Why are people so mad at movie critics for Don’t Look Up reviews?

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How can we consistently judge the world, our societies, our institutions, art and even our basic daily choices – while we’re also being asked to accept the fact that virtually everything a human does is bad for our planet?

the climate crisis is manifest worsening. Our planet’s essential life systems are collapsing. We are to blame. But even with this knowledge, formulating a rational and coherent response at the individual level is virtually impossible. “Should I buy these imported blueberries? Do the systems that allow me to buy blueberries in January also hasten the apocalypse? I need to eat something.

As a member of this species of planet-destroying parasites myself, I find such mental somersaults exhausting to the point of numbness.

And I’m not the only one. Like the audience’s positive response to the film Don’t look up highlightedour species is increasingly uncomfortable with the level of cognitive dissonance now required to go through each day with our sanity intact.

You must wrestle with complex realities and the grim conclusions they lead to, or you withdraw – consciously or pampered by soothing distractions – into ignorance. Either way, it’s unsustainable for a civilization or for the natural world.

Don’t look up was Netflix most successful project to date, and it’s not hard to see why – it offers some of the great consistencies and fundamental truths we all seek. Still, there’s a palpable anger at most of the poor reviews of Don’t look upand it is for a fascinating reason.

We know that we absolutely fail as a society to find meaning and purpose. The film – even without the eloquence that many critics would apparently have preferred – shone a new spotlight on the “scar across our collective soul”, as the anthropologist David Graeber describes the psychological impact of the brutal grip of capitalism in his book Bullshit Jobs: A Theory.

The film offers no redemption. He takes a look at our society and deems it irredeemable: our leaders are despicable, the systems in which we work are largely useless and damaging, our ill-educated populations want only easy answers or comforting lies. It’s extremely uncomfortable for many people – perhaps especially those skewered in the film – including those in the media who deal in light entertainment.

In addition to the climate crisis, the film captures our confused and incomplete response to the coronavirus pandemic, raising questions about trust in the media, politicians, corporations, science and whose interests are ultimately served.

It shows us what a mess we are in. He does not show us how to escape this mess. Again, it makes us uncomfortable or can ironically offer relief that at least some of us are able to admit how screwed up we are. But more than that, the intense debate over the film’s critical reception should serve as a turning point.

As our species struggles, for real, whether it has a future or not, it’s just not good enough for those of us in wealthy countries to maintain our existing cultural norms (which are in largely derived from the political and economic doctrines of the 20th century).

For their part, the critics didn’t do anything different from how they would normally review a film – they looked at the scriptwriting, the acting, the jokes and the making, and the film’s context in relation to d other films, as they would any other Hollywood action movie.

But what suddenly emerges is disgust at this narrow way of thinking. A large number of responses to the film’s poor reviews say that critics “missed it”. They’re right.

What is that scientists and environmental activists are better able to explain why the film was powerful? It’s because the lens through which they see the world suddenly overlaps with the larger concerns people have about the state of the world – not the state of cinema.

It should be noted that not all critics have attacked the film, and many have indeed acknowledged its key elements, including four star review by my colleague Clarisse Loughrey.

Empire magazine also gave the film a good reviewalthough he somehow made no mention that the film was an allegory for the climate emergency – perhaps illustrating the chasm in concern for the natural world that this article is about.

As the climate crisis deepens, it will increasingly inform the human experience – from our most fundamental interactions with our planet, such as breathing, eating and drinking, to our relationships, arts, architecture and political philosophy.

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To the government, there were calls for the creation of a “net zero ministry”, which could work across departments to review policies to ensure they operate within a common environmental framework. It’s a good idea – it should be implemented.

A similar approach should be taken by the mass media. Tomorrow’s critics must invest more in the human project, that is, understand how the climate crisis and the environment affect their subject.

We need to find a new way to see what we do and the world we are part of, not outside of it.

Harry Cockburn is environmental correspondent and editor of The Independent

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