Written by Fredia Lucas and Edited by Alana Anderson
As we stumble towards the one-year anniversary of the Coronavirus pandemic inflicting its wrath on the planet, I can’t help but consider all of our collective social behavior that we thought was okay but in fact, was ABSOLUTELY unhygienic.
Using bottles of ketchup that the restaurant staff clearly hadn't cleaned, playing beer pong with ping pong balls that had fallen on the ground, sharing lipstick with friends, blowing out candles on a birthday cake, patronizing dive bars with no soap in the restrooms, and commuting on public transportation that hadn’t been cleaned in more than ten years. These are just SOME of the many NASTY ass things we were doing and never questioned.
If 2020 taught us anything it’s that our personal hygiene is a matter of public health.
Early last year, as the Coronavirus made its debut, my man and I decided to watch Osmosis Jones. I know right? We're kind of a meta-couple. The film starring Chris Rock, Laurence Fishburne, and Brandy Norwood premiered exactly 20 years ago and was unquestionably ahead of its time. Now in 2021, as flu season returns and the pandemic endures, I decided to revisit the film once more to examine the core messages.
Osmosis Jones is many things, hilarious, imaginative, and swaggering with an all-star cast. What I enjoyed the most is that the film provides viewers with 3 fundamental crash course lessons in human anatomy, virology, and comprehensive health and hygiene practices.
This issue is a lengthy and entertaining film analysis of Osmosis Jones combined with some pearl-clutching information on how to prevent the spread of a lethal virus.
(FYI, spoilers are included in this blog post. But, can you really spoil a movie that came out twenty years ago?)
Osmosis Jones is set in two locations. The exterior backdrop is Rhode Island and the interior venue is literally inside the body of Frank Detorre (Bill Murray).
Frank Detorre is a disgusting man with repulsive behavior including, scratching his asshole in public, sneezing in his hands and high-fiving people afterward, and going to restaurants without his shoes on and then having the audacity to put his unmanicured feet on the table.
We meet Frank, and his daughter Shane (Elena Franklin), at the New England Memorial Zoo, where Frank is a zookeeper. Frank and Shane are chatting amiably when Frank begins to prepare his lunch, a hard-boiled egg seasoned with mayonnaise packets. Which is quite frankly the whitest meal I have ever heard of.
Frank prepares his mouth for the first bite of his mouthwatering snack when a nearby encaged monkey grabs the egg and places it in their mouth. Frank becomes enraged and begins to strangle the monkey until the egg falls out of their mouth and drops into the fecal matter infested floor of the monkey cage. Frank picks the egg up and eats it without missing a beat.
Shane looks at her father with horror and disgust to which he replies, “It’s the ten-second rule, honey. If it’s on the floor for less than ten seconds, you can eat it.”
Have I participated in the ten-second rule? Yes! Do I pray that no one still does this in 20201? Also, yes.
We then enter The City of Frank.
We instantly meet Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock), a white blood cell and officer of the F.P.D (Frank Police Department).
Osmosis Jones comes from a long line of white blood cells that served in law enforcement. An ancestor of Jones served on the force when Frank was much younger and had the measles. Despite this rich family history, Osmosis lacks the respect and prestige he desires from his peers.
Meanwhile, on the recently ingested egg, a virus named Thrax (Laurence Fishburne) enters the City of Frank. Thrax is menacing, destroying any white blood cells that come into his path and infecting every body part he passes through.
Thrax begins assembling a gang of germs to assist him with the total annihilation of the City of Frank and ultimately Frank’s life. Thrax’s plan? To parade through the body fronting as the common cold until he can make his way to the Hypothalamus, which controls the temperature of the entire body.
Osmosis gets wind of Thrax while meeting his own counterpart, a 12-hour relief cold and cough pill named Drixenol aka Drix (David Hyde Pierce).
Osmosis and Drix investigate through the entire body which leads them to adventures in the lymph nodes, the subconscious, and the brain stem to solve what they believe is a case of a sore throat, but instead ends up being life-threatening.
Osmosis Jones is a PG-13 film so ultimately Thrax the virus is defeated, Osmosis Jones and Drix become heroes, and Frank Detorre is able to walk away with his life while also learning a valuable lesson about personal hygiene and physical health.
Throughout this family-friendly film, there are several low-key messages that deserve amplification. Here are the 4 film highlights that made me go,” Damnnn, that’s deep!”
SOME PEOPLE BENEFIT FROM OTHER PEOPLE BEING SICK
In Osmosis Jones, the City of Frank is plummeting. The mouth is decaying, the bowels are backed up, and the urine is rancid.
The members of city leadership, played by white blood cells, are constantly asking The Mayor of the city to explore more healthy eating habits, exercise, and increasing Frank’s water intake. Without this, the citizens of the body will continue to live in a breeding ground for disease.
The Mayor, Mayor Phlegmming, is not a ball of phlegm but certainly acts in the interest of one.
If you’re familiar with the teachings of Dr. Seibi you know that phlegm, also known as mucus, is believed to be the birthplace of many bodily diseases. Mayor Phlegmming encourages Frank to continue to eat fatty foods, drink beer in replacement of water, and continue to clog his arteries and further deplete his health. It’s later revealed in the film that it's an election year and Phlegmming’s largest percentage of constituents live in the “love handles” and appealing to their needs and buying power is more important than the overall well being of Frank’s body.
In order to maintain power and control of the population, Mayor Phlegmming lies to his constituents, continuously denies the existence of a life-threatening disease, and puts his own personal desires ahead of the public's safety.
It’s a good thing that elected officials ONLY behave like this in animated films and that we don’t have ANYONE in the highest office of America who would EVER act like this.
Simply put, some people profit financially and/or socially by capitalizing on other people’s misfortune. Be mindful of who profits off of you, and what they gain from you being disadvantaged. Capitalism has an unfortunate tendency to prioritize the interests and needs of the powerful over the wellbeing of the masses.
WE HAVE TO MAKE IT HARDER FOR GERMS
As Thrax begins closing in on his master plan to kill Frank Detorre from the inside out, he says something truly noteworthy, “this cat was sick before I even got here”. Thrax is absolutely right. Granted, people can get sick without making unhealthy choices, but more often than not sickness is caused by allowing the body to be an incubator for disease.
As we see in the film, germs need four things to be successful when attempting to overthrow our white blood cells.
Access: In Osmosis, we see germs enter through the nose, the mouth, and the eyes. That means we shouldn’t be touching these areas with hands that have not been properly sanitized, and that we should be mindful of the kind of things we put inside or around them. So please wear your mask, wash your hands, and mind your business.
Homies: Once Thrax entered the body, he then set his sights on building an army with fellow germs. These other germs, although previously benign, can become detrimental to our health when they are enhanced by a stronger virus. This means we need to create an ecosystem in our bodies that does not allow for germs to feel comfortable enough to live inside. Regular exercise, eating right, and drinking water are the basics in this effort.
Camp: After building his army Thrax found places in the body to begin implementing his diabolical movement, a zit, and an ingrown toenail to name a few. These were areas that were poorly maintained and in poor health. The perfect place for germs and viruses to thrive and grow strong.
Opportunity: When our bodies are unhealthy in more than one place we can distract our white blood cells from protecting the most sacred part of our body, the brain. We saw this in the film when Thrax was able to seamlessly break into the brainstem and attack the Hypothalamus.
Imagine my surprise when the most intricate and principal part of the body was infiltrated by a hijacker. That would be like terrorists breaking into the Capitol Building in Washington and there being no security. Oh, wait, that actually happened.
GERMS HAVE THEIR OWN AGENDA
It’s important for people to realize that germs are living and breathing organisms. Although we can’t prove that they have a consciousness I wouldn’t put it past them. Similar to Thrax in Osmosis Jones, what if the Coronavirus wants to be known as the baddest most kickass disease in the history of mankind?
Thrax’s goal was to kill Frank in 48 hours. He’d already killed a woman in six days and another gentleman in 72 hours, but Frank was Thrax’s attempt for gold. I talked about this a bit in Issue 721 and I want people, especially my Fictional readers, to reframe how you view germs from easily overcome itty bitty nonentities to a well organized and highly adaptable organization of assassins.
If 2020 taught us anything it’s that the greatest threat to mankind will likely be a microorganism.
YOUR HEALTH IMPACTS THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE
The most endearing aspect of the movie is the relationship between Frank and his daughter Shane. Frank is a widower, and his twelve-year-old daughter Shane spends most of the film concerned about losing her father the same way that she lost her mother, to a diet-related illness.
Truth be told, I worry about my parents’ health. Both my parents are diabetic, and I have my opinions on how I’d like them to eat and exercise. I also have friends whose parents smoke cigarettes, are overweight, or abuse alcohol, and we’ve spoken at length about the burden you carry as a child when you see your parents making poor health choices.
Over time I’ve learned that ultimately you can’t force anyone to change the way they treat their body. They have to make that decision on their own. In the meantime, all you can do is be an example and resource for them when they want to make healthier options. I pray that everyone reading this is able to enjoy the life and love of their family members for the duration of 2021.
THE LASTING IMPLICATIONS OF GERMS
I’m thinking about making Osmosis Jones a staple watch for every flu season. I’m definitely watching it with my kids when they’re of age. It’s powerful to understand how much work your body is doing every day to keep you alive, and what little things we can do to help the body perform its job better. After watching the film I feel so grateful for my white and red blood cells and their dedication to preserving my life.
Thinking of this film in combination with what has happened across the world with the Coronavirus it’s evident that our personal hygiene is also a matter of public health; this has been true for time immemorial. The Black Death dominated centuries of human history. Twenty years ago we witnessed the rapid devastation of SARs, and today, we are being held captive throughout the tumult of Coronavirus.
Across America, folks are asking themselves and loved ones, "will you take the vaccine? Or not?", and I simply want to point out that no matter what choice you make, we’ll all be much healthier if people stopped being so damn nasty. The fact that 2020 started off with us reminding people to wash their hands, was in a word, disappointing, y’all. We learned to wash our hands in Kindergarten, didn’t we?
Please continue to wash your hands, wear a mask in densely populated public areas, purchase a hand sanitizer that doesn’t dry your hands, stop touching your face, don’t bring your cellphone or laptop into bed unless you’ve sterilized it, and if you are able to - make sure you have healthcare! I put on my big girl panties and enrolled myself this year in Covered California and it was a super easy and friendly process. It’s also super affordable. I’m paying around $50.00/month because of my low income and now I have healthcare.
Let’s all continue to take care of ourselves and each other. The germs want this earth and they want humans gone, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get it.
One teeny weeny last thing. If anyone knows the casting director for an Osmosis Jones sequel, please let them know I’d like to audition for a role.