Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

If Tom-freaking-Hanks can't get America to wear masks, we are well and truly lost

Stephen Colbert, Tom Hanks
Stephen Colbert, Tom Hanks
Screenshot: The Late Show

To quote Leslie Knope when she met not-yet-our-sole-hope-for-national-survival, Joe Biden, “You don’t let anything happen to him, you understand me? He is precious cargo!” Similarly, one might be forgiven for getting all mama bear at the sight of Tom Hanks doing a socially responsible distanced video call into The Late Show on Tuesday. There to promote his new WWII film, the Hanks-scripted nautical thriller Greyhound, the 64-year-old Hanks did look a little thin, but assured Stephen Colbert that it’s just because—in a fit of lockdown “Why the hell not?”—he’d just taken a few weeks off of bread, booze, and sugar. So everyone resume breathing (at a safe distance from each other, while wearing a mask, and washing your hands).

As we recall, (some of) America really started taking this whole COVID-19 thing seriously when, early on, the still-rampaging virus claimed Hanks and wife Rita Wilson as its first, high-profile celebrity infectees. (Colbert called the Hollywood First Couple, “sort-of famous” in passing, which Hanks wouldn’t let go of.) For many, Hanks’ announcement that he and Wilson had the disease was the wake-up call that this pernicious bug was taking no prisoners. “When we found out that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had it, we were all like, ‘Well, we’re all screwed,’” said Colbert of learning the news. Telling Colbert that he and Wilson got competing, very different symptoms before being slapped into heavy Australian quarantine (Wilson’s nausea, severe headaches, and loss of taste and smell “won” over Hanks’ sore butt, fatigue, and bones that felt like “they were made of soda crackers”), the multiple Oscar winner and America’s funny but wise uncle laid down some tough love on those surrogate nieces and nephews still not taking the common-sensical precautions.

“Americans, I don’t get it,” started Hanks incredulously, before addressing the mask-less and unwashed close-talkers directly. Speaking of the life-saving steps of wearing a mask, staying six feet distant, and washing your damned hands, Hanks scoffed, “You know how they say, ‘It’s the least you can do?’ It’s literally the least you can do.” Look, he’s not mad, he’s just disappointed, America. (Actually, Hanks seems a little bit mad.) As to the possibility of a Tom Hanks-derived super-vaccine (or “Hanks-ine,” as Hanks trademarked it) derived from the actor’s plasma to save the world, sadly, Hanks said that research on his donated fluids is proving less conclusively helpful than first hoped. (Screw you, diminishing antibodies.) Still, if anyone is going to serve as the cure against pig-headedness, selfishness, and willful or actual ignorance about science and plain common sense, it’s Tom-freaking-Hanks. At least, as Colbert said of Greyhound, we get the virtual and once-more relevant spectacle of Tom Hanks fighting Nazis to lend a weary and beleaguered nation some much-needed inspiration.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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