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07.01.2022

Don’t Look Up, Do Something

Contains spoilers for the film Don’t Look Up

What do you get if you combine an Oscar-winning director, a galaxy of acting superstars, and a heavy dose of satire? The answer is trending on Netflix: Don’t Look Up.

In the film, two scientists discover a ‘planet-killer’ comet hurtling towards Earth. Despite the danger, their increasingly desperate warnings go unheeded by a distracted world. The US President, focused on winning her mid-terms, opts to ‘sit tight and assess’. The media, focused on keeping ratings high, prefer to talk about the latest celebrity break-up. A tech billionaire, focused on profit, tries to mine the comet for precious metals. The general public, meanwhile, squabble about whether it even exists.

The meteor – a thinly veiled metaphor for the climate crisis – isn’t taken seriously. People don’t respond to the urgency of the situation. It’s funny until you realise that neither, by extension, do we. But why not?

Perhaps we don’t know how to.

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, author Neil Postman argues that ‘most of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action’. How often do you watch the news and do something different as a result?

Conversation-focused news isn’t inherently bad. But when it’s everywhere, gradually, our default position becomes that of a passive audience member. So, too often, when important information comes along that affects those around us, we sink into wilful ignorance. And yet, whether on a global scale or right in front of our noses, it’s information we can do something about that matters most.

In Don’t Look Up, people care more about a celebrity couple than a planet-killing comet. I know more about the relational dynamics within the England cricket team than I do about the relational dynamics next door; more about the internal workings of No. 10 than the internal workings of my friend’s mind.

And that’s not right. We need to see what’s going around us, and then act. Some news – from the good news of the gospel to the sad news of a stressed-out colleague to the scary news of the climate crisis – demands a response. We can’t just shrug our shoulders.

Whether it’s paying attention to the hurting friend, reaching out to the lonely neighbour, or changing your actions to reduce your carbon footprint, how might you prayerfully respond as a follower of Jesus?

Sometimes, comet or not, the difference might be world changing.

Matt Jolley 
Editor, Connecting with Culture 

Image courtesy of Netflix

Comments

  1. Well made point, Matt. Must watch the film now!

    By Will Parker  -  7 Jan 2022
  2. Thanks Matt so much for this reflection. As Christians we have a moral imperative to act on climate breakdown. As you imply above, climate change doesn’t care what we think, what our opinions are, but only cares what we do. We have gone past the point of urgent, we are post urgent. The church needs to wrap resistance around its shoulders, not just protesting. They are different. And calculating our own carbon footprints was a push by fossil fuel companies to take the focus and heat off them, after a mega dollar campaign it worked… A way of shifting blame and creating inertia and complacency in equal measure. I thank God for Leonardo DiCaprio who is a prophet of truth, calling out the church along with the rest of society. What will it take for us to actually hear and then bear public witness ourselves to the truth of the mess we are in?

    By Rachie  -  7 Jan 2022
  3. yes, good film & reflection, that idea of the inertness of ‘news’ is interesting. I feel sometimes the media could do more to awaken us to think about practical steps we CAN take in response to dire far off situations, including near famine in Afghanistan right now…

    By Bruce Gulland  -  7 Jan 2022
  4. I wholeheartedly agree Matt, thanks for your reflections and the reminder of our need to be active recipients of some news (whether from the media or our own backyard) not passively absorbing and commenting. Great film too!

    By Abigail Emsley  -  7 Jan 2022
  5. The premise of the film is understandable- we all have enough to do without worrying about stuff we can’t immediately see and feel. But it is so much better to face our fears and get stuck in to addressing them. I speak from experience as someone who spent decades trying not to worry about nuclear war and, finally, joined Christian CND and have found it much more fulfilling than keeping my head in the sand!

    By Martin Tiller  -  7 Jan 2022

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