“Don’t Look Up”: Insulting, Arrogant, Incompetent…But Revealing!

Now we have an all-star movie to graphically illustrate the critical life-skill principle that bias makes you stupid. It is “Don’t Look Up,” the creation of once-clever writer-director Adam McKay, who was responsible for some of the funnier Will Farrell movies before he decided that woke politics was his destiny. He recruited a glittering list of outspoken Hollywood progressives (Leonardo Di Caprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, etc.) to mouth the script of his insufferably smug satirical allegory about “climate change denial.” Did anyone involved with this movie actually think anything in it was funny? I find that difficult to believe. It is so obvious from the start that we are in for a politically motivated rant by people who just aren’t anywhere near as smart as they think they are, including McKay.

The tell is that the main character is played by DiCaprio, is one of Tinseltown’s most prominent “We’re all going to die!” climate change hysterics, so you know what’s coming from the second you realize what he’s doing. See, Leonardo plays a scientist who figures out (with a crucial assist from graduate student Lawrence) that a big comet is hurtling toward a direct collision with the Earth, and that all life will be wiped out as a result. The certainty is 100%, and there is a little more than six months before it’s dinosaur time for the human race. Aha! The actor is joining McKay to make an analogy between an unequivocal existential threat, the familiar “huge space object is about to destroy the planet’ plot behind blockbuster films like “Sudden Impact” and “Armageddon,” and the materially different problem of global warming, which whatever happens is definitely not going to destroy life on Earth or human civilization. It is also a theoretical threat far, far from “100% certainty,” though people like McKay won’t accept that, and believe anyone who does is a moron determined to kill us all.

So the film’s premise is intentionally dishonest (or stunningly ignorant), designed to scare anyone who is foolish enough to buy its conceit, or produce knowing head nods from the woke zombies who don’t know anything about climate science but really like the messengers (who also don’t know much) who spout the doomsday scenario. Smug is never funny, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more smug movie in my life. Moreover, smug without justification is nauseating, and that’s what you get throughout the entire movie.

Some of the blurbs hyping the film have the audacity to compare it favorably with “Dr. Strangelove…,” which I would say is eequivilent to ranking “Muscle Beach Party” with “The Searchers.” Kubrick’s classic was funny and alarming because it showed recognizable types, exaggerated comically but not absurdly, making bad decisions through recognizably human instincts, culminating in disaster. In “Don’t Look Up,” to site on of dozens of examples, DiCaprio and Lawrence go on a “Fox and Friends” style happy talk news show (the female co-host is Fox News blonde) where they are limited to a handful of minutes to explain their cataclysmic discovery, and the fatuous hosts continue to joke, giggle and go off on tangents without focusing on the topic at hand: the end of the world. McKay’s message, of course, is that Fox News is journalism by morons for morons. (CNN thinks “Don’t Look Up” is terrific.) Later, we hear about a poll in which over 20% of the respondents say they don’t believe there is a comet, though there are photographs. Isn’t that exactly like the conservatives who don’t believe human beings are causing climate change? OK, similar? Sort of the same thing? No, no, and no.

Wrote McKay this week on his Twitter feed, “Loving all the heated debate about our movie. But if you don’t have at least a small ember of anxiety about the climate collapsing (or the US teetering) I’m not sure Don’t Look Up makes any sense. It’s like a robot viewing a love story. “WHy ArE thEir FacEs so cLoSe ToGether?”

Oh yes, about the “U.S. teetering”: “Don’t Look Up” is also a “Trump will destroy democracy and the world!” movie. Streep, at her lazy worst, plays a stunningly stupid POTUS completely focused on holding power and unable to grasp the importance of the information Lawrence and DiCaprio bring her. Her son (Hill) is the snotty, unqualified Chief of Staff (Get it?) and the President is preoccupied with a scandal because she has nominated for the Supreme Court a non-lawyer who, reporters just discovered, engaged in Anthony Weiner-style sex conduct. Yeah, that’s exactly like what Trump did by nominating Brett Kavanagh. Hearing the two scientists explain how an extinction event is certain absent some kind of intervention, the President schedules an event to take place in seven months. Once polling shows that she can raise her approval rating by saving the world, Streep recruits an old macho retired astronaut to lead the rescue effort, and he spouts sexist and bigoted wise cracks as he’s excused because “he’s from another generation.”

It’s hilarious! Well, it’s hilarious if you’re Trump Deranged, in the same way 10-year-olds find playground bullies beating up the Jewish kid hilarious. The whole film is like that: the idea is to insult, stereotype and savage all the people who disagree with the wise and superior ones making the film. Even some of the film critics inclined to approve of McKay’s obsession are acknowledging that this approach isn’t particularly funny. “In the end, McKay isn’t doing much more in this movie than yelling at us, but then, we do deserve it,” says New York Times critic Manohla Dargis. We deserve a smug, unfunny, hysterical and partisan satire! Concludes NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben, “…it is not that I’m criticizing the impulse to make a cathartic scream-cry of a movie about climate change because plenty of people feel that way, and I can’t blame them.”

Rolling Stone’s critic, the aptly named David Fear, nailed it, however, writing:

“Don’t Look Up” is a blunt instrument in lieu of a sharp razor, and while McKay may believe that we’re long past subtlety, it doesn’t mean that one man’s wake-up-sheeple howl into the abyss is funny, or insightful, or even watchable. It’s a disaster movie in more ways than one. Should you indeed look up, you may be surprised to find one A-list bomb of a movie, all inchoate rage and flailing limbs, falling right on top of you.

Predictably McKay, along with David Sirota, the former Bernie Sanders speechwriter who co-wrote the story, and progressive pundits are calling anyone who criticizes the movie “climate change deniers.” This is emblematic of why the movie is almost as useful as it is lousy. One could hardly find a more throbbingly neon piece of evidence to show how hateful, single-minded, obsessed, and intolerant of any dissent these people are—“these people” being the McKays, DiCaprios, Streeps, and anyone who applauds this movie. They aren’t interested in persuading, or even entertaining. They want to vilify, denigrate, intimidate  and, ultimately punish their opposition, who happen to be their fellow citizens.

Who is the real existential threat to democracy?

26 thoughts on ““Don’t Look Up”: Insulting, Arrogant, Incompetent…But Revealing!

  1. Many of my liberal online acquaintances have been gushing about the film. You have spared me any temptation to see what they liked about it – and I truly appreciate it. Happy New Year to you and your family – both two- and four-legged.

      • Just talked about this movie with friends a few minutes ago. None of us could finish it. How we lasted as long as we did we don’t know.

        I hope Netflix tracks people quitting and judges accordingly.

        While I had low expectations going in, I still can’t believe how dreadful the whole thing was. Not a single well drawn character.

        You could have stopped early and saved yourself too.

      • I kind of enjoyed it, but I never made the connection to global warming. After all, situations involving predictions on the basis of Newtonian physics are far more reliable than any predictions in a chaotic system. There is no valid analogy (Jack’s point). I am far more concerned about the effect of an asteroid collision than I am of global warming.

        You take that away, and it is a pretty scathing satire. News punditry is idiotic. To me, the news program was generic or not obviously Fox. The red and white motif reminded me more of CNN. There was no couch (which would have really driven Fox home). Kate Blanchett reminded me of Mika Brzinski.

        The politicians were short-sighted poll watchers.

        The citizenry were easily polarized.

        Social media was prevalent in dumbing down civic discourse.

        And the foil-mouthed old guy. People pretty much accepted him as a relic from the older generation. That sounds like a conservative response. There were no attempts to “cancel” him. Maybe that is my bias. I thought the humor was in the “inappropriate old man” stereotype, not a satirízation of conservatives who tolerate such things.

        The “smart” people had kind of Midwestern conservatives values. While Leo was corrupted by the glitzy cult-of-personality of fame (Fauci anyone?), he came to his senses eventually and returned to his family.

        There is a point in the end where, in my view, Evangelical Christianity is given a respectable treatment.

        This is not to dispute Jack’s analysis. If McKay said it was about global warming, I guess it is. But, it is to suggest that maybe McKay was not as smart as he thought he was. His movie is as much of a serious indictment the Left as it is of the Right. Apparently, he does not realize that.

        -Jut

  2. Husband watched it the other day. I heard enough in the background to know that this was climate change hysteria disguised as satire and not even funny satire.

    I had to point out to him that it didn’t matter that Streep’s character had a photo of herself with Bill Clinton. She was a populist, buzzword-spouting opportunist with an ignorant redneck base wearing the equivalent of MAGA hats. It doesn’t matter how nonpartisan they claim this is, she was clearly a Trump stand-in. After a night to think it over, he agreed.

    Of course, advocacy posing as entertainment is not new, but the cardinal sin of being unfunny can’t be overlooked.

    Ok, I did enjoy Streep being eaten by a dinosaur.

    Typical Hollywood arrogance. Insult half your audience and then claim they don’t like your movie because they’re stupid. Americans are tired of being lectured and condescended to when they watch a film.

    • I would have enjoyed that if it wasn’t so clear that Streep was a stand-in for Trump, and this was one more example of Kathy Griffin/Central Park-style deathwishing on a living former President.

      • I had the same problem with “Wonder Woman 1984”. The main villain was so obviously based on Trump that it threw me emotionally out of the movie and I resented sitting through the rest of it.

  3. Sounds like “Don’t Look Up” is a “box office ‘smash’” in the making. I’m with Arthur in Maine: thanks for sparing us …including from wasting 2 minutes on a trailer.

  4. As far as propaganda films go, I’ll take Alexander Nevsky any day, better drama, better musical score, better action and it has some historical significance. I could joke and say that if I wanted to be yelled at for two hours, I’d just get married, then I’d get yelled at for two hours every day, sometimes more, for any reason or no reason, but that’s just as bad a stereotype or collection of stereotypes as this.

    The only good thing to come out of this is a clear illustration of the workings of the liberal/leftist mind. Maybe I’ll stick with leftist, since there are still a (dwindling) number of sane liberals. From a look at this, the leftist mindset can be set forth as follows:

    1. We’re always right, anyone who disagrees with us is wrong.
    2. The party line is always right, anyone who deviates from the party line is either stupid or bad.
    3. Climate change is real, it’s a major danger, anyone who says otherwise is a denier, and either stupid or bad.
    4. Black lives are in extra and special danger because of systemic racism, anyone who says otherwise is an open racist and very bad.
    5. All white people are racists, even if they don’t say it or act on it. This creates a lien on them to be actively anti-racist by doing whatever we say. Anyone who declines to do so is a racist.
    6. All men, but especially white men, are rapists in waiting. This creates an obligation on them to do whatever we tell them. If they refuse, they are open sexist pigs.
    7. The United States is in danger from the far right within. For the moment we have avoided that danger by booting a dangerous demagogue and stopping a major insurrection, but the danger is still very real.
    8. The summer of 2020 was not an insurrection. It was justified protest against a racist system that has stood for far too long. Only 7% of the protests were violent, usually in response to police brutality. Anyone who disagrees is a white supremacist.
    9. The greatest danger from within other than white supremacy is the culture of law enforcement that promotes suspicion of anyone not white, a tendency to use force first and ask questions later, and a tendency to ask forgiveness after acting rather than permission to act. Anyone who disagrees is a copsucker.
    10. Traditional heroes are to be judged only on their flaws, our designated martyrs are to be judged only on their sufferings. Anyone who tries to defend a traditional hero or point out that one of our designated martyrs was less than a saint is a racist and white supremacist.
    11. Educational professionals, not parents, are the primary determiners of what is to be taught in the public schools. If parents object, then they are either stupid, bad, or racist.
    12. The offended observer is the standard when determining what can be displayed, said, or sung, but only if the observer is from our side. If someone from the other side claims offense, too bad, they’re wrong.
    13. Donald Trump was not the Antichrist, we don’t believe in such things, but he was something very close. Anyone who supports him is a presumed racist and bad person.
    14. The election of 2020 was completely on the up-and-up and in fact the most secure ever, anyone who says differently is racist, a bad person, and a conspiracy theorist to boot.
    15. The right to free speech does not extend to the spreading of misinformation or hate speech as we define it, and the various social media platforms do us a service by making sure it does not get out there. Disagree and you are a conspiracy theorist and spreader of misinformation.
    16. The right to keep and bear arms is supposed to be limited to law enforcement, the military, and the state militia, i.e. the national guard et al. Until the constitution changes to reflect this more clearly, the best way to limit arms ownership is through burdensome paperwork requirements and denial of requested permits through exercise of discretion which is not subject to review or appeal. If you have a problem with this, you are a white supremacist and a gun fetishist as well as a potential insurrectionist.
    17. It is racist to require an ID to vote. This is not up for discussion. Disagree and you are a racist.
    18. Women have the absolute right to terminate a pregnancy at any time up to birth. This is not up for discussion. Disagree and you are a sexist.
    19. The various court systems are only legitimate so long as they continue to put the stamp of approval on our policies. The moment they rule against us at any level, they become illegitimate. Disagree and you are both stupid and bad.
    20. The various governments at all levels are only legitimate so long as we control them. The moment we lose control they become illegitimate. See #19.
    21. It is perfectly all right for us to redraw election maps to our liking, since what we are doing is protecting against racism. It is wrong for the other side to do the same, since what they are doing is protecting their own power. Disagree and you are a racist.
    22. It is wrong that California and Wyoming have the same level of representation in the Senate. It is also wrong that the president is chosen by electoral college and not direct popular vote. All levels of government should be strict majority rule. Disagree and you are a racist and defender of minority rule and privilege.
    23. It is wrong that more than a simple majority is required in the Senate to move legislation, especially social and voting legislation. There needs to be an end to the filibuster. If control of the Senate is likely to flip, we can restore it before we go out of power, since we represent more people than the other side. Disagree and you are a racist and defender of minority rule and privilege.
    24. Obama was a saint and the greatest president since FDR. He only did not accomplish more because the GOP was obstructionist. Disagree and you are a racist.
    25. The time has passed for us to try to persuade or work with the other side. At this point it’s force them into compliance or eliminate them.

  5. Ah, here we are with climate change.

    There is one very simple solution to the “climate crisis”.

    All we have to do is throw enough debris and smoke into the air that it would block heat-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing temperatures to plunge.

    That we did not do so already proves that their real problem is with Western industrial civilization, that their problem is that working-class and middle-class Americans live too well.

  6. Just finished watching the movie. The climate change denial aspect is definitely the topic of this satire. I found it quite funny, how at a later point in the movie, the “Just look Up” HQ office looks like a political campaign HQ office, with lots of blue posters and etc. A little analogy for who the good guys are, huh. But otherwise, the movie has smug vibes. It was kind of a cri du coeur for political Twitter rants, Trump derangement and Green New Deal. I wouldn’t have been surprised to have Bernie or AOC to jump in and promote Build Back Better. Would have totally fit the vibe. I thought the actors played well, with the script they got. I did like the side stories of celebrity as a corrupting force, the importance of family, forgiveness.

  7. Not that I think Ann Althouse is any kind of authority on satire or movies generally, but I was gratified to see her call “Don’t Look Up” “badly written and badly directed” this morning.

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