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Teaching about how news is portrayed with the movie “Don’t look up”

Adam McKay’s labored satire challenges political indifference to looming comet catastrophe

The movie is about the climate catastrophe using the comet as a metaphor.

The movie starts off with the discovery of an asteroid. It really is official US government policy to deflect incoming asteroids by launching missiles at them, a point made by Werner Herzog in his recent documentary Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds. This policy is not in itself disturbing but, as this film suggests, what is worrying is that the erosion of our ability to react in time, to understand that something awful could happen is happening – right now. You get a sense of Randall and Kate’s suppressed delirium as they prepare to go on a TV show and find everyone chattering about a pop star’s failed relationship. They have taken the red pill. Time is running out for everyone else to take theirs.

There are some sharp political points to be made. Jonah Hill’s obnoxious political bro addresses his Trumpite base, describing what he sees as the three estates in today’s world: “There’s you, the working classes; there’s us, the cool rich, and there’s them …” and here he gestures vaguely at the woke left, whining about something as stupid as the end of the world. Source:  The Guardian

Topics in “Don’t Look Up”

  1. Everything about our media and political ecosystem, from the happy-talk news show (anchored by Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett, standing out as especially self-absorbed TV anchors) to websites preoccupied with traffic and social media memes.
  2. The priorities of politicians. The midterms are coming up, and with President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) already trying to manage the blowback from her controversial Supreme Court nominee, news of an apocalypse won’t reflect well in her numbers. “Let’s sit tight and assess,”.
  3. McKay and Sirota deliver a spot-on attack on how easily distracted people (especially in media) are, fixating on Kate’s hair and clothes and ignoring the substance of her message. Using a comet as a metaphor for climate isn’t exactly subtle—but the myriad ways the film highlighted the frustrations, debates and controversies that have defined very real discussions around climate change in recent years.
  4. Uses satire to spur a conversation about potentially ignoring a crisis until it’s too late. “no one said the end of the world is supposed to be fun.” It’s a frustration shared by climate scientists—and journalists—who have been told at various points to make the grim facts of climate change light and accessible. The truth is that climate change is unlikely to totally end human civilization like the comet does, but the line—and the movie more broadly—nonetheless offers a critical reminder that our civilization cannot be taken for granted. Right now, we may “have everything” but there are no guarantees about the future, and we may look back one day and say the same.
  5. The president embraces the mission of destroying the comet, puts together a national strategy approved by top scientists, secures the funding, and it appears for a moment that the problem will be tackled with gusto and in a spirit of unity. But at a crucial moment, it is discovered that the comet is made of rare metals that are critical to the manufacture of smartphones. Unwilling to sacrifice the potential trillions of dollars of GDP gains that could come from mining the comet, the president instead turns over the task of stopping the comet to a Silicon Valley billionaire (played by Mark Rylance) who owns a smartphone company. Source: Current affairs.
  6. “Don’t look up” is a metaphor for the climate crisis ( Don’t Look Up, an allegory of the climate crisis) – hence the use of DiCaprio, a well-known activist in the field
  7.  In fact, the film depicts an idealistic, diverse group of Americans who try their best to protect the planet. Their lives are destroyed not because we are idiots but because those with power choose to delay, deny, and mislead, more interested in their own short-term gain than the future of humanity—in part because these people know that the catastrophe they have wrought will not have the same consequences for them personally. Source Current affairs

Lesson plan

Watch the movie on Netflix and read the points above closely. Make notes about what it means. Then write a text where you discuss one or all of the points above. Give your text a suitable title. Be sure to mention the satire in the movie and answer the questions; what important issues do they raise here, could this happen on some level, and would you recommend watching this movie? If yes why?

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