We are living in Matrix, so Don’t Look Up! — Denying Climate Change Does Not Deny its Existence!
I have news for you. It’s already a complete disaster.
When Netflix released Don’t Look Up, it immediately grabbed my attention. The split between those that absolutely love the movie and those that hate it became very clear. I rarely hear someone saying that it is just good; people either love it or hate it.
At that same time, the ads for new sort-of-a-sequel of The Matrix were already everywhere, which forced me to watch The Matrix (1999) and then all the sequels as well. What grabbed my attention was the ever-present discussion about blue and red pills and their meaning. This analogy can be used as a metaphor for a plethora of life choices that every individual needs to make — will you take the blue pill and stay in your comfort zone, or will you risk it for something possibly upsetting but more real and rewarding in the long term by taking the red pill.
But what does The Matrix have to do with Don’t Look Up?
That scene where Cypher betrays his friends and returns to Matrix is one of the most fascinating yet disturbing scenes. This, as far as I remember, is the only example in The Matrix that someone chose to live in ignorance on purpose, and it shatters this heroic and righteous aura that surrounds all of those that took the red pill at some point.
You know.. I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth; the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy, and delicious. After nine years.. you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss. ― Cypher justifying his decision to betray his friends and re-enter the Matrix.
This is the point where I come back to Don’t Look Up. In the Matrix, apart from a small number of individuals, most of the population does not come to the point of deciding which pill they take. Compared to Cypher, they stay in the Matrix unwittingly. But, when the comet is charging towards the Earth, a significant number of people in Don’t Look Up decides to wittingly — not look up!
Critics did not praise Don’t Look Up for two main points, the first being that it is straightforward and realistic. Apocalyptic and disaster movies tend to have at least this small ounce of hope and pathetic stories of people that suddenly become good (The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, Poseidon). But if a movie says that the planet, together with all the population, will be destroyed because of people being greedy, selfish, immoral, and evil, then it is a no-go.
Thus, the second reason critics hate it is its very critical and mocking stance towards regular people. Disaster happens, people do not control many of them, including comets hitting the Earth. But people can do their best to survive with dignity and hope, just like in other disaster and apocalyptic movies, which is not the case in Don’t Look Up. As the crisis reaches its peak in the film, people get more and more immoral and absorbed in their petty little ideological fights.
The part where we take Don’t Look Up seriously and for film’s primary intention — to be a metaphor for climate change denial, becomes scary and too real for most.
Finally, compared to The Matrix, people in Don’t Look Up were all offered red and blue pills, but unfortunately, most of them followed Cypher’s example and decided not to look up. Ignorance is bliss!
That is why Don’t Look Up is unsettling and upsetting. It reminds people of their worst characteristics, and it hopefully reminds them that we are in the midst of a crisis.
I have news for you. It’s already a complete disaster. ― Kate Dibiasky in Don’t Look Up
The difference is that people are “the comet,” and our behavior destroys the Earth. The worst point is that we deny it. Everyone repeatedly takes the blue pill.
Scientists have talked about climate change for decades. Activists have warned us about it. Even politicians talk about it, although it is questionable how sincerely. Yet, it does not appeal to the masses.
Climate Change Performance Index shows that not even one country achieves a high rating on performance. We almost surely will not reach all those semi-ambitious climate goals set in the last decade. No matter how unsettling that is, it is the truth, and the moment we accept it, we can do something about it.
The parody of politicians and high-tech billionaires in Don’t Look Up is almost too close to reality to be the parody. The post-truth era began a long time ago, and it does not matter what the truth is. It just matters that people buy what you say. It is an excellent metaphor for politicians’ reactions to climate change, emphasizing what they do and neglecting that the effect is not good enough. This behavior is probably because of the lobbying by multinational companies who invest their time and money in greenwashing.
Therefore, it is understandable that people think that they are powerless in battling climate change. But people buy stuff from these companies (even when it is not that necessary), people vote the same repeatedly, people believe some crazy theories to not accept the fact and change their greedy little lives to save the only home we have.
In the end, there is just one choice for all of us — do you take the red or the blue pill?