancing by starting lifeforms of his own on other planets, and then he goes so far as to be hidden within someone else, losing all memory of who he really is.
Once again, this is self-self-distancing, and only a crisis of epic proportions brings Mr. Blue Sky back out again.
Star Wars The Last Jedi Luke's 2nd Lesson Full Scene HD
Luke Skywalker — Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi went into exile to safeguard the future, to emerge once more when the new hope arose. Luke Skywalker went into exile because he decided the galaxy was better off without him, and better off without the Jedi. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, he goes to that island to die.
He fished, walked around, didn't have much to do with the caretakers, and that's that. He even cut himself off from the Force, so no getting in that way either. Force distancing, that's how extreme he goes. The last thing he wanted was Rey from Nowhere showing up and holding out a literal piece of his past.
This is how good Old Man Luke is at social distancing: He ends up chasing his only visitor away and then talks to the ghost of his former mentor. Even when he does save the day at the end of the film, he does it through astral projection. He never leaves that island, and that is some serious dedication.
But! That dedication kills him, so now he's socially distanced forever... except not really. He becomes a part of the Cosmic Force, and will never be alone again. Social distance backfire!
This story presents some humorous responses to coronavirus, but COVID-19 is very real! Please exercise caution out there: Wash those hands, stay at home, and practice social distancing. For extensive information on how to keep you and your loved ones safe, check out the CDC’s coronavirus website.