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Camera ObscuraSpiegeloog 417: Science

Camera Obscura: Don’t Look Up

By March 8, 2022March 29th, 2022No Comments

Don’t Look Up is a Netflix movie by Adam McKay, featuring quite popular actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence. The release date was during the Christmas break, just when everyone was looking for an interesting movie to watch, so it easily became a hit and was all over the internet for a few weeks. 

The story escalates quickly when two astronomers, Ph.D. candidate Kate and professor Randall Mindy, realise there is a comet rocketing to Earth in just a little more than six months. They immediately contact the authorities to warn them and look for a solution. When they are dismissed from there, Kate and Dr. Mindy spend their days on television programs, public demonstrations, and protests to alarm people. However, no one seems to care or believe in the disaster that is approaching. 

Even though the disaster in the movie was coming far from space, it was very obvious that it was related to something that is much closer to us – the climate crisis. Both the carelessness of the society and the loneliness of the two scientists are similar to what is happening with the issue of climate crisis now. It does an almost-good representation of the real world, while also adding a little comedy to it. Although the overall plot is quite pessimistic, there were several times it made me smile with its dark humor. It was also certainly refreshing to see a hit movie bringing up a critical subject to society.  

The lack of optimism in the movie, however, was very disappointing. In my opinion, bringing attention to a world crisis also requires proposing solutions. Throughout the whole movie, almost no one cares about the disaster. The government doesn’t act on the problem until it was in their own political favor to do so. The richest man in the movie only steps in when he discovers an economic benefit, and the media only uses the topic for entertainment purposes and more views. Sure, there were characters who believed in Randall & Kate and tried to help them spread the word, but this side was much weaker than the ignorant and dominant side of the society. The theory of emergency response (Darley & Latané, 1970) shows that there are a few steps people take before deciding to take action on an urgent problem. The first two steps can be considered as fulfilled by the movie, as it does a good job in bringing attention to a disastrous event happening in real life and making people realise that it is an emergency. However, it doesn’t go into the further steps, namely, showing people that they are personally capable & responsible for taking part in the solution and educating them in what exactly they can do. With these missing, I do not think Don’t Look Up achieves to motivate people into taking action. Instead, it portrays the problem as unsolvable no matter what we do because those who care lack power, and those who have power are not incentivised to care. Governments can’t be convinced, the rich will never care, and the media never shows the truth. Evidently, this would make people think there is no good in trying to solve the problem, as it will end up in an apocalypse anyway. Personally, I think this might cause more harm than good to the work of people who have been trying to raise awareness and act on the climate crisis.

All in all, it is an arguably good movie with nice attributes to real life and sometimes successful dark humor. However, it does not reach its full potential. 

This movie is available on Netflix.

Don’t Look Up is a Netflix movie by Adam McKay, featuring quite popular actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence. The release date was during the Christmas break, just when everyone was looking for an interesting movie to watch, so it easily became a hit and was all over the internet for a few weeks. 

The story escalates quickly when two astronomers, Ph.D. candidate Kate and professor Randall Mindy, realise there is a comet rocketing to Earth in just a little more than six months. They immediately contact the authorities to warn them and look for a solution. When they are dismissed from there, Kate and Dr. Mindy spend their days on television programs, public demonstrations, and protests to alarm people. However, no one seems to care or believe in the disaster that is approaching. 

Even though the disaster in the movie was coming far from space, it was very obvious that it was related to something that is much closer to us – the climate crisis. Both the carelessness of the society and the loneliness of the two scientists are similar to what is happening with the issue of climate crisis now. It does an almost-good representation of the real world, while also adding a little comedy to it. Although the overall plot is quite pessimistic, there were several times it made me smile with its dark humor. It was also certainly refreshing to see a hit movie bringing up a critical subject to society.  

The lack of optimism in the movie, however, was very disappointing. In my opinion, bringing attention to a world crisis also requires proposing solutions. Throughout the whole movie, almost no one cares about the disaster. The government doesn’t act on the problem until it was in their own political favor to do so. The richest man in the movie only steps in when he discovers an economic benefit, and the media only uses the topic for entertainment purposes and more views. Sure, there were characters who believed in Randall & Kate and tried to help them spread the word, but this side was much weaker than the ignorant and dominant side of the society. The theory of emergency response (Darley & Latané, 1970) shows that there are a few steps people take before deciding to take action on an urgent problem. The first two steps can be considered as fulfilled by the movie, as it does a good job in bringing attention to a disastrous event happening in real life and making people realise that it is an emergency. However, it doesn’t go into the further steps, namely, showing people that they are personally capable & responsible for taking part in the solution and educating them in what exactly they can do. With these missing, I do not think Don’t Look Up achieves to motivate people into taking action. Instead, it portrays the problem as unsolvable no matter what we do because those who care lack power, and those who have power are not incentivised to care. Governments can’t be convinced, the rich will never care, and the media never shows the truth. Evidently, this would make people think there is no good in trying to solve the problem, as it will end up in an apocalypse anyway. Personally, I think this might cause more harm than good to the work of people who have been trying to raise awareness and act on the climate crisis.

All in all, it is an arguably good movie with nice attributes to real life and sometimes successful dark humor. However, it does not reach its full potential. 

This movie is available on Netflix.

Esna Mualla Gunay

Author Esna Mualla Gunay

Mualla (2000) is a third-year psychology student specialising in Brain and Cognition, interested in the intersection between cognitive and clinical psychology. She enjoys spending time in nature, reading and journaling.

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