Subtitle: The movie is better and more fun if you don't narrowly read it as about climate change

Matt Yglesias wrote a review/political commentary about Don't Look Up, in which he talks about how it functions as an allegory for x-risks in general, not just climate change, and namedrops The Precipice. He concludes: "Do look up." This piece is free to read online in full.

Here's the introduction:

“Don’t Look Up” is a fascinating cultural document. Adam McKay (who wrote and directed it), David Sirota (the leftist media personality and former Bernie Sanders staffer who shares a story credit with McKay), and star Leonardo DiCaprio all say that it’s a satirical film about climate change. But I’ve rarely seen such distance between the clearly stated intent of the authors and a plain reading of the text itself, which is that it’s a Covid-inspired satire about humanity’s response to risks that — unlike climate change — materialize suddenly and cause massive and rapid harms.

If you insist on listening to the creators and seeing it as about climate, then while you might appreciate a few moments, I think you’ll mostly be annoyed and then start saying “but it’s not even funny” blah blah blah.

But that’s not the only way to read a text.

In policy terms, there’s not some sharp tradeoff between taking steps to minimize the risks of climate catastrophe and taking steps to minimize other kinds of catastrophes, and I don’t love framings that put it that way. But the use of a story about a comet collision as a metaphor for climate change — which I actually think works really well as a direct lesson about the risk of a comet hitting the planet as depicted in the film — struck me as funny. And I really encourage people to watch it with an open mind and see it as part of the cinema of existential risk and not just quibble about climate change.

Meanwhile, I will quibble.


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