People Are Using ‘I Am Legend’ as a Vaccine Cautionary Tale—but They Got the Plot Wrong

Will COVID vaccines create a zombie army? Twitter users are looking to an apparently forgettable 2007 movie to support a goofball notion
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The COVID-19 pandemic has been bad enough as it, but according to a conspiracy theory gaining ground on social media, the vaccines have the same effects as the mystery agent that created all those flesh-hungry, quasi-zombie-vampire creatures in the 2007 Will Smith thriller I Am Legend.

The Legend theory has been bubbling beneath the Twitterverse in one form or another since the early days of the pandemic, but it burst into the mainstream Friday when a New York Times story about businesses trying to vaccinate workers noted, “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.”

Fortunately, as the Times points out, “[T]he plague that turned people into zombies in the movie was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not by a vaccine.”

The line in the Times story caught the attention of Time magazine Washington correspondent Vera Bergengruen, reasonably enough, who tweeted it, asking, “I’m sorry, what?”

After some digging, Bergengruen discovered, “The striking thing about this anecdote is that it’s not one person’s crazy remark, but sounds like something that’s been spreading around widely in some corners of the Internet. Which it turns out it has.”

Indeed, as Bergengruen later reported from “down this rabbit hole,” the Smith myth and its anti-vax vibe are “quite popular on pro-Trump and QAnon forums, which seeps over to Facebook”—where people warn that if you have not yet witnessed the zombification of your friends, “Wait a year or two.”

By Monday afternoon, jokes about the conspiracy theory had spread faster than the undead can empty a cemetery.

The Fresh Prince maybe didn’t help matters any when he joked that he felt responsible for the pandemic back in March 2020.


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