Lessons in Self-Isolation From The Lighthouse

As I sat in a theater, watching The Lighthouse in October 2019, I had no idea what the world would be like a year into the future. No one had the foresight to realize that Robert Eggers’ truly bonkers film about two lighthouse workers (also known as “wickies”) trapped living and working together on a miserable island would be surprisingly prescient. However, almost a year into quarantine, the film has lessons we can all learn from if we want to stay safe and sane in self-isolation.

Don’t Get TOO Drunk, TOO Often

Lessons in Self-Isolation from The Lighthouse - Don't get TOO drunk too often

A drink here and there in isolation can be a relief. Sometimes the stress of our current situation calls for something stiff to take the edge off after a long day. However, if your evening sip of brandy regularly turns into a hootin’ and hollerin’ seadog dance-off or near-death argument, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your coping mechanisms. Sure, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe look like they’re having fun when they’re getting plastered and dancing early on in the film, but that hangover is something no wickie wants the next day.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Journal About It (Or Scream About It Into The Howling Seaside Winds)

Lessons in Self-Isolation from The Lighthouse - If you don't have anything nice to say, journal about it

Look, we’re all spending a lot of time at home lately, and if you have a roommate or a partner, you’re likely spending a lot of time with them too. It’s completely normal for things to get tense at times, for people to get annoyed with each other, and for things to escalate (sometimes over nothing at all). If you find yourself sitting across from your housemate at dinner time, faced with the sight of the meal they ALWAYS seem to make, and you can feel your resentment boiling over, take a step back. Instead of insulting your roommate’s cooking during a heated argument, perhaps it would be better to journal, gently suggest a new recipe, offer to cook, or scream into the howling seaside winds that beat against the lighthouse you two share. Otherwise, you might end up being cursed by Triton himself!

Do No Harm (To Everyone/thing, But Especially Seagulls)

Lessons in Self-Isolation from The Lighthouse - do no harm

Being kind (or at least taking a second to responsibly deal with your feelings before going off on someone) is an essential part of staying sane during this lonely, lost year. Remember to do no harm to yourself, or others, even if it feels deserved. If you just so happen to be on the coast, doing harm to seagulls—known to sailors as the souls of bygone seamen—is especially bad luck. Sure, they can be annoying, but is their silence worth being torn apart by the vengeful spirits of those who’ve perished on the seas? I’d say not.

Respect People’s Privacy (Especially If They Have A Designated Alone Space That HAPPENS To Be A Potentially Cursed Lighthouse)

Lessons in Self-Isolation from The Lighthouse - respect people's privacy

A lot has been taken from us this year, but the one thing some of us are lucky to still have is our sense of privacy. Even then, if you’re living in a shared space with someone, alone time can be tough to come by. We all need some time for ourselves, and it’s important to respect that. If your housemate or partner tells you that they need a night for themselves, let them do what they need to. If they need to stare endlessly into the glaring, perhaps cursed light of the lighthouse you both care for, then ESPECIALLY respect their wishes. You don’t need to get mixed up in all that.


Whether you’re stuck in an apartment, house, or bleak lighthouse in the middle of the sea, there are lessons we can all take from Robert Eggers’ bleary tale of self-isolation. Take care of yourselves, and treat each other as kindly as possible, lest Neptune strike ye dead!

Alejandra Martinez

Alejandra Martinez

Alejandra Martinez is a Tejana archivist, writer, and scholar. When she's not thinking about preservation and access, you can find her reading a good book, watching a David Lynch film, or writing about pop-culture at your local coffee shop.
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