Connecting with Culture
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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.
Editor, Connecting with Culture
Image courtesy of Netflix