"Don't Look Up" - a reflection of 2021 and the current media landscape

Opening to Kate Dibiasky, a PhD candidate played by an unnoticeably pregnant Jennifer Lawrence, casually making toast and a cup of tea, singing the lyrics to "Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin Ta F’ Wit" by Wu Tang Clan with a deadpan-ness that we see in Dibiasky throughout the film. She makes herself comfortable with her tea and snacks, and preparing the Subaru telescope for a casual viewing as part of her PhD studies, until she notices something. She's surprised. Happy. Excited. Terrified. A reaction which we see spread out as we continue. 

Inspired by true events, "Don't Look Up" is an interesting summary of 2021, drawing a conclusion to one of the (truly) catastrophic year as of yet. From portraying the polarization we see in politics, to the juicy satire of the previous administration, this movie represents a huge aspect of this generation: the media landscape and how much it can influence everything. 

The film started with a shocking discovery: a comet headed towards earth and with mathematical calculations, they only have six months left until impact, in which the comet will wipe out every known species on Earth to extinction. Kate Dibiasky and astronomy professor from Michigan State University Dr. Randall Mindy (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who both discovered the comet are set out to convince the world to prepare for the apocalypse. Along with the help of Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe - who was portrayed by Rob Morgan - the head of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office (and yes, that's a real place), they go on a journey that started with the government. Meryl Streep plays a cluelessly narcissistic and motivated woman president, Janie Orlean (who I think is based on Donald Trump), and Jonah Hill is her arrogant and spoiled son Jason Orlean, who is also the Chief of Staff (nepotism that is also familiar in the Trump administration), with whom Dibiasky, Dr. Mindy, and Teddy try to convince to do something. Similar to the reaction of COVID-19, it was met with skepticism and downplayed. 

The way in which this apocalyptic event was treated as another piece in the game of politics and politicized throughout the movie, shows the greed and selfish motives of people. This can be evidently seen when we see the nation become divided - the satirical memes making fun of Dibiasky, TikTok videos denouncing the comet and calling scientists marxists, and hashtags that start a movement (#BlameKate, #DontLookUp). This is a representation of this generation and the current media landscape - a vast space of endless possibilities, allowing people the freedom to share their thoughts or ideologies. This power given to the public, although it's a democratization of information, it also trivializes events.  

This is a hard-hitting satirical story that exposes basically us - you, me, the people we watch on TV, the celebrities we follow, the people we interact with on social media. We see it in today's social climate: politicians spreading propaganda, politicizing a pandemic that has claimed over five million lives, and seeing a a divide nation at war with each other. Celebrities attempting to be relevant by voicing their opinions on politics. Although we see some familiarity, seeing our reflection on our screens, we think we know what happens; but director Adam McKay does a great job in creating a sense of unpredictability and anxiety. 

In the interview on The Daily Rip with Brie Evantee and Jack Bremmer (both portrayed with the wit and humor of cookie-cutter American anchors by Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry), we see the shaky close up of Kate to absorb the anxiety she's feeling. The light behind her face so we see the shadows of her expressions that say "we're fucked". Another thing I really loved about the style of this director is the sudden and blunt transitions between the scenes, sometimes cutting off dialogue of the characters. We don't know what's going to happen. We don't know what we're going to expect. It truly captures how we're all feeling at these uncertain times. 

This funny, terrifying, and thrilling movie encapsulates our experiences this past year through a painfully satirical observation of our society. In a way, it reminds us of how oblivious we all are of the gravity of the situations we're all facing - I've noticed how trivialized the pandemic has become, where people are so exhausted that seeing the death or case count is just another number they see on the screen. Like Manohla Dargis' thoughts, the people on earth aren't interested in saving their own planet. We're far from taking action and taking it seriously. The Climate Clock on 14th Street Union Square (that counts down the time we have left until the effects of climate change are irreversible) is just another photo opportunity for tourists in Manhattan, New York. 

It's an interesting film that's worth the watch if you like to laugh and be entertained by Cate Blanchett's funny portrayal of a blonde, horny, and shameless news anchor with a low-key drinking problem, or Jonah Hill as the grotesque and perverted son, who is spoiled and childish, of a female president of similar manner. With a cast of variety and famous names (including Ariana Grande as the vapid but beautiful singer, Riley Bina, and Timothee Chalamet), you will relate to the storyline as it punches in a very familiar series of events, ending with an ending that will remind us of our impending doom. 

If you saw the movie, what did you think of it? Do you agree? 

1 comment

  1. I did watch 'Don't Look Up' on NetFlix. (it's quite long). I replayed several times the reactions of the characters 'Kate Dibiaski' upon discovering the huge comet and of 'Dr. Randal Mindy' upon his realisation that it was on a direct collision course with Earth.
    Your correlations between television and social media's obsessive focus on ratings and profits in spreading the Trump administration's pursuits of corrupt profits and ratings from spreading their outrageous and apparently endless lies is spot on.
    Don't Look Up' is right on the mark.
    I enjoyed Cate Blanchett's performance as news anchor (I also liked her in the movie 'Carol").
    I also did love Ariana Grande's singing, and was impressed by how good Meryl Streep (as President Janie Orlean) looked naked exiting the spaceship in the distant future only to become tasty prey for strange carnivorous creatures.
    The messages of the movie 'Don't Look Up' are excellent.
    Unfortunately, in real life, just like in the movie, it seems like almost nobody in the media or in politics was listening.
    If a politician's lies get ratings and it's in the network sponsors financial interests truth, unfortunately, is treated as being irrelevant.


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