Look Deeper


Photo courtesy of Netflix.

A maddeningly arrogant commander in chief who is completely blind to the threat of an imminent global disaster, a first-world society that is distrustful of facts and eternally distracted by celebrity drama, and a divisive political scene. Don’t these themes sound familiar? 

The underlying message in the controversial dark comedy film Don’t Look Up is nearly impossible to miss. A parody of American politics — the parallels drawn between the United States’ response to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis are painfully obvious — the film portrays an extinction level event in which a 10-kilometer comet is rapidly approaching Earth. But despite effectively revealing some truths about our postmodern society, the film ultimately falls flat because it presents an overly simplistic view of American politics and debates around climate change. 

President Janie Orlean, an apparent stand-in for Donald Trump, seems to possess many of the former president’s qualities, exhibiting a lack of empathy and perspective. Upon discovering that the comet contains trillions of dollars worth of rare minerals, Orlean, along with her cult of non-believers, claims the comet does not pose any actual danger in order to reap the profits. 

The subsequent clash between the campaign to “Just Look Up” and Orlean’s opposing campaign, “Don’t Look Up” creates a major political rift in American society. This scenario is supposed to mirror Trump’s refusal to address the seriousness of both global warming and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a comet hurtling towards Earth is a weak metaphor for climate change. A rapidly approaching comet poses an immediate danger, whereas the effects of climate change are felt much more slowly. And in reality, issues such as climate change and COVID-19 require a far greater response than simply acknowledging that they do, in fact, exist. I both believe and desperately hope that, in reality, politicians and corporations would respond with much greater urgency if faced with a more immediate environmental threat. 

The level of absurdity portrayed in the film isn’t constructive, and frankly, it isn’t funny either. The least likely thing to sway an audience of climate change deniers is painting them as a gaggle of idiots. So, if the film wasn’t amusing for the liberal viewer and yet failed to persuade the non-believers, then what was the point? I realize that this movie is meant to be a comedy and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. But still, I wasn’t laughing, and in the end, this overly simplistic film left me feeling disappointed, as watching the complete destruction of the earth was both predictable and more than a little disheartening.