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New study miffed at lack of climate change themes in modern movies

Climate change ‘has a place in every contemporary story’

If it wasn’t bad enough modern Hollywood has foregone actual entertainment in lieu of political correctness, a professor at Colby College wants movies to beat you over the head even more with the “message” — in this case climate change.

According to the Associated Press, Colby’s Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and a team of students (most of whom attend Colby) looked at 250 films from the past decade (which omits gimmes like “The Day After Tomorrow” and “The Thaw“) and found more than 90 percent got a grade of “F” in “climate reality check.”

How that “check” was determined: Does a movie “present a story in which climate change exists,” and is a character aware of it?

Movies set before 2006 or after 2100 were excluded from the study, as were those “not set on Earth.”

For Schneider-Mayerson (pictured), the paucity of films mentioning climate change means viewers are seeing a bogus reality, “a world in which climate change is not happening.”

“We are living through a crisis that touches every aspect of our lives, and therefore has a place in every contemporary story,” the study’s executive summary reads. “Today, films set in the present or near future that do not include climate change can be considered what they are: fantasy.”

MORE: UCLA study: Gay couples at greater risk from climate change

From the story:

Some results were surprising. Movies that at first glance appear to have little overlap with climate or the environment passed the test. “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.

The 2022 whodunnit “Glass Onion” and the 2019 folk horror movie “Midsommar” were others to pass the test. Some that were more explicitly about climate change, such as the 2021 satire “Don’t Look Up,” also passed. But “San Andreas,” a 2015 movie about a West Coast earthquake disaster, and “The Meg,” a 2018 action movie set in the ocean, did not.

Other findings of the study:

— Films that passed the first part of the “climate reality check” were eight percent more profitable than those that didn’t. Films that passed the second part did 10 percent better.

— Streaming services have almost twice as many climate change-related offerings than the “Big Five” Hollywood studios.

— Almost 40 percent of DC Comics films such as “Justice League” and “Aquaman” included references to climate change, whereas less than nine percent of Marvel films did.

— Less than 10 percent of movies showed “climate-friendly actions” such as a “characters riding a bicycles” or a character who “identified as vegan or vegetarian.”

— Just two percent of films had a character who experienced “climate anxiety.”

According to his faculty page, Schneider-Mayerson currently is working on an “ecotopian children’s book” as well as a book on “Americans who are factoring climate change into their reproductive plans and choices.” His listed areas of expertise include “environmental communication,” “reproductive climate concerns,” and  “climate justice.”

MORE: 89% of Ivy League grads support ‘strict’ rationing of gas, meat, electricity to fight climate change

IMAGES: The Bell House/X; Colby College

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.