In today’s era of hyper-polarized, hyper-partisan politics, the role of consumed media cannot be overstated. From Tik Tok to television, from talk shows to athletics, everyone has something to say. I do not find this to be inherently harmful, but in order to have unifying effects, the messages must be consistently well crafted, or it will do the opposite.
No film is more indicative of this than Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up.” The concept of the film is a thinly-veiled parallel to global warming, replacing the threat of climate change with an impending comet. The film shows the ensuing battle between truth and misinformation that McKay thinks will inevitably befall Earth.
The best picture nominee embarks with a noble purpose: establishing the rampant misinformation attached to global warming, particularly in America. Unfortunately, the film does a terrible job of fulfilling this purpose, as no one who disagrees with McKay would ever watch the film. From the beginning, the film mocks the GOP, as the president blows off the scientists for an entire day (partially for a birthday party), their Supreme Court Nominee is a sheriff without a law degree and it is implied that nepotism is so prevalent in the right that the president’s chief of staff is her own son. All three of these jabs are delivered within the first 25 minutes of the film, ensuring no right-winger would watch past that point, and the cheap laughs drawn out of left-wingers invites us to assume all Republicans are nothing more than those stereotypes. The movie only succeeds in creating division and making everyone angry. I stopped the movie five times during the course of watching it because it was making me too aggravated.
However, not all movies and outlets do a poor job of incorporating politics. Over spring break, my friends and I rewatched Disney’s “Zootopia,” and I found it surprisingly comparable to “Don’t Look Up.” The film follows bunny detective Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), and con artist fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), as they investigate a series of instances of predators going “savage.” The movie parallels the problematic relationship between white people and minorities in America to condemn racism, just as “Don’t Look Up” parallels the comet and global warming. However, the two are far from equally effective. The parallel format makes far more sense in a kid’s movie, where concepts cannot necessarily be understood in all their complexity. But even in “Zootopia,” the parallel is less blatant than in “Don’t Look Up.” To properly execute the sort of film meant to change someone’s mind, the viewer must be drawn in before they can make the connection, otherwise, they will not watch it. In “Zootopia” they do that successfully, but in “Don’t Look Up” it is clear by the end of the trailer alone what they are referring to. The teaser begins with the line “Based on real events that haven’t happened yet,” foreshadowing a future it is helping to create.
“Don’t Look Up” is not the only example of a misstep in delivery method that has been commonplace in left- wing media for a while. After the rise in success of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, all other late-night rivals began leaning left as well with varying degrees of effectiveness. For Colbert especially, this was tied to the election of Donald Trump, the main source for his material during Trump’s time in office. His consistency dipping in this pool shifted and shrank his audience demographic. With current disagreements on facts like global warming, an increase in partisan sourcing spells inevitable disaster. The more the media that left wingers and right wingers consume differs, the more entrenched in our differences we will become, and the more hostile we will become with one another. Our country will be infighting while global warming takes its toll.
Of course, we can not expect all our media, or even the majority to properly center its message for the good of our country, but we can (to some degree) control what we ingest. If we do not lean on our partisan comedy, and partisan news sources, we can better serve our country. The more we buy into the “us vs. them” narrative, the more we will see those across the party divide as blights and barriers and stereotypes. We need to remember that we are all humans, and believe that eventually those you disagree with can see your method for achieving universal good as superior.