Most Hollywood Flicks Fail a 'Climate Reality Check'

New research shows that majority of films don't accurately reflect current climate crisis
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 2, 2024 2:50 PM CDT
Most Hollywood Flicks Fail a 'Climate Reality Check'
This image shows Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky in a scene from "Don't Look Up."   (Niko Tavernise/Netflix via AP)

Aquaman may not mind if the oceans rise, but moviegoers might. That's one of the takeaways from a new study conducted by researchers who set out to determine if today's Hollywood blockbusters are reflective of the current climate crisis. The vast majority of movies failed the "climate reality check" proposed by the authors, who surveyed 250 movies from 2013 to 2022, per the AP. The test is simple: The authors looked to see if a movie presented a story in which climate change exists, and whether a character knows it does. One film that passed the test was the 2017 superhero movie Justice League, in which Jason Momoa's Aquaman character says, "Hey, I don't mind if the oceans rise" to Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne. But most movies fell short—fewer than 10% of the 250 films passed, and climate change was mentioned in two or more scenes of fewer than 4% of the films.

That's out of touch with a moviegoing public that wants "to see their reality reflected on screen," said Colby College English professor Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, lead researcher on the study. "The top line is just that the vast majority of films, popular films produced over the last 10 years in the United States, are not portraying the world as it is," he added. Researchers at Maine's Colby College published the study in April along with Good Energy, a Los Angeles-based environmental consultancy. The results were peer reviewed, and the authors are seeking publication in scientific journals. The study authors said they see the climate reality check as a kind of Bechdel-Wallace Test for climate change.

The authors narrowed the film selection by excluding those not set on Earth, or set before 2006 or after 2100. Surprisingly, Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach's emotive 2019 drama about the collapse of a relationship, passed the test in part because Adam Driver's character is described as "energy conscious," Schneider-Mayerson said. But San Andreas, a 2015 movie about a West Coast earthquake disaster, and The Meg, a 2018 action movie set in the ocean, didn't pass the test. The study is "valuable for marketing purposes, informational purposes, data accumulation," says NYU's Harry Winer, who wasn't involved with the study. More here.

(More Hollywood stories.)

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