I did not want to watch it, but caved to peer pressure.
I know this won’t be a popular post, but then again, I was one of 6 people on the planet who loathed Forrest Gump too.
Yes, the world often feels doomed, so I have to wonder why everyone is celebrating a film that says not only are we doomed, but there is nothing we can do about it.
We didn’t need “Don’t Look up” to tell us about the climate crisis or vaccine apartheid or the many idiotic things we do as a species. We know that. We live with that. We doom scroll it. And many, many people resist it.
Perhaps the film validates a lot of us who feel like we are constantly banging our heads against the wall and no one is paying attention, so to see Netflix streaming this, we suddenly feel like perhaps it has not been in vain? That we ARE being heard? If so, what has been heard?
Along come very smug Hollywood Liberals (and atrocious mugging by the likes of Streep and Blanchett and Hill) to say not only are we doomed, but there is nothing we can do about it.
This is one of the most anti-political films I have ever seen. It is fairly well-made (the atrocious mugging aside), and I appreciated most of the performers. But there’s a lot of that insider baseball scriptwriting that shows how clever Hollywoood liberals are, and it won’t win over the climate change deniers and the vaccine refusers because they are all portrayed as hopeless, irredeemable fools.
I know it feels like that sometimes, but caricatures don’t make for good storytelling or organizing strategies. Good storytelling is about conflict, yes, but it is also about nuance and transformation, and offering those divided from the best parts of themselves a pathway to change.
In this film, we get the obvious Trump-types presented to us as examples of our doom, with the unmistakable message that good liberals (sic) like Biden and Clinton wouldn’t be so stupid.
Because the film takes potshots at the tech giants and the Trumps of the world, we are supposed to applaud and say, “Wow, yes, they really are ignoramuses.” But we know that already. Why do we need a 2+ hour film to remind us of the idiocy of our opponents?
What I fear Don’t Look Up does, despite all the “this is a must-see” plaudits, is disempower the viewer. Its basic message is: you can try all you want, but you are doomed. Doomed by right wing politicos and capitalists. Well, yes, we absolutely are, unless we resist and organize and come forward with something better. Which is something we definitely CAN do.
Instead, Don’t Look Up fetishizes our self-destruction. Makes it a joke. And allows Hollywood Liberals to feel good about themselves for making an alleged statement while the rest of us hit the beer fridge to drink our emotions.
With all the money and star power behind this film, why did they not focus on how we can do better, a theme and a story that showed how folks can resist what is going on (3% of the population can bring a government to its knees after all), the many stories of courage and resistance and actual building of hope that actually are taking place around the globe (Indian farmers protest anyone? Fairy Creek blockades? Tiny House Warriors and resistance to CGL at Wet’suwet’en — hey DiCaprio even tweets about that one! — towns that are going off grid despite corporate pressure not to, all the remarkable work covered by the likes of YES Magazine?)
I keep seeing the articles that say, “This film is like the climate crisis, about which no one is doing anything,” but that is a lie that insults the Fridays for Future Movement and the South Pacific Islanders resisting the flooding of their homelands and Indigenous land and water defenders on the front lines of this struggle every day who ARE doing something about it.
How many times have we heard from people, “Oh, whatever, there’s nothing we can do about it,” and how many of us have then liked the posts about climate change that talk about the need for the arts to help change the narrative so people actually CAN feel they can do something?
The arts CAN help change the narrative and CAN help empower people. This film does not threaten the establishment one iota. In fact, it reinforces it.
Someone said this is the “It’s a Wonderful Life” of 2021, but that’s backwards. That film, with all its problems, is nonetheless about people struggling for better lives and better ways of dealing with one another and achieving those ends when they organize together to create alternative institutions and cooperative communities. In that film, produced by a far more restrictive Hollywood than 2021, the people won.
With all the billions floating around Hollywood, I truly believe much better stories, more inspiring stories, more reminders of our capacity to overcome the worst in us, are possible. It’s a shame so much was put into such a cynical and ultimately hopeless picture.
I’m going to watch It’s a Wonderful Life after I take a shower. – Matthew Behrens
The Author wanted to add additional notes to this:
The more I think about it, the more Don’t Look Up strikes me as a narcissistic and nihilistic film about the feared loss of the trappings of white male privilege (a theme not uncommon to the nuclear freeze movement in the 1980s.)
There is that atrocious line at the end of the film when DiCaprio says, “The thing of it is we really…we really did have everything, didn’t we? I mean, if you think about it.” The line is spoken not by someone who faces police brutality and racial profiling everyday, not by someone who endures crushing poverty, not by someone who endures the daily onslaught of male violence, not by someone whose lands have been stolen by the investment bankers whose RRSPs benefit people like Leo’s comfortable college professor character.
Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to say, “We stole everything.” The fact that his character completely humiliates his partner and that she takes him back with no questions asked (and a stupid comment about dating someone else when they were in college is meant to somehow level the playing field) is the ultimate male fantasy as well. Sadly, the most prominent women in the film apart from Jennifer Lawrence’s “saint” character (Blanchett, Grande, Park and Streep) are portrayed as absolutely vile human beings who have no nuanced or redeeming qualities.
And rather than satirize Trump with a MALE President because, you know, Trump IS a male, they decide to make it a female president. Images matter, even in a so-called satire.
Thanks for reading the posts about this film and engaging with it. I appreciate some people love it and others loathe it. Like I said previously, I look forward to the day when these high-profile multimillionaire filmmakers actually produce a film we can all enjoy and rally around and want to be part of because it will be about how we can actually work together to overcome the obstacles that we face, which are not, as this film implies, impossible to disarm and transform. – Matthew Behrens