The Symbolism Behind the Major Film ‘Don’t Look Up’


Keira Welch '25, Writer

‘Don’t Look Up’ is a new movie on Netflix full of A-list actors and actresses such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawernce, Timothee Chalmet, and many more. The movie came to Netflix in December and is categorized as a comedy disaster. In a short summary, the movie is about two astronomers, Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawerance), who find a nine-km-wide comet headed straight for Earth. As the astronomers attempt to warn the public that the world will end in half a year, they are faced with negative reactions and disbelief because of political and economical reasons. On the surface, the plot of the ‘Don’t Look Up’ seems like your classic “end of the world” film. However, this incredible film is actually an environmental and political satire of society today. 

One of the major goals of ‘Don’t Look Up’ was to urge action against climate change. In the movie, when the public and politicians find out there is a comet headed for Earth, the majority of their reactions are to relax and go on with daily life. In the words of the United States President, played by Meryl Streep, they should all “Sit tight and access”. This is a direct jab at society’s attitude toward climate change. As our planet is slowly warming causing temperatures to rise, glaciers to melt, and a rise in droughts and forest fires, society doesn’t care as much as it should. Politicians are not taking action to save our planet leaving us with little time to reverse the effects of climate change. 

One of the main reasons why action is slowed is because of big corporations and people who benefit from climate change. The burning of fossil fuels is the main contributor to global warming, however many people profit from it. These people and corporations are represented through the character Peter Isherwell, played by Mark Rylance. In ‘Don’t Look Up’ the US’ course of action towards the crisis is changed when Isherwell discovers that there are valuable resources found in the comet. Isherwell and the President decide to let the comet hit the Earth in order to obtain and profit off of these resources. This correlates to how these corporations will let the planet and future generations suffer for the right price.

Another societal issue that the movie focused on was political unrest which was increased by social media. When the issue of the comet arose, the nation became divided for political reasons. The President used her platform and power to keep information about the comet and the enormity of the crisis under wraps. She did this using the slogan “Don’t look up!”. When qualified scientists spoke out against her, they were silenced by supporters of the President on social media and peppy talk shows trying to keep the situation light-hearted. This is another jab made to highlight the misinformation we receive through the media and politicians today. 

The director of ‘Don’t Look Up’, Adam McKay, does not believe the movie will solve all of our societal issues but hopes the movie will start up a conversation about them. McKay stated, “I’m under no illusions that one film will be the cure to the climate crisis, but if it inspires conversation, critical thinking, and makes people less tolerant of inaction from their leaders, then I’d say we accomplished our goal.” The film is a great satire and also shows viewers how lucky we are to be living on planet Earth. My personal favorite line from the movie was when Leonardo DiCaprio’s improvised, “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” However, if you don’t want to watch ‘Don’t Look Up’ for its symbolic messages, you could still watch the film to enjoy Jonah Hill and Timothee Chalamet’s hysterical performances!