BuzzCut: Why 'Don't Look Up' Has Started Social Media Chatter on Climate Change Action

BuzzCut: Why ‘Don’t Look Up’ Has Started Social Media Chatter on Climate Change Action


BuzzCut is News18’s new series where we break down a recent trend on the Internet and delve deep into Internet-culture to understand why it’s causing a stir on the Internet.

The end of the world is nigh. Well, at least in the shape of climate change-induced repercussions and while a ‘planet-killing’ comet is not really a cause of concern for earthlings, Adam McKay’s ‘Don’t Look Up’ satirizes the world’s response (or lack thereof) to apocalyptic threat that clearly is an allegory for damning climate-related disasters knocking on our doors.


The star-studded slice from Hollywood is yet another offering from the apocalypse genre and has been credited and critiqued fiercely ever since it started streaming on Netflix. Scientists Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) try to warn the world about a Mt Everest-shaped comet hurtling towards them in the next 6 months but are met with apathy, firstly from the US President Janie Orlean(Meryl Streep) who is more concerned about political scandals affecting her party while the public simply does not care! Throw in a celebrity breakup and subsequent live TV patch up and the world has eyes for no one else. The movie’s obvious indication towards partisan views of our politicians is mirrored in the ‘Don’t Look Up’ campaign Orlean’s party kicks off to counter the ‘Just Look Up’ campaign initiated by Mindy, Dibaiasky and NASA’s Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) by distracting the public from actually taking note of the harbinger of death.


Characters in ‘Don’t Look Up’ have uncanny similarities to several real life people and institutions. Streep’s Orlean is an extremely well made caricature of former US president Donald Trump with most of his not-so-redeeming qualities including narcissism and nepotism and scenes of Orlean’s ‘Don’t Look Up’ rallies are strong reminders of Trump’s baseball cap donned public appearances from last year with him flanked by his children. Jonah Hill’s Jason epitomises all the Trump children who profited from their father’s time at the White House. The Silicon Valley mogul Peter Isherwell (played by Mark Rylance) is a clear composite of billionaire Elon Musk- Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, with his constant nasally tone and increasingly sinister trope as he goes on to pressurize Orlean to extract minerals that come with the comet. As for the morning news anchors Brie Evantee and Jack Bremmer portrayed by Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry, McKay had mentioned that these characters are meant to parody the entire media industry and not just any one in particular.


With such a line up of stars headlining the movie, Don’t Look Up’s continued interest among the viewers and critics is not something unprecedented. But what has turned out to be a tad bit bizarre is the kind of extreme reactions the film has been eliciting. Reviews, counter-reviews and more reviews are made every other day since the film started streaming.

Then there are the critics. Film connoisseurs have usually found the film a bit too ‘blunt’, said David Fear in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair wrote that “simply making fun of pop stars and pundits and Trumpism is easy and ineffectual, as either parody or polemic.”

AV CLub said that the film “repeatedly blunts the impact of its satire by calling its shots early, often, and loudly.”

The San Francisco Chronicle liked the film, saying how “Don’t Look Up might be the funniest movie of 2021. It’s the most depressing too, and that odd combination makes for a one-of-a-kind experience.”

So what is it?


Well, clearly the film has left many divided but it definitely has got the vote from climate activists and scientists. This is a shift in the kind of criticism a film usually gets too, and its a first as much as it is ongoing. GreenPeace’s David Ritter called out a review by a publication for being weak and tweeted how “it is a fine film that delivers a terrific multivalenced critique-and is actually funny. Climate activists too have been supportive of the film as they think it helps to bring to the fore the burning exasperation of scientists at being constantly looked over despite giving out hard scientific facts. Yes, it sometimes feels like too on your face and maybe treating its audience as if the latter is less intelligent. But maybe the brazenness of the film is actually something that we need to stamp-in the vastness of the issue that might start off a continued battle to fight and stave off effects of climate change in the long run.

Peter Kalmus, a climate scientists wrote for The Guardian how ‘Don’t Look Up captures the madness I see every day’. Describing a scene in the film, Kalmus writes, “In one scene, Mindy hyperventilates in a bathroom; in another, Diabasky, on national TV, screams “Are we not being clear? We’re all 100% for sure gonna fucking die!” I can relate. This is what it feels like to be a climate scientist today.”

The film’s protagonist DiCaprio shared tweeted the link too:

McKay also recently joined the ongoing debate over criticisms about the film, suggesting that those who didn’t like it probably didn’t get what the film was about.

And while McKay’s ire might be a tad misdirected and ill-advised as films are open to interpretations and criticisms, ‘Don’t Look Up’s imperfections don’t make it much weaker. The pace, the length of the film is up for debate sure, but it kind of has got most people talking, which is basically the whole point of it.

As Lawrence’s character says in a heated moment, “Well, maybe the destruction of the entire planet isn’t supposed to be fun.” Well, it sure isn’t. And we got to act NOW. Maybe not against a comet hurtling at us, but definitely against cataclysmic destruction of everything we hold dear on this planet, ultimately.

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