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Viral Is a Tale of Self-Confidence and Sisterhood Amid a Bizarre Outbreak

India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.


“There’s something going around that’s making people sick.”

— Viral, 2016

In 2016’s Viral, sisters Emma (Sofia Black-D'Elia) and Stacey (Lio Tipton) have just moved to small-town California, where their father has accepted a teaching position. Unenthusiastic about the move, Emma struggles to adapt to their new home as well as navigate her strained relationship with Stacey. However, with the arrival of a parasitic outbreak our plucky protagonist soon has far more to worry about than sisterly squabbles.

Flesh-eating worms aside, I found Viral heartwarming despite its unappetizing subject matter (pun intended). Apart from its unconventional setting, the relationship between Emma and Ethan (Travis Tope) is adorable. While the words “teen romance” and “pandemic” don’t normally go together, the film pulls it off rather well.

I must admit I have a soft spot for Emma—perhaps because she reminds me of myself as a teenager. For despite her many good qualities, Emma is afraid to believe in herself. As a result, she allows her doubts and anxieties to prevent her from going after what she wants—whether it’s to befriend her cute new neighbor or uncover the truth behind her family’s move. Part of the difficulty lies in the temptation to compare herself to Stacey, who seems to have no problem making friends or getting a boyfriend.

However, as the story progresses Emma discovers that she is stronger than she knows—albeit in a different way than her sister. After all, no matter how difficult things become Emma refuses to give up on the people she cares about. Thrust into a dangerous and unpredictable situation, she chooses to fight instead of run (even though no one would blame her for fleeing). Emma may not be as self-assured as Stacey, but she is just as brave—if not more. And it is this courage which enables her to thrive amidst adversity. Stacey may be the older sister, but Emma can look after herself.

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Speaking of Stacey, I enjoyed watching her shift from trying to shield Emma from the truth to accepting that her sister is capable of handling reality even if it hurts. For her part, Emma realizes that Stacey loves her, even if she doesn’t always show it. As with most sisterly relationships, theirs is turbulent at times—but ultimately the two come through for each other. While we’ll probably never face a worm-induced outbreak alongside our siblings—if you have, hit me up—it’s nice to be reminded that we can rely on them when things are tough. And if you don’t have that kind of relationship with them (or someone else in your life), there’s still time to mend fences. While some rifts can never be healed, you’ll never know until you try.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 India LaPalme

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