In the movie Pontypool, the people have a disease that is transferred by hearing the mumbling of an infected person and thinking about it. Where did the disease come from? In the plot the possibility of a terroristic attack is mentioned or friction between french-speaking and english-speaking canadians. What is the bigger picture behind this?
Without thinking too detailed into it, there is no real origin other than communication itself. The spreading of a message, that is the communication and or miscommunication of information can lead to different results.
A guess could be Montreal, where English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians reside and how hard it is to interact. Another bigger picture thinking of this could be the willingness to understand or force oneself not to understand what another is saying.
Another idea could be that understanding of a message may not be spontaneous and may plant itself as idea in the minds who listen, without their awareness, e.g. in the case of subliminal messages.
Short version: The virus evolved from the dialogue Mazzy gave over the radio, as heard in the opening credits of the movie, and as shown visually as “typo” becomes “Pontypool”. Mazzy is the source and the vector – who spread it over the radio to the local community.
Long version: In the book (originally a radio play) the name of the disease is Acquired Metastructural Pediculosis (AMPS), and is caused by a virus. The author of Pontypool was a linguist, and threw together a bunch of known conditions: (aphasia, phonemic paraphasias, echolalia, semantic paraphasias, anomia, verbal stereotypies, etc.) and associated them with his story’s disease. The interesting twist is that rather than a physical virus (a single strand of genetic information encased within a protein capsule, and transmitted physically) the virus is multivariate strand(s) of non-genetic information transmitted within sound waves. (Although not explicitly mentioned, the term for this is “meme”, or “memetics”, in which the emerging study is named - a branch of metaphysics.)
It’s more complex than a traditional virus, in that it’s not bound - there is no capsule of ‘badness’ that moves from one person to another; it’s not self-contained. The transmitted/received trigger is only a component of the virus, and serves as a key to unlock components already contained within the host. Further – words/sounds themselves have different meanings to different people. So the key for one is not necessarily the key for another. All this leads to seeming inconsistency in how the virus is transmitted and manifests (but the Dr. tells us it always ends up the same.) The puzzle of the story is figuring out how it transmits, and then how to inoculate it.
The notion of it being a terrorist attack on English speaking Canadians (presumably by French speaking Canadians) is supported (at least in the minds of the characters), and it is not insignificant that the Laurel-Ann character fought in Afghanistan – but one way to look at that is to think that within the English speaking people a meme-virus may evolve itself that causes the malfunction. So it can be taken both ways: “someone” is attacking the English speakers – or – the English speakers innately are susceptible to this virus and go crazy in a way that scales up, like an epidemic, leading to war. (i.e. religion – itself a meme complex, and thus religious wars. The studio is, after all, broadcast from an old church.)
The kicker is that the entire story may actually be within a single infected person – a kind of daydream. So all characters are contained within his head – the radio studio. All the things outside (that we never see) are full abstractions. (The story is gloriously polysemous!!)
So where do physical viruses come from? They come from the dawn of life on earth, and in fact may predate cellular life, and have evolved along with us. We need them to survive. Occasionally one mutates and evolves into an epidemic. Same with this memetic virus AMPS.
So just like SARS originated in Chinese bats, who infected civets, who made it to a Chinese food market. I think the Pontypool virus was originated in the opening dialogue of the movie, which was recorded the day before (and played the day before) and was being rebroadcast in the car as Mazzy was driving to work in the early AM. Out of the chaos of that speech – the memetic virus was born. That is my simplistic understanding of “the bigger picture” behind it all that you requested.
(Note: all of this is in complete agreement with @phwd‘s simple first paragraph.)