The Left (Unwittingly?) Spoofs Itself in Don’t Look Up
The rumor that the Netflix film, Don’t Look Up, is an allegory about climate change is true. Writer/director Adam McKay, a self-declared democratic socialist and Bernie fan, has admitted as much. In fact, McKay calls climate change “the biggest story in 66 million years. It’s the biggest story in the history of upright apes.” That much acknowledged, my skeptical friends on the right have found the film much more amusing than those on the left. My only question is whether McKay is Bernie Bro’ enough to have intended that outcome.
Spoiler alert: Don’t Look Up tells the story of a planet-killing comet hurtling towards earth. After watching the first ten minutes of it, I thought it a comedy, a pretty amusing one at that. At Christmas dinner, my Democratic friends assured me it wasn’t a comedy and warned me not to finish it before going to bed. I did anyhow and smiled all the way through to its laugh-out-loud epilogue. Yes, the movie is a comedy. It is scary, I suppose, to those like New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis who believe that the future of the planet is “too terrifying” to contemplate and its inhabitants “too numb, dumb, [and] powerless” to amuse. “If you weep,” writes Dargis, “it may not be from laughing.”
The Right laughs because they know something the Left does not. In that the movie is about information flow, the Right knows who controls it. In an unusually honest article from February 2021, Time magazine boasted of the “well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information.” This cabal, according to Time, “were not rigging the  election; they were fortifying it.” Sure, whatever.
Every institution skewered in Don’t Look Up belongs to that cabal. This includes the administration of soulless RINO president Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) whose party identity is revealed -- in a deft touch -- only by the portrait of Richard Nixon hanging on her office wall. The fact that comic actor Jonah Hill plays her oily son and chief of staff should have tipped off the easily scared that this film was, indeed, a comedy.
When first apprised of the comet, President Orlean is in the midst of a personal crisis. The news has just broken that she has been having a lesbian affair with her Supreme Court nominee, a former adult film star, and that they have been sending each other “snatch” photos. The comet proves a useful distraction. Yes, Virginia, this is a comedy.
After calling off a military option to destroy the comet, Orlean heeds the advice of creepy Tech Titan Peter Isherwell -- equal parts Timothy Leary and Mister Rogers -- who convinces the president that his people can shatter the comet into thousands of retrievable pieces rich with the minerals needed to power the tech industry. Reviewers have convinced themselves that Streep was channeling Trump. The idea that Big Tech would collude with a MAGA Republican to sway elections scares only those people who don’t know any better.
The film’s Cassandras -- Michigan State astronomers Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) -- are seduced by Big Media to quiet down. For Mindy, the seduction is literal and tough to shake. Eventually, however, he finds his soul and joins Dibiasky in screaming from the rooftops that the world is coming to an end. If they are channeling anyone it is Howard Beale of Network, the one film that perhaps best mirrors the tone of Don’t Look Up.
Some reviewers have compared the film to Stanley Kubrick’s classic Dr. Strangelove. Don’t Look Up does not deserve the comparison. Kubrick’s direction was tighter, and the satire much more firmly controlled. More to the point, the topic Kubrick tackled did not need allegory. What drains the scare out of McKay’s film is just how diametrically off-kilter the allegory is.
The astronomers know to the minute when the comet will destroy the earth. By contrast, climate alarmists have issued so many false warnings over the last 30 years that only the clueless and the opportunists take them seriously. To keep the scare alive, the alarmists have quietly changed the name of the scare from “global warming” to “climate change.” No one was supposed to notice.
Skeptics know too just what frauds climate alarmists can be, especially DiCaprio, a leading evangelist for climate action. Wrote the Atlantic uncritically in 2013 about DiCaprio, “He was in Australia with Jonah Hill and Jamie Foxx and others, partying on a yacht in the Sydney Harbor over the weekend and hanging out at a club on Monday night until 1 a.m. Then he and all his friends got on a chartered jet and flew 13 hours to Las Vegas, arriving in time for midnight. Quite the holiday!” In the film, McKay mocks celebrity punditry. I am not sure DiCaprio got that memo.
In the film, too, Big Media and Big Tech collude with the White House to muffle the Cassandras. They use the FBI when needed. Watching this, I had to laugh. In the real world, of course, Big Media and Big Tech give climate alarmists all the platform they need. They have done the same with Covid alarmists. Skeptics get the FBI knock on the door and the boot on the neck.
As the action moves towards its inevitable end, Mindy comes to see that no human impulse is more powerful than family. With Dibiasky and her beau in tow, he heads back to Michigan, reconciles with his wife and sons, and joins them in what will be their literal last supper. Here, McKay concludes with an unusual grace note. The hipster beau, an unapologetic evangelical Christian, leads the otherwise unchurched bunch in an unironic prayer.
Having enjoined his friends to hold hands, he prays, “Dearest father and almighty creator, we ask for your grace tonight despite our pride, your forgiveness despite our doubt, but most of all, Lord, we ask you for your love to see us through these dark times. May we face whatever is to come in your Divine will with courage and open hearts of acceptance. Amen.”
The Times reviewer does not mention the prayer. Few reviewers did. McKay may have been up to something they don’t know about. If so, they would not know where to begin.
To learn more about Jack Cashill’s most recent books, please see www.cashill.com.
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