“I am not on one side or the other, I’m just telling you the fucking truth!” – Dr. Randall Mindy (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) said in a scene full of desperation and exasperation in the recent Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up”.
The “fucking truth” that Dr. Randall was speaking of was that a Mount Everest-sized comet was headed toward earth and posed an extinction-level threat to humanity, a threat that no one took seriously until it was (spoiler alert!) within sight, and too late to undo.
“Extinction-level threat” and “too late to undo” sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?
The film is, in a nutshell, a tale about humanities failure to recognize the imposing threat of climate change. It uses examples of real-life characters namely; Donald Trump and family as depicted by Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill; Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs tucked neatly into 1 very odd character played by Mark Rylance and in many ways Greta Thunberg, reflected in the strong headed, emotionally raged character played by Jennifer Lawrence; to give us a glimpse of the messed up sociocultural, and political climate that hinders the transference of important, scientific information to the masses in a way that effects meaningful change.
“Don’t Look Up” draws attention to society’s obsession with social media and pop culture, and blatant disregard of anything that requires action beyond one’s own comfort zone whilst trusting the “powers that be” will resolve all of earth's issues. A fact of which was well demonstrated in an unscripted and real-life interview between Good Morning Britain and climate journalist George Monbiot shortly before “Don’t Look Up” was even released.
If you haven't watched the movie, here's a scene that so freakishly resembles this real-life interview:
The fact that is so well captured in the movie is that the “powers that be” will NOT resolve all of earth's issues. If we leave it up to them, we WILL be doomed. If COP26 wasn’t already a clear indication of this.
To bring about the major shift that is necessary to slow down climate change, we need to first challenge the status quo. So how exactly can this ever happen in the “Don’t Look Up” kind of world we live in…
Let’s take a look at the impact that Netflix's “second biggest film of all time” could have on the general population.
While the movie is mostly entertaining, it triggers varying emotions ranging from laughter, relief, hopelessness, panic and desperation depending on your connection to the deeper meaning of the movie. Let’s see if you relate to any one of these possible viewer groups:
Group #1: For the scientist and climate change activists, the movie is probably a sigh of relief mixed with a feeling of hopelessness. Relief that Hollywood has finally stepped up and is addressing climate change in a way that is reachable to the masses and is not censored or painted in any way that discounts the reality of the matter; and hopelessness in realizing there’s a slim chance for humanity to change on the whim of 1 movie.
Group #2: For the regular Joe, the movie is an entertaining, perhaps a little draggy and too wordy take on an Armageddon themed enterprise. The regular Joe walks away from the movie with nothing but a newfound curiosity on comets, the actual likelihood of a hit on Planet earth and if Jennifer Lawrence really inhaled a magnetic nose ring during the shooting of the film.
Group #3: For the paper-straw enthusiast, the movie may be a wake-up call to acknowledge the social crisis we find ourselves in, the failure of our leaders in tackling the urgency of climate change, and the actual scale of the problem. This, met with a scary realization that paper straws alone will not heal the world potentially results in a feeling of panic and desperation to take action.
If you feel you may be a part of Group #3, then perhaps you might just be part of a group of people, which include the creators of the movie itself, that have the capacity to create a “tipping point” in society toward a complete change in the way humanity is dealing with climate change.
What exactly is a “tipping point” in society…?
According to a study published in 2018, a minority group comprising 25% of a total population is all it takes to create a tipping point that changes the status quo on any given opinion. Is it then possible to dream that if movies could influence people to splurge on superhero costumes and lifestyle changes to match the characters they admire, that it could also influence people to convert themselves into real life superheroes that veer the course of the oncoming “comet” that is climate change?
Imagine a world where movie viewers from Group #1 and Group #3 converge into the 25% of population that “looks up” and by doing so, influences the rest of the population to do so, triggering the necessary fear that would force the hands of governments to take action that is not driven by economic or personal gains.
What would it be like if we collectively saw the comet that’s heading toward us at an unprecedented speed and have not more than 6 months to change its course, what would we do differently?