Don’t Look Up Critiques Climate Change Deniers


The new movie Don’t Look Up becomes a hit. (Source: Linus Sandgren)

Many Bostonians likely remember the fuss of the Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Timothée Chalamet sightings in Boston early last year. Amid the monotony of the pandemic, the actors’ filming process for an upcoming movie provided entertainment for the bored and dreary in addition to giving people a film to look forward to.

Don’t Look Up, a satirical science fiction movie that critiques the global disregard for science, was released on Netflix on December 24, 2021. Along with DiCaprio, Lawrence and Chalamet, its star-studded cast also features Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and others. The crude humor, strong language and nudity warranted an “R” rating for Don’t Look Up, and is definitely not suited for younger audiences.

The film’s blunt authenticity, however, reinforces its purpose: to criticize society’s ignorance and to urge the audience to believe in science, no matter the emotional prejudices. This message is particularly relevant amid the COVID-19 crisis, despite the long prevalence of scientific distrust in our society.

Specifically, climate change has been consistently ignored and denied. DiCaprio, who is known for his environmental activism, comments on Don’t Look Up’s relevance: “We have this very finite window of ten years to make this transition. If we are not voting for leaders or supporting everything that has to do with climate mitigation, we are going to have a fate very similar to these characters.” Despite the film’s message, audiences did not enjoy Don’t Look Up as much as director Adam McKay may have expected. With a 55 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer” and 78 percent “Audience Score,” its low performance was an utter shock.

After watching the movie, Boston Latin School YouthCan member, Maia Frost (II), does not “think that it’ll convince as many people to change their minds completely.” Although the film aimed to spread awareness, many people who watched the movie were already aware of the disregard of scientific issues. Ultimately, the movie was largely unable to reach and change the minds of those who deny its message.

In the movie, the depiction of the public’s reaction to a comet about to strike Earth is accurate to many. AP Environmental Science teacher Ms. Jennifer Dorcy says, “In today’s ‘fake news’ climate, I think that [Don’t Look Up] accurately portrays both the political powers’ responses and the general public’s responses.” As an environmental science teacher, she must deal with the pressures of informing students about the severity of climate change.

Ms. Dorcy explains the vitality of obtaining accurate scientific information: “We try very hard at BLS to make sure that the students know how to obtain information from reliable sources with good reason. There is too much misinformation out there and it is starting to create situations that are harmful to individuals and society at large.” Don’t Look Up illustrates the damage scientific misinformation can produce, emphasizing the importance of checking sources and spreading awareness.

Don’t Look Up resonates with viewers no matter their scientific background. Claire Lantsman (I) says, “Sometimes the sad truth is a hard pill to swallow, and it is easier to live in denial.” The film represents a common fear: denial of science will devastate the Earth and all life.

Don’t Look Up tackles a difficult but relevant issue all while making its critiques consumable to viewers, with satirical humor and a cast of prominent actors. Despite this, the film has not created an increase of awareness, as so far, it has primarily reached viewers who already share similar views to those that the movie communicates. The exaggerated satire and storyline also walk on a fine line between emphasizing the importance of scientific discoveries and desensitizing messages. Modern media can be used to inspire protest and meaningful change, but the means of delivering this inspiration must be carefully calculated to produce more good than harm.