Villainous Virus:

Herpes in "The Help"

In "The Help," Bryce Dallas Howard plays Hilly Holbrook, this summer's most vindictive villain since Lord Voldemort. As a young socialite in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi threatened by the changes coming with the African American civil rights movement, Hilly is not above capriciously firing, slandering and falsely accusing maids that get in her way. She is punished, not just in the form of a culinary surprise, but also skinematically: she has herpes.

To clarify, actress Howard (daughter of Opie Cunningham, otherwise known as actor/director Ron Howard) does not have a chronic viral infection. This prominent cold sore is created via makeup to illustrate her character's moral defects. Often triggered by sun exposure and emotional or physical stress, outbreaks can be painful and decidedly un-glamorous. We take issue with the concept that herpes is a marker for evil. This common infection strikes all comers, no matter the direction of their moral compass.

Fortunately, a lot has changed since the early 1960's, not just in the area of civil rights. With the advent of antiviral pills, such as Valtrex (valacyclovir), outbreaks can be quickly treated or suppressed entirely. And like human rights, we still have a way to go. Once developed, a vaccination or cure for herpes infections will be as welcome as tasty Southern fried chicken.

Runner-up, Villainous Virus:
Epidemic Flu in "Contagion"
Sure, it killed Gwyneth Paltrow, but no skin rash? Puh-leese!

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