“Don’t look up”: how scientific phenomena can turn into political lightning rods

By Arianna Viale, Chiara Stefanizzi and Arianna Tortelli

On April 10, 2023, “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center organized the screening of the movie “Don’t Look Up” in Nicosia, in the framework of the Bigtime Takeover project, to reflect on the urgency of contemporary issues, including the environmental crisis. More than 20 young participants, including unaccompanied migrant minors, attended the event and shared their views on the necessity of individual and collective actions.

But what’s “Don’t Look Up”?

“Don’t Look Up” is a parodic and provoking movie that uses the metaphor of a comet hurtling towards Earth to explore the urgent issue of the environmental crisis. The movie came out at the end of 2021 and is directed and produced by Adam McKay. Since its announcement, it caught the public attention not only for the promising story but especially for the incredible cast, which included five-stars actors such as: Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo Di Caprio, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Rob Morgan, Jon Hill, Cate Blanchette and so many more.

What’s the story about?

The plot follows the story of two scientists, Mindy and Dibiasky, who accidentally discover a comet whose collision with Earth will cause a global extinction event. Helped by the head of their Planetary Defense Coordination Office, they reach to United States of America’s President to urge her to take action, but they end up dismissed and ignored. Their second approach is to go through the media, whose intentions are only taking advantage of the appreciation made by their audience to the attractive look of Dr Mindy – played by Leonardo Di Caprio, rather than focus on spreading the urgency and tragedy of their discovery.

What does it tell us?

The film’s central message is that while scientists and activists are sounding the alarm about the catastrophic consequences of climate change, the public and the government are either dismissive or apathetic. This is represented in the movie by the different reactions of the characters: while some people are terrified and desperate to take action, others are in denial or worried more by their own personal profits. The media is also shown worsening the problem, as they are more interested in sensationalizing the story than in conveying its gravity.

Overall, “Don’t Look Up” uses its metaphor effectively to explore the different perceptions on the environmental crisis and to highlight the urgent need for collective action to avert disaster.


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