Don’t look up, between parody and political reality | The Bo Live UniPD

We laugh a lot watching Don’t Look Up, released on Netflix on December 24, but there is a bitter laugh: it is a film that, although full of absurd situations, does not exaggerate at all. It shows the political elites of the United States exactly as they are: greedy and brainless, while the media that are supposed to control them are just as vacant and irresponsible. The times we live in are at the same time fraught with danger and incredibly stupid: the merit of Adam McKay’s film is the fact that sharply captures the dynamics.

The editorial, film and television productions in the Donald Trump years were essentially variations of Watergate-style political thrillers, in which the heroes were institutions such as the press and the FBI, courageously defending laws and democracy from an unparalleled assault in the world. its danger. Eventually, of course, the good guys won and the conspiracy was defeated.

Don’t Look Up fits reality much better of the United States today. Meryl Streep, in the role of president, does not behave like a cruel autocrat who puts an end to democracy: she is rather foolish and opportunist like the great majority of today’s politicians. American democracy in the film has already been suffocated by the power of money and from arrogance of the oligarchs. There is no secret conspiracy: the villains are an elite with blinders, obsessed with themselves, and it is their greed, venality and stupidity that leads them to evil and catastrophic decisions.

As you probably already know, the film is a ‘allegory of climate disaster. Astronomers Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Randall Mindy (Leonardo Di Caprio) discover a large comet like Mount Everest heading towards Earth and they realize (after desperately checking and double-checking the calculations) that it is bound to hit the earth in just six months. Of course they fly to Washington to inform the president.

Climate change has long been compared to an approaching asteroid by scientists, and many happy ends have accustomed us to assuming that a brave team of characters, with the help of modern science and unlimited government resources, would defuse the threat. space. The only obstacles would have been personal problems, perhaps the inability to team up and the immensity of the task itself. Don’t Look Up reverses this scenario: stopping the actual disaster is not the hardest part, the problem is to convince someone to take the trouble to act.

Mindy (inspired by the well-known American climatologist Michael Mann) and Dibiasky are frustrated in their efforts at every step. President Orlean (a very great Meryl Streep) and her inept son, who is also the head of the cabinet, initially reject them, then look for a reason to delay the intervention: the mid-term elections are upon us, they have more to which to think. The press is largely disinterested, and the only establishment newspaper that treats history the way it should be quickly given up after the White House disputes the scientists’ claims. The couple turned to television and landed on a popular morning show, where hosts give them less space than that devoted to celebrity gossip.

Things do not improve when the government finally takes the threat seriously, except that it decides (inspired by the head of a multinational cellphone company who is also the president’s financier and therefore plays a decisive role in her decisions) to “hook” the comet to exploit the precious metals, rather than divert it. At that point it seems logical to interview a woman on TV who seriously says that “the jobs the comet will create look fantastic.” Mindy becomes intoxicated with stardom and becomes little more than a government spokesperson. Dibiasky completely retreats into gloomy apathy, ending up working in a supermarket.

It is not the citizens who are the problem, but those who govern and administer them

Some critics have accused the director of complacency and contempt for ordinary people, portraying the United States as a country too stupid to save itself. In Don’t Look Up the problem, however, is not the citizensOn the contrary, the patrons of the bar react with concern and violent indignation to what the two astronomers reveal. In a rally modeled after Trump’s, the organizers beg the crowd to “Don’t Look Up” until a guy sees the comet clearly darting towards them and yells: “We’ve you fucking lied! “.

The interest of the film lies in the fact of being very funny but basically realistic: I am the country’s elites and institutionsincluding the mass media, the real problem in the United States. The power of money is enough to deceive, manipulate and distract citizens from what really matters. Perhaps this is why the film was received coldly by a lot of the press, which criticized it for its “lack of subtlety”.

As he wrote Branko Marcetic on Jacobinhowever, subtlety is not always a virtue. The Doctor Strangelove, the Cold War classic McKay’s film has been likened to, was hardly a model of understatement, with an American military being advised by a Nazi scientist and a cowboy pilot jumping out of the plane astride a nuclear warhead to destroy the hated Russians. There are different ways of making films and McKay’s, rather than talking about the climate, speaks of American institutions, showing the fundamentally absurd and meaningless logic that governs them today.

Don’t look up, between parody and political reality | The Bo Live UniPD