Groundhog Day’s gonna feel a little more weird this year. I know what you’re wondering: how can a holiday about a chonky rodent predicting the weather via the shadow method get weirder? Because this is the first Groundhog Day in quarantine, and it’s gonna feel weird if you celebrate this bizarre little holiday by watching the classic 1993 Bill Murray comedy of the same name. That’s because for the eleven months, we’ve all been living in our own Groundhog Day-style nightmare cycle—and it’s nowhere near as much fun as the hell Bill Murray’s Phil goes through in his 10 to 10,000 years of looping it up.
If you’ve been taking this pandemic seriously for the last 11 months, you’ve probably felt the same kind of claustrophobic anxiety that comes from spending every single day doing the exact same thing. We all have our “I Got You Babe’s” that signal the start of a new loop. Do you make the same cup of coffee every morning? Watch the same news anchors doing from-home broadcasts? Do you put on a mask—now two masks—and walk the dog? It’s the same, over and over and over again, before the same daily routines play out. Go to another room to work for eight hours, and then go to the other room to… exist… for another few hours. Maybe you still have to go somewhere to work around people, which adds another level of paranoia and precaution to an already dreary day-to-day. Then you come back home, doom-scroll, watch the news, watch TV shows and movies that were either filmed during the pandemic or are about the pandemic, and the loop’s done before you know it. “I Got You Babe’s” playing again.
Sure, we’ve all had our manic moments in quarantine. Phil spent his time learning how to play the piano and ice sculpt. He learned French before Duolingo. We’ve taken up hobbies, too. Remember Early Quarantine when everyone was baking bread or something? How Instagram was just a constant stream of notifications that person after person was going live again? There was a while when we were excited that the cast of 1990s Pop Culture Thing was reuniting to read the script of a thing we’ve all watched a million times. But now, 300 days later…? We’re still in the loop.
But we’re not only trapped in a loop! We’re trapped in our homes as much as possible. And we’re still in lockdown—the first lockdown, the only lockdown—because too many people carelessly think that the loop ended. They think they woke up at some point in late 2020 with Andie MacDowell in bed next to them, as if it was finally February 3rd. But it’s not! Surprise—it’s still Groundhog Day. And it’s going to be Groundhog Day for a while longer.
After 11 months spent only seeing friends via text or Zoom, wouldn’t we all live for a Ned Ryerson handshake right now? That’s the thing about Phil’s loop: it was wide open. He could go anywhere and do anything with anyone, and he’d always snap back to the Cherry Tree Inn. His bubble was the entirety of Punxsutawney—or even as far as he could drive in a day. Our bubbles are considerably smaller, especially if you usually rely on public transportation. A couple walks around the block, leaving six feet between passing strangers is what we got.
I look at Phil’s lockdown with envy. Reminder, this is a lockdown that this comedy made pretty damn dark. There’s a whole suicide montage—a darkly cartoonish montage, but still—! Having lived through 2020 and the first month of 2021, what I wouldn’t give to be in a loop that’s completely disconnected from the world outside. Phil isn’t worried about death tolls and insurrection, nor is he constantly worried about losing his loved ones to a virus or conspiracy theories. Imagine a quarantine without ever having to hear the phrases “false flag” or “bean dad.” Seems like a dream!
Watching Groundhog Day now, I only pity Phil for one reason: he’s alone. No one believes that he’s essentially the droll deity of Punxsutawney, and he can’t even make headway with a therapist because every session is the first session. If there’s one thing these 11 months of quarantine have given me/us, it’s maybe a stronger desire for community. It’s pulled us closer together. It’s made us realize that even though we live hundreds or thousands of miles apart, we’ve had the technology to communicate all this time. If this loop ever breaks and we see the metaphorical February 3rd, may the new bonds we’ve forged over this shared disaster remain strong.
So go on and watch Groundhog Day this year, and look at it in a totally new light. Do it this year while you can, because if we have any luck, this will be our only Groundhog Day in quarantine.
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