Filmmaker Adam McKay has created a perfect metaphor for our times. A dark comedy that asks: what if science; politics; climate change; bouncy, mindless talk shows; willful ignorance; pop culture; social media and money, all intersected?
The answer is “Don’t Look Up.”
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence star as two astronomers who discover a comet on a collision course with earth in six months. Blown off by President Meryl Streep, “Let’s sit tight and assess,” they run a gauntlet of newspapers and TV talk shows to inform the public about the coming apocalypse if action is not immediately taken.
The public reaction: they really don’t care.
All of this comes during the country’s own apocalypse of anger, disunity and social media self-absorption.
In interviews, DiCaprio says that he took the role because of its connection to the climate crisis. But it’s much more than that. It’s about how dismissiveness and denialism replace reality and the only adults in the room are science experts with irrefutable proof of an impending disaster even though the direst effects of climate change have yet to be realized.
But it’s much more than climate dismissiveness.
Despite a “tsunami” of Delta and Omicron cases in England and European countries, many continue to remain unvaccinated, completely contemptuous of anyone or entity that challenges their rights. And the comet metaphor can easily extend to democracy itself: don’t look at facts; don’t listen to experts; don’t trust anyone but your own gut. Just don’t look at the disaster looming on the horizon.
In a letter written to the New York Times, New Jersey resident Lynne Feldman looks out at a horizon of hopelessness.
“I taught high school history and government for 25 years, practiced law, ran for local office and wrote speeches for both Republican and Democratic candidates. Politics and government were my lifelong passions.
“But this year I was advised by medical providers that my saturation in the daily decline of our civic life was making me ill. I turned out to be representative of my friends, who withdrew from reading, discussing, listening to and commenting upon the state of our disunion.
“We beg those within the government to offer us crumbs of optimism, but it doesn’t heal the intuition that things will only devolve into some dystopian nightmare not yet fictionalized on film.”
“Don’t Look Up” gives a small glimpse of that nightmare. The difference is that many are so wrapped up in the celebrification of so much nonsense that they refuse to see the potential disintegration of the very freedoms they profess to believe in.
“Despair is a state of mind,” Bruce Neuman writes in the Times, “not reality. Reality lives in the actions we take, and these times call for strong actions to be taken.”
Jill Ley adds, “It is time reasonable people from all parties to stop being complacent, and start fighting for a fair and just country, as if our lives depend on it—because they do!”
The comet on a collision course with our democracy is real, and the only way to avoid disaster is to unplug and get involved. My hope for the new year is that America finds itself, recognizes what’s important and acts.