Groundhog Day: this is why the 1993 film has hit a nerve with Netflix viewers in lockdown

Posted by for Life

Face facts: we are all Bill Murray right now. 

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray won countless fans as Phil Connors, the smug weatherman condemned to relive the same day over and over again in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. 

And, while the film came out in the heady days of 1993 – Mariah Carey’s Hero was in the charts, a new sitcom called Frasier was keeping us entertained on TV, and basically everyone was wearing flannel shirts – it’s very much striking a chord with audiences in 2020.

That’s right: Groundhog Day is currently one of the most-streamed movies on Netflix. More telling, though, is the fact that it’s also trending on Twitter, with viewers falling over themselves to draw parallels between the eternal loop Murray’s character finds himself trapped in, and their own lives during the coronavirus lockdown.

“Every week feels like treading water now,” tweeted one. “I don’t look forward to it. Hard to stay motivated when you don’t know what the future looks like. We really are living Groundhog Day.”

Another added: “I’m going mad in this Groundhog Day loop.”

And, if you sift through the endless despair memes and mournful comparisons, you’ll find a pretty genius thread from ESPN reporter Thomas J. Quinn.

“Been thinking about how Groundhog Day is the perfect quarantine movie, not because this all feels the same, but because it gives us a guide to measure ourselves by,” he tweeted.

Sharing a series of stills from the movie, Quinn added that a “lot of people thought they’d use the time to turn into piano-playing, ice-sculpting Phil Connors”, only to discover that they’re the Phil Connors who eats his feelings, who drinks more than he usually does, who feels “overwhelmed and helpless”, who reaches out those in need, who have seen their moods shift and change in lockdown, or who are suffering something of an identity crisis.

It’s painfully relatable, isn’t it?

Much like Phil Connors, those of us lucky enough to be isolating at home (because let’s face it, it genuinely is a privilege to be able to stay safe) feel as if we’re experiencing the same day over, and over, and over again. And, yeah, it’s hard to feel good about our Covid-19 existence when we compare ourselves to those who have somehow managed to transform lockdown into an ongoing self-improvement exercise.

So what lesson can we take from the 90s film, as we wait for the quarantine to be lifted? 

Well, it’s worth noting that, in Groundhog Day, Phil faces zero consequences for his actions because he’s the only one who knows he’s trapped in limbo. As such, he spends the first several time loops indulging in binge eating and drinking, one-night stands, robbery, and reckless driving. Later, he becomes depressed and desperate for a solution to end the loop.

In our own loops – which mainly consist of eating crisp sandwiches, binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, and partaking in endless Zoom quizzes – we feel similarly trapped, and that’s in spite of the fact that every single one of us is painfully aware of the fact that we’re treading water as we wait for something, anything to change.

It isn’t until Phil decides to use the time to better himself, to reach out to others, that he finally finds an escape. He helps the vulnerable and the elderly, he tries to make the best of every day, and, above all else, he tries to be kinder. And, while social distancing makes it tricky to live your life for others, there are things we can do to help those in need.

We can support small businesses, for starters. We can phone elderly relatives for a chat, make sure they have companionship during this time of isolation. We can help to fund cancer research, or donate to one of these key charities.

Above all else, we can continue to adhere to government guidelines and stay indoors. Because, while Phil lives out umpteen versions of 2 February in Groundhog Day, our own coronavirus time loops do not exist in a vacuum.

If we break lockdown today, we run the very real risk of infecting someone else tomorrow – no rewrites, no second chances, no do-overs. So, switch off Sonny & Cher’s I Got You Babe and embrace the fact that you are not at the mercy of Punxsutawney Phil.

Because trust us, you are still very much in control of your own destiny. 

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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