Why Everyone Should Watch (or re-watch) HBO’s Chernobyl — Mike Jaafar

Mike Jaafar is a biology major and creative writing minor at University of Detroit Mercy. Mike is passionate about many things, including writing, reading, 3D pen art, and working out. He is friends with every single dog in a five mile radius and if you ask for a good place to eat pizza he can probably give you ten. Mike’s dream is to become a dentist, help as many people as possible, and make a positive impact wherever he goes.

Still image from the HBO series Chernobyl

April 26th is right around the corner, and if that does not make the hairs on your neck rise then perhaps you are unaware.

“To be a scientist is to be naïve. We are so focused on our search for truth we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there, whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants; It doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time, and this at last is the gift of Chernobyl. Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: What is the cost of lies?”

-Jared Harris as Valery Legasov

On April 26th, 1986, the Chernobyl disaster occurred. Many lives were lost, and it was deemed the worst nuclear disaster in history. HBO has recreated the events of this historic tragedy in a miniseries called Chernobyl, consisting of five episodes running at roughly an hour each. It has won a total of ten Emmy’s, two Golden Globes, and countless other awards. It currently stands at a solid 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. This show is without doubt the perfect way to pass the time during isolation, but the reasons have nothing to do with the critical acclaim. Still not even a year old, this show has already proven to be timeless in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon watching a second time, I even recommend those who have seen it already to watch again.

Chernobyl mirrors the reality of events that occurred and reminds us that reality is perhaps the scariest genre of all. Viewers will be captured, perhaps shed tears, and struck with grief in a show that emphasizes how the impossible becomes possible. Watch as a government and those in power work hard to protect themselves, only for its people to be left asking, “What is the cost of lies?”

While the cost of lies is especially pertinent to events like Chernobyl, this problem is omnipresent. After watching this show, one will see that the cost of assuming COVID-19 a hoax is comparable to the cost of authority figures refusing to believe that Chernobyl’s core did not explode. The cost of the United States refusing the World Health Organization’s testing kits and choosing to make their own (which were ultimately faulty) is comparable to the cost of Russia blocking communication with other countries in the aftermath of the disaster, in which more lives may have been saved if help was given. Think of the Chinese government and Li Wenliang, the Corona virus whistleblower that ultimately died from the virus, as you watch Chernobyl authorities refuse to believe their own powerplant employees. Our lack of respect for healthcare workers at this time is paralleled by the disregard to a nurse’s orders in the show, which results in more tragedy. Think of the race against time to get more ventilators to New York as workers try to prevent the nuclear meltdown from causing another explosion. The cost of people not staying home and underestimating the wrath of this virus is comparable to that of Russian citizens not wanting to evacuate the nuclear powerplant’s exclusion zone. Need I go on?

  “Every lie you tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is payed.”

   -Jared Harris as Valery Legasov

In the end, I have come to the conclusion that the cost is precious lives. I ask you: What is the cost of lies? This question is posed in the opening lines of Chernobyl. At a time like this, I have come to believe that we need only look around and observe to identify the true cost of lies. Thus, we continue to pay the debt now. To the future writers, teachers, doctors, news reporters, and lawyers: what will you do to help change the course of mankind? Will you work to get us out of this debt of lies? Will you search for truth? This may not be the world we signed up for, but it is still possible to make it a better place. I highly suggest making good use of your time, watch Chernobyl, and begin asking yourself these same questions. Above all, maintain hope.

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