Tom Hanks’ Take on Coronavirus Just Might Help Us All

What your doctor is reading on

MARCH 17, 2020 — Humans are highly visual creatures. Severe and transformative events in our society are often remembered best by moments captured in representative photographs. Iconic images have immortalized such events as the end of World War II, the Vietnam War, and others.

Often there are iconic individuals, too, who come to embody and symbolize awareness of health and medical issues, such as Michael J. Fox for Parkinson’s disease. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world and the public consciousness, will Tom Hanks’ and Rita Wilson’s announcement that they have coronavirus infection become a symbolic image?

Even in this age of celebrity oversaturation, such a scenario might seem unlikely. Hanks does reach 8 million Instagram followers, but how could one image encapsulate this pandemic experience? Everyone hopes, of course, that Hanks and Wilson make complete recoveries, but recovery—or lack thereof—isn’t required to become the public face of an epidemic.

As Hanks is a long-tenured and beloved actor, it’s not surprising that the public is taking to heart what happens to him. His common-man persona and appeal fit with the low-key approach that he is