Don’t Just Look up, Pay Attention

The symbols and metaphors you may have missed in Don’t Look Up

Warning* This article contains spoilers 

‘Don’t Look Up’ follows astronomers Kate Dibiasky, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and Dr. Randall Mindy, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, in their discovery of a “world ending” comet.

Don’t look up or you might see the obvious meaning behind Adam Mckays new satire. Released December fifth, the star-studded movie depicts two astronomers, played by Leonardo Dicaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, who discover a comet heading straight towards the earth threatening the entire world. When the two astronomers try to alert the President of this situation, the President simply tells them to “sit back and assess”, showing no urgency to these life-threatening circumstances. 


The two astronomers take it upon themselves to alert the media and the people by going to newspapers and news shows; however, they find the reaction of the people is similar to that of the President. The audience gets increasingly annoyed with the astronomers as we all wonder “why is no one taking this more seriously? The comet is going to kill everyone.” This is the irony of the entire movie. Now, at first, this movie does not sound all that appealing to the audience; however the further you watch, you see that the “comet crisis”  is quite literally a metaphor for our own “climate crisis.” 


According to the New York Times, McKay, wants the movie to be, “a kick in the pants” that prompts urgent action on climate change. He says he knows the movie won’t solve climate change, but it will inspire awareness, critical thinking, and prompt people to be angrier with political leaders who are inactive. The actors are also just as passionate as McKay on this project. Leonardo DiCaprio took to his social media platforms to urge his almost 20 million followers to start taking action. Jonah Hill, who plays the son of the President (Meryl Streep),  went on the tonight show and encouraged people to advocate for HR 794, the Climate Emergency Act. 


So far, it seems the movie is getting the attention McKay wanted. Already, the movie is one of Netflix’s most popular movies and according to Netflix’s self-reports, it accounted for 152 million hours of viewing in one week. Furthermore, viewers have taken to different social media platforms to talk about their likes/dislikes of the film. Critics have said the problem with the movie is it gives a lot of power to the President. When the President in the movie doesn’t want to do anything about the comet, that is the final call. Whereas in the real world it is a lot more complicated. This can turn into a defeated tone and actually discourage people from taking action. Additionally, the film seems to ignore the fact that the two parties disagreeing so heavily on that topic is actually one of the main reasons that no progress is being made.


Dr. Tayne says “Given the urgency to address the climate crisis, we need widespread action from individual behavior change to collective social action. We should think about the choices we make from what we eat to our transportation habits to our household energy use. It’s critical that we collectively advocate for changing the infrastructure around us to be more ethical and sustainable.”


The film briefly touches on different political views when the character Peter Isherwell is introduced. He is portrayed as a big technology guy, who would rather use the comet for the wealth it would bring, as opposed to saving the Earth. Ishwerwell is allegedly a metaphor for Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg, whose company’s and activities all have a large impact on climate change. Isherwell has a fascination with space and travel which leads to him focusing on profits over the crisis at hand. This is a character that we know all too well. 


Luke Georgeff ‘22 says “personally, I haven’t seen the movie, but I think it’s a really interesting approach to calling for awareness and it’s an issue that proper should pay more attention to.”

Although it has its flaws, ‘Don’t Look Up’ highlights the intensity and frustration of the climate crisis and encourages all of us to pay more attention.

Tech and space travel connoisseur, played by Mark Rylancr, is supposedly a combination of different traits from Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos.