Don’t Look Up — A Reflection

Just one month before the movie was released, COP26 took place in Glasgow, Scotland, where representatives from various UN member states were present. COP26 GLASGOW CLIMATE PACT states, “The Glasgow Climate Pact is the climax of two years of vigorous diplomacy and ambition raising. The Presidency’s work focused on delivering the Glasgow Climate Pact and driving action across the globe on • Mitigation — reducing emissions • Adaptation — helping those already impacted by climate change • Finance — enabling countries to deliver on their climate goals • Collaboration — working together to deliver even greater action.” As an inhabitant of the Global South, I could contemplate how ambitious this plan was, considering the vast inequality in consumption of resources and resources available in a different geography. The consensus among some heads of state was another challenging scheme. Nonetheless, these environment conferences have been typical these days. When Vijay Prashad reminded that 5% population is using 25% of global resources during a panel discussion in the host city, the status quo and actuality about the west’s condensation were visible. I often think about the noteworthiness of participation from developing and underdeveloped countries from Asia and Africa. Did head of state, climate activist, and environmentalist take the best out of it is the question. Or was the formality? But, I cannot stop saying that the best thing about COP26 held in Scotland was the few-minute speech from Vijay Prashad. He has been consistently speaking about colonial realities and inequalities caused by capitalism. Since the myth about climate change reality can be debunked and explained with the help of multiple explanations, so is the 2 hours 18 minutes comedy-drama, which raises pertinent questions about the issue.

The movie kicks off when Kate Dibiansky(Jennifer Lawerence),a Michigan State University Astronomy Ph.D. student discovers a comet heading towards Earth. It only takes six months and some days until it hits the earth’s surface. Named after herself, asteroid Dibiansky is shown as the allegory and reality of climate change. Dubinsky then shares the possibility of an event with professor Dr. Randall Mindy(Leo Dicaprio), which shocks him. The certainty of the event worries them, and they, along with NASA experts, go for a meeting in the White House. But when they talk about the likeability of the event with almost 99% chance, President Orlean(Meryl Streep) says, “why not make it 70% because it hasn’t happened yet”. But when one of the planet’s wealthiest people, Peter Isherbell(Mark Rylance), comes for the appointment, she is ever ready to chat with him. This shows how the nexus of government and corporate help always ignore people’s issues. When the comet hits planet earth, people and animals are about to die, but Political leaders, tech magnates, and influential people escape the tragedy by marching towards the spaceship. (Don’t Lookup, 2021)

In an article named ‘Don’t Look Up: Mixed reviews for Leonardo DiCaprio satire’ BBC reviews reporting that “The film, written, produced, and directed by McKay, stars DiCaprio and Lawrence as two astronomers who are trying to warn the US president and the public about an approaching comet set to destroy the planet within six months. Few people take the pair seriously, to begin with, and many dismiss it as a hoax. However, the severity of the matter becomes increasingly hard to deny as the film progresses.”(BBC, 2021) As the movie’s message is to make people aware of climate with the help of a potent allegory, it is essential to know what climate experts are saying. Australian-based climate expert Ketan Joshi remarks, “The starkest thing about Don’t Look Up is the sheer depth of the emotional significance for the folks who’ve been in the trenches of the climate fight for a long time. They’ve encountered decades of madness, as their warnings were twisted, ignored, denied, and downplayed by politicians, media, and devious industry players. Those people feel intense catharsis when they watch this film.” (The Guardian, 2022) A climate scientist and author of Being the Change, Peter Kalmus, recently wrote an article in The Guardian, adding that Don’t Look Up has captured the madness he sees every day. He remarks, “But this isn’t a film about how humanity would respond to a planet-killing comet; it’s a film about how society is responding to planet-killing climate breakdown. We live in a society in which, despite extraordinarily clear, present, and worsening climate danger, more than half of Republican members of Congress still say climate change is a hoax and many more wish to block action, and in which the official Democratic party platform still enshrines massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.”

The movie is about how blind the upper class political and corporate elite are to the pressing and concerning issues of the world. This hypocrisy and carelessness can be best understood by studying Peter Isherwell (Business magnate) and President Orlean. When the comet approaches the earth, rather than assessing the situation, President is more concerned with the upcoming election and appointing chief justice of her favor. At the same time, after gaining information from White House sources, Peter, the businessman, comes up with a big plan to extract resources from the asteroid to benefit his corporation. This story shows how the voters and the citizens of any nation are fooled and made mere puppets. Bourgeois like Peter sells their product to the people by playing with their emotions and needs. (Don’t Lookup, 2021) They present their products in such a way that people or consumers usually forget how materialistic they have already become. Who benefits from this market are only a few people. The surplus values of labor who work in the firm are disregarded. Since corona, the world also saw the vast inequality between rich and poor. According to Oxfam, the world’s ten richest men have doubled their collective fortunes since March 2020. And what about those in power, such as President Orlean? They are in the position to assist moneyed people such as Peter Isherbell. They help capitalists because corporate can help political parties win elections and influence agendas and propaganda significantly. Democratic elections have become quite expensive, and this is a similar story to every capitalist and democratic country in the post-cold war era.

Don’t Look Up’ is a movie rich with content that can be interpreted from various perspectives. The most important part of this movie is the creation of meteorites as an allegory of climate change. This allegory can be synonymous with many things and connected to show the cause of many problems. The picture shows reality about the media. They are more interested in showcasing what people are primarily interested in watching, i.e., celebrity chatter rather than real issue debate. Elite political and corporate classes like President Orlean and her administration is unwilling to solve this issue. Meanwhile, they get involved in short-term political and corporate gain. The truth that President Orelan supports business magnate like Peter Isherbell in extracting comet for his benefit by fooling the general public proves the initial assumption of prominent critical theory that the political class support economic bourgeoise in the modern states and vice versa. Also, the President’s unwillingness to exclude other states from the comet mining deal makes the realist ambition of powerful states visible. Released via OTT, the movie sparked much attention among critics and lovers of the motion picture. Most importantly, among environmentalists and climate activists. The film is in an excellent position with an IMDb rating of 7.2 ‘March 23, 2022’. I find many reasons to love the movie. However, the picture would have been far better If the actual situation and solutions were displayed during the screenplay. The director could have demonstrated more about the reality an average person in a developing, as well as a developed country, is facing as a consequence of climate change since most people have been aware of the hypocrisy of the corporate and political elite on the matter. What the narration of this picture has to offer is essential to discuss and brainstorm on. Is it doing justice on a larger scale? Secondarily, how have the cast of the movie contributed to reducing carbon emissions may be necessary to some critics in viewing the cause of things to some extent. Ultimately, what the business magnate was trying to do by extracting minerals from the asteroid is a critical question we all must ponder upon. Since more considerable controversy of the subject was not shown to uncover some vital answers, Adam McKay lost grip in the middle of the movie on that part. The presentation must have been tedious and uninteresting to some audiences as well. But he has done justice by making us cautious in many regards. Given that it is a product of pop culture, more discussions and reviews from audiences worldwide will undoubtedly provide an inclusive outlook to the movie. The most significant part of the movie is it compels us to think and look back at our structure, the interest of some form of a powerful class, and its repercussions on the people.

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