Don’t Look Up: It’s the Feedback Loop Stupid – Beyond Climate Change

If there is something that can rip apart the social fabric more than a planet-killing asteroid, it’s the political logic of a plutocracy. This comedy argues that when the superficiality ingrained in the modus operandi of social media and consumerism is insufficient, then dissidents are silenced with harsher methods. Perspectives are not limited to arrogant moralism about the stupidity of the constituency.

The destructive power of a celestial body compares to the rearrangement of social relations, and violence to uphold configurations, which best suits the needs of a greedy ruling clique. The analogy transcends any particular crisis that systemic ineptitude of the current order fails to cope with.

Don’t Look Up manages to balance systemic critique and agency. Although the system has rigid laws of motion mirroring those of nature, idiosyncratic flaws of individuals are there to mess things up even more. More often than not the actors reinforce the logic of the system but in contradictory ways.

It probably is this transcendence, or feedback loop, which makes it a prefect meme to cause chaotic ripples – at least online

Two themes resonate with reality in analogous contradictory ways. (1) The ignorance of the masses coexists with the desire to know more, and (2) superficial celebrities from dreamland reveal supressed desires to make a real stance. Both exist with multiple cross-references within and outside the movie. Interpretations of the movie are partly contingent on the actions of these actors outside the movie, also after release, and these interpretations may in turn inspire actions, which in turn change perceptions of previous interpretations etc.

It probably is this transcendence, or feedback loop, which makes it a prefect meme to cause chaotic ripples – at least online. One of the many manifestations of this phenomenon concerns the viewer. The viewer perceives a simulation/model of itself, which can be challenged or supported by taking a stance in discussions. Incidentally, similar feedback properties are essential for our understanding of the climate crisis. Instead of attempting to describe chaotic patterns in detail I will use two, loosely speaking, contradictions or paradoxes.

Classical example: VIDEO LOOP

(1) If people engage online discussions, there might be a threshold where a considerable part or even a majority is writing quite eloquently, fairly informed or self-aware about the ‘stupid majority’. (2) Considering the amount of movie stars featuring this movie, it may become exceedingly problematic to discard a considerable part of the film industry or celebrities as shallow attention seekers. Timely celebrity activism would challenge such stance, but would invoke a dilemma bigger than Capote’s, as it would undermine one of the main ‘theses’ in the movie.

The heroic act is restricted to stoic pride in trying one’s best within status quo, and face disaster with serenity. Ultimately, a quiet sense of moral superiority vis-à-vis those in power

Both are about feedback but the latter is also about what happens to the rules of the game under an existential threat. I think the movie has some elements of old-fashioned conformist ideology. And this relates to the opening quote of Jack Handey, about preferring to die asleep instead of dying like screaming passengers. By the rationale of the movie, the rules of the game may be altered to the extent some celebrities speak up to a crowd that overslept. But the majority never goes old-school French, i.e. take serious synchronised action, guillotine their oppressors with moral support from beloved stars, and subsequently let a randomly selected citizen blast the threat into pieces.

The heroic act is restricted to stoic pride in trying one’s best within status quo and face disaster with serenity. Ultimately, a quiet sense of moral superiority vis-à-vis those in power.

Rating: 9/10

Published by Manuel Echeverría

Licentiate of Philosophy. Independent Researcher.

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