In the movie’s very first scene, a delivery person brings a box to politician Claire Debella’s (Kathryn Hahn) house. Seeing that they’re masked, Claire haphazardly covers her own mouth before bringing the box inside. A helpful title card informs us that the film is taking place in May of 2020, a particularly stressful time during the worldwide COVID pandemic.
At first, it seems like a strange choice to set a fun whodunnit in the middle of a global health crisis. However, director Rian Johnson uses his characters’ reactions to the pandemic as a way to flesh them out, as well as provide social commentary on how the ultra-rich have weathered the pandemic. From face masks to ill-advised parties, here are all the ways Glass Onion addresses COVID-19.
‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ spoiler-free review: Rian Johnson delivers a superb whodunnit
Pay attention to the face masks everyone is wearing.
Credit: John Wilson/Netflix
Costuming is a key way to learn more about a character, and Glass Onion‘s pandemic setting gives us one more costume element to keep an eye out for: face masks.
The kinds of masks Glass Onion‘s characters wear — or whether they’re even wearing any in the first place — are the perfect way to learn more about who they are. Benoit Blanc’s (Daniel Craig) stylish silk mask scores well on both fashion and function, emphasizing his smart desire to follow COVID safety protocols. Contrast this with wild card right-wing streamer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) and his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), who forego masks entirely.
But the award for the wildest mask — if we can even call it that — goes to the glamorous and gonzo Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), who swans into Greece wearing a bedazzled mesh mask that certainly isn’t protecting anyone from the spread of an airborne virus. It looks fabulous but is completely useless: proof that Birdie is more interested in her image than she is in doing the bare minimum.
“I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island.”
Remember when Kim Kardashian flaunted her private island birthday celebration mid-COVID and instantly became a meme? That’s essentially the plot of Glass Onion: rich people partying on a private island in the middle of a global health crisis.
Murder mystery party host Miles Bron (Edward Norton) even calls his guests his “closest inner circle” in their invitations, wording that can only be a direct nod to Kardashian’s infamous tweet.
The parallels are too on point to be a coincidence, but more importantly, they add to Glass Onion‘s commentary on how some of the absurdly affluent view the pandemic as more of an inconvenience than a serious health problem.
While characters like tech billionaire Miles and fashion model Birdie lament not being able to party and gather like they used to, hundreds of thousands of people are dying, and the rest of the world is struggling to keep it together. Nowhere is this clearer than with schoolteacher Helen (Janelle Monáe), who tells Benoit about the difficulties of educating her young students in virtual classrooms.
How do Glass Onion‘s characters handle pandemic isolation?
Credit: John Wilson/Netflix
Before our cast of possible criminals go to Greece for Miles’s murder mystery party, we get glimpses into their home lives, and how they were impacted by COVID.
Claire is running a campaign work-from-home-style, resulting in Zoom interviews in her home office where she rattles off clearly well-rehearsed quips amid familial chaos. Scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.) takes virtual conference calls in a massive, yet totally empty office. And then there’s Birdie, who’s hosting a lavish party full of people she claims are in her pod — including famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma!
At least she’s playing a press conference with Dr. Anthony Fauci in the background. That’s got to count for something, right? Eh, probably not.
Glass Onion pokes fun at pandemic hobbies.
When we first see Benoit Blanc in Glass Onion, he’s not solving some incredible case but rather lying in his bathtub, absolutely failing at the popular betrayal game Among Us. He’s playing with a star-studded crew of legends, including Stephen Sondheim and Natasha Lyonne, none of whom can believe that a world-class detective could be this bad at a game where you are solving murder mysteries.
In a movie about uber-rich people blithely gathering on a private island, this nod to pandemic gaming is an incredibly relatable moment. I certainly used games like Among Us and Quiplash to connect with friends from afar. Genius detectives, they’re just like us!
Later in the film, we get another subtle shout-out to a hobby many took up during the first months of the COVID pandemic: baking. When Benoit’s partner Philip (Hugh Grant) answers the door to their apartment, he’s wearing an apron and covered in flour. Sure, Philip could have already loved baking, but maybe he picked up a sourdough habit while isolated with newly minted gamer Benoit. Given the film’s intentional references to COVID throughout, I’m tempted to go for the latter.
The pandemic boosted Birdie Jay’s image.
Credit: John Wilson/Netflix
When she’s not wearing mesh masks or throwing mega-spreader parties, Birdie is a fashion entrepreneur. The former model started her own line of sweatpants, and it quickly rose to popularity once scads of people began working from home. Business on the top, Birdie’s sweatpants on the bottom. Even Benoit admits he practically lives in his pair!
Just don’t ask how they’re made — the human rights violations are off the charts.
So did Miles have a COVID cure this whole time?
What kinds of health precautions do Miles’s guests have to take before arriving on his island? Do they have to self-quarantine and get tested? No! They just have to get mysterious liquid sprayed in their mouths courtesy of Ethan Hawke (one of Glass Onion‘s many cameos), who tells them that after that they’re all taken care of, COVID-wise.
Now hold on just a minute here — is this spray some kind of magical cure for COVID?
And if so, why is Miles hoarding it? Miles claims to want to make the world a better place. That seems to be why he’s pushing for the launch of Klear, his form of clean energy that also happens to be incredibly volatile. But in practice, Miles is a self-obsessed idiot, who only wants to “break the system” in order to be remembered forever. Still, you’d think that having a miracle COVID cure would achieve that. But clearly, a murder mystery party takes precedence over everything.
Knives Out is now streaming on Netflix.