“Don’t Look Up!” and Satirical Extinction

A couple months ago, I found myself watching the 2021 disaster film “Don’t Look Up”. The premise of the movie is that an extinction-level asteroid is hurtling towards an inevitable collision with Earth, and the great minds and governments of the world only have six months to prepare for disaster. The film features a star-studded cast list and is a (in my opinion) pretty hilarious but also deeply reflective satire-comedy.

Don't Look Up's Comet Could Have Been Destroyed, Says Scientists

*** (Summary below, it’s sort of long)

The movie opens with the two main characters, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), a PhD candidate at Michigan State and Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo Dicaprio), her professor, discovering a comet that is unknown to science. Much to their dismay, they actually find out that the comet is on a collision course with earth and will make an impact in six months. At about nine kilometers long, the comet is large enough to cause an extinction-level event on Earth, potentially wiping out humanity. Accompanied by the head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office leader of NASA, the scientists head to Washington DC to formally inform the president, Janie Orlean. Played by Meryl Streep, Orlean’s character is probably meant to be a riff on several modern politicians/the ridiculous nature of modern politics in general, but she most noticeably represents a lot of the more absurd mannerisms of Donald Trump. The scientists spend an entire day waiting in the lobby of the White House as they are informed that the President is busy figuring out how to confirm her Supreme Court nominee who happens to be an ex-porn star. In an effort to get the news out, Dibiasky and Mindy decide that they will take the risk of leaking the news on a popular television show. Much to their horror, they find that the news anchors, so engrossed in the morning talk show gossip, are not really interested in the comet, apparently not grasping the enormity of the incoming event. Finally, the White House makes time for the scientists, and they inform them that they have confirmed their findings and will do anything in their power to prevent the collision of the comet. However, as Dibiasky points out, this meeting takes place on the heels of news that Orlean herself had a sexual affair with the previously mentioned Supreme Court nominee, and the White House is likely looking for something to divert the public’s attention; an incoming extinction-level asteroid being the perfect candidate. Just as the government is about to launch a mission to destroy the comet using nuclear weapons, Jeff Bezos/Elon Musk global billionaire stand-in Peter Irshwell discovers that the comet actually contains trillions of dollars of rare minerals. Suddenly seeing the opportunity for profit, the government partners with BASH (Irshwell’s company) to devise a plan to mine the comet of its valuables while still destroying it before it makes impact. Of course, this new insanely ambitious plan must be drawn up from scratch before the comet makes impact in only a few months. Whether she genuinely believes it or is brainwashed by the pursuit of power and profits, Orlean and the government forge ahead with Irshwell’s plan, which notably, cuts out other major countries in the world, forcing them to create their own missions. Mindy sells out, becoming the face of the government’s propaganda campaign to not be worried about the comet; helping the government create ads praising the incoming comet for the jobs and boundless opportunity it will create. Outcasted and frustrated, Dibiasky starts a campaign begging people to just “look up” as the comet is now so close to earth that it is visible at night. Trying to quell public panic, Orlean responds with her own campaign with the slogan, “Don’t Look Up”; out of sight, out of mind, right? The comet approaches, and the joint non-US mission to destroy the comet blows up, leaving only BASH’s mission left to save humanity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering it was devised in less than six months, BASH’s comet-mining/comet-destroying mission ends up failing, and suddenly it finally hits Orlean and the elites of the world that the collision is inevitable and humanity is doomed. The comet makes impact, and the movie ends, humanity presumably going extinct in the process. 

*** (Summary above, actual analysis below)

I would highly recommend watching this movie on your own because there really is a lot going on and it’s very interesting and quite funny to watch. It may not be the most technically perfect movie, but it’s definitely good for a lot of laughs and some reflection. This brings me to the actual satire of “Don’t Look Up”. Many elements of society from modern politics to the general public’s relationship to science and nature to our TV shows are satirized. Orlean and her completely ridiculous persona are a clear critique of several modern politicians who seem to treat their office as if it is almost some sort of game show. The Supreme Court nominee is definitely a bit absurd, but in modern America, it seems that it is becoming/has become much more possible for traditionally unqualified and generally absurd candidates to arise to occupy our most influential positions of power. Similarly, the president is so engrossed with her approval ratings and her nominee that she lets her politics inform her approach to science, rather than letting science inform her politics, another theme that may seem all too familiar to many Americans. Much like how the president is misguided by the institution of politics, the media is misguided by the need to feed their viewers with the latest gossip on celebrity breakups and fast-paced, easy to understand, dopamine-filled entertainment. The viewer sees that the world of “Don’t Look Up” has devolved into a state where people are unable to process the factual information that is right in front of them. Put simply, the people of “Don’t Look Up” have grossly misidentified the things in the world that are most meaningful and impactful (literally). In this misguided world, people are unable to face reality and the very real and pressing issues that come with it. Dibiasky is eventually driven insane by the fact that people cannot seem to understand that they are literally going to die in six months. 

I think all of this comedic, almost drunken ineptitude ties into the themes that the movie’s satire is trying to communicate. I believe the movie is trying to make a commentary on how modern society has become alienated from nature and basic critical thinking. Watered down by a world full of social media and urbanization, where people can basically live their whole lives surrounded by human institutions and societal constructions, people are losing touch with natural reality. The characters of “Don’t Look Up” are plagued by a modern, anthropocentric world, where six months may simply seem like it’s too far away to really care, where everyone assumes that some smart scientist people will fix the problem, and where the nature of the physical world and our own mortality are taken for granted. People are too busy being concerned about what they’ll do on social media tomorrow, where they’ll party over the weekend, living vicariously through celebrities and influencers, or listening to politicians without any semblance of critical thinking, that they are becoming societal robots, so engrossed in finding profits, power, or meaningless satisfaction in human institutions that they can become complicit in the completely insane “Don’t Look Up” narrative (Or similarly ridiculous campaigns that exist today). I’m not trying to say that all of the above-mentioned things are necessarily bad things to participate in – there’s a lot of wonderful things about the modern world, and for most of us, they’re definitely worth indulging in – however, the film is reminding the audience to stay grounded, remembering there’s a world beyond us and beyond humanity, and what happens there DOES matter. In fact, it matters more than most of us can probably comprehend. We may take for granted our institutions, products, and technology, but the undeniable reality is that we are born into a world that is an incredibly complex, interconnected system. While it is important to focus on ourselves, set personal goals, and strive to live our lives how we desire, we need to remember that we are part of a world where our actions can have impact (for good or bad) and where life is fragile.

The movie has a great moment at the end when there is nothing left for the characters to do other than await the incoming impact. Dr. Mindy remarks, “We really did have everything, didn’t we? I mean, when you think about it”. Facing certain doom, the characters finally realize the things that they had taken for granted. Mortality is a constant in everyone’s life, but the comet is a literal reminder to the characters and the audience that life is temporary and no amount of engrossment in modern, anthropocentric institutions can, or should shield us from that. The comet also reminds us that we have the amazing power to be able to think for ourselves, discover science, and have the potential to solve even the most daunting of challenges. It reminds us to be thankful about what we do have, and to be excited to use it to live in a meaningful way. Tragically, in the film, lust for power, money and brain-deadness, sourced from an obsession with the relatively shallow parts of modern humanity, lays to waste the enlightened side of it. The result is an epic collapse in which humanity pays the ultimate price for its ignorance: extinction.

In this way, the film’s satire means to inspire its viewers: to remember to develop critical thinking skills, to be considerate of science, to stay reasonably well informed with the world around them, and to remember that they can be independent agents of change whether it be on a big or small scale. It also promotes an environmental message, reminding its audience that science only matters if people listen to and act on it.

In conclusion, “Don’t Look Up” is a satirical piece that also uses comedy and a dramatic scenario to promote a message of self-awareness to its audience: do not just exist in the modern world; be an active citizen of our global world, capable of resisting the modern world’s worst temptations in favor of experiencing and improving on its best ones. The movie is reminding its viewer to not just exist passively, but to live zealously, think critically, act with purpose, and live life to its fullest.

America’s Privacy Curtain

The Onion is an online newspaper widely known for its satirical stories. They coin themselves as “America’s Finest News Source,” which is comical. An article that stood out was, “Nation Installs 2,000 Mile Long Privacy Curtain After Mexico Sees It Naked.”

The article mocks former president, Donald Trump’s notorious statement about building a wall on the border of the United States and Mexico. However, in this rendition, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security has declared that a red privacy curtain now spans 2,000 miles long, separating the two countries. In the speech, Mayorkas explains, “Starting today… when America showers, there’s no way Mexico can see,” because that’s the overwhelming concern. This statement is an over-exaggeration and the author’s way of ridiculing Trump and supporters of the wall because when it’s worded this way, it sounds absurd. While the article is criticizing Americans who want the wall for privacy from Mexico, it’s actually highlighting deep-rooted problems within America like racism, anti-immigration and xenophobia.

The final sentence pulls the whole column together, stating, “At press time, the U.S. population had reportedly hopped in the shower, pulled back the privacy curtain, and asked all 129 million Mexican citizens if they liked what they saw.” This flips the script and rather than Americans criticizing Mexicans, the whole population of Mexico now has a voice to express their opinions about America. The author is mocking Americans for being completely self-absorbed, without a care in the world for people outside their country. This piece forces people (Americans) to reflect on themselves by using satire to present some of America’s monumental issues.

Satire of the Rich and the Food Industry in The Menu (2022)

The Menu (2022) captures the snobbery of the upper class and the toxicity of the food industry. The Menu takes place in an exclusive restaurant on an isolated island, with all of the attendants during the film being assumed to be rich aside from the main character, Margo. Margo immediately feels out of place among the rich attendants, and soon finds out from the chef that everyone in the restaurant is going to die by the end of the night. 

The film uses exaggeration when portraying how the restaurant operates. The restaurant feels very cult-ish, with the staff living on a secluded island, and having no life outside of preparing food. Aside from the main chef, the staff all sleep in the same room, and spend all of their waking hours working, whether that be meticulously preparing food, or cultivating ingredients in a precise manner. Restaurants, specifically high-end, ones are filled with constant stress surrounding food. The cult-like portrayal of the restaurant in the film mocks the reality of high-end restaurants’ workplace experiences. 

Furthermore, the dishes being served throughout the film all have their own meaning, but one that really sticks out to me is the breadless bread plate scene. The head chef gives a speech about bread being the food of the common man, and since they aren’t common folk, they will get no bread. Instead, they receive a plate of sauces made for the bread. One table filled with important employees of a tech giant gets frustrated by this and demands bread, due to the restaurants notoriously for their good bread. They are refused bread. The breadless bread plate serves as a metaphor for the rich being unable to exist without the work of the poor. When there is the sauce and no bread, the sauce is useless. The scene serves as a role reversal, with the important rich people being refused something from the chefs and workers, lower than them in status. The role reversal’s purpose is to mock the rich and in a sense, take away their power with food mockery. 


Satire in The Menu

The Menu is a 2022 film directed by Mark Mylod in which a couple travels to a lavish and exclusive restaurant where the famous chef has some sinister surprises as a part of the meal. Here is the trailer:

In the movie, the guests are all extremely affluent people, like a Saveur food critic, an actor, businessmen, and investors. They all seem interested in the status that comes with dining there even more than the actual food itself. The food, however, is in itself a mockery of the absurdity of many fine dining and adventurous restaurants’ menus. One course is a “breadless bread course,” which appears to be just a series of dips. The chef and the workers are also a part of the commentary. The chef is the only one who speaks freely, and when the workers do speak, it is only in response to the chef. The militaristic appearance of the dynamic between the chef and workers is another commentary on the way kitchens are often run. This movie utilizes hyperbole to show the extremity and absurdity of these overly expensive and strictly run restaurants that are used as more of a symbol of status than an actual enjoyable experience by their patrons. The exaggerated working conditions, dishes, and extremity of the ending are all ways the writers are pointing out an actual facet of society. In the end of the movie, the chef announces that all of the customers and staff, including himself, will die at the end of the meal. Again, the extremity serves to highlight the impossible blend of art and commerce and the snobbery of the food industry. While the movie may seem to just mock the rich and the fine dining industry, it also aims to criticize society for change through the sympathy the viewers gain for the characters. The chef has been wrapped into a vicious cycle of forced creativity that has driven him to insanity where he kills himself and everyone else in the restaurant. We also feel bad for the customers that were quite annoying in the beginning. The “no way out” feeling definitely makes the audience think about how entrenched our society is in a status-seeking and money-spending cycle that doesn’t end well for anyone. I really enjoyed this movie and it really made me think.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Satirical Look at American Politics

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of the longest-running sitcoms in history. It follows a group of pub owners called “The Gang” through all their crazy adventures that take place in the streets of Philadelphia. While other American sitcoms follow very likable, morally sound groups of friends, The Gang is made up of some of the worst people to ever exist. Dennis Reynolds is a sociopath who takes pride in manipulating women. His twin sister, Dee Reynolds, does the same with men and insults those around her. There’s Mac, whose full name is Ronald McDonald, and Charlie, who gives little thought to the crazy plans they hatch. Lastly, there’s Frank, the older “father figure” of the group, who mostly just funds whatever scheme The Gang is trying to pull. 

Although the show is beyond insane in terms of what things they do in each episode, they do tackle many political (abortion, gun control, gay marriage) and economic (inflation, The Great Recession, the gas crisis) topics affecting society today with the use of satire. While the characters in the show often have exaggerated takes on these issues, the true message and criticism of society always come out in the end. In an interview with Vice series creator Glenn Howerton, he remarks that “Usually the answer to any extreme political viewpoint is somewhere in the middle, but that’s just not the way we operate. That’s kind of how we are now, two opposing sides screaming at each other and never backing down. It’s horrible for our country, but it’s really fun for our show.” 

A prime example in the show where this viewpoint is set up is in the season 9 episode “Gun Fever Too: Still Hot.” After watching Frank promote the second amendment while pulling out two guns on the local news, the rest of The Gang experience two differing responses. Dennis and Dee immediately start rallying to get ALL guns off these streets and completely abolish them from America. Mac and Charlie team up with Frank and rally to get guns everywhere, even in schools. Neither side has any previous knowledge or has done research about gun rights or gun control. However, they refuse to listen to each other because they are convinced they are completely right while the other side is completely wrong. This is exactly what’s happening in American society today. While having two opposing sides with very exaggerated viewpoints makes a very entertaining plot to watch, it’s horrible for our country because we never seem to make progress on these important issues.  

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia holds a mirror to American society. The Gang is very stubborn and they don’t listen to the rational society around them. They go through each episode and have all these new experiences but they never seem to learn anything from them. While this is a completely fictional tv show, and it may be funny to see people take these extreme viewpoints, it’s not very fun to see them playing out in real life. This show has become a voice for a divided nation, slowly moving toward complete chaos. 

American Psycho or Wall Street’s Biggest Loser?

While the American Psycho (2000) film gained a sort of cult following with all its corporate gore, the original novel by Bret Easton Ellis was actually a dark, satirical commentary on a heavily consumerist and capitalistic society that destroys the morality of those who participate. Ironically enough though, that meaning got lost in a juvenile lack of media literacy.

American Psycho is full of situational and verbal irony, starting in the first few pages with our main character, Patrick Bateman, being described as “the boy next door”. Though, as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that Bateman is anything but, what with his nighttime life that consists of brutally torturing women to death. The novel is full of ridiculous and inane moments including a persistent obsession with brand names, business cards, and Donald Trump. Verbal irony, for example, is shown in moments such as when in a club, Bateman is talking to a woman who asks him what he does for a living. He says “murders and executions” right to her face, but the woman too wrapped up in her own materialistic world believes he said “mergers and acquisitions”.

While there are several running jokes throughout the novel, the most prevalent one is the joke that all corporate yuppies look and act the same, which is humorous, but largely serves as a critique of that culture; Bateman is able to get away with everything he does because no one notices or cares. Coworkers are frequently mistaken for other coworkers, friends for other friends, and so forth but Bateman, to our knowledge, is the only character that notices and we watch as he devolves into an extreme obsession with fitting in while also spiraling into increasingly violent crime.

A majority of the irony in American Psycho is that Bateman, in his attempt to fit in, seem cool to his peers, and exert his hatred and masculinity onto lower-class women, actually is one of literature’s biggest losers. Bateman is so obsessed with the image he’s putting out that he actually has no sense of self at all, opting to define his character by the thread count of his Valentino jackets.

The original intention of the novel was to critique America’s capitalistic culture that is devoid of all morality but unfortunately, the film essentially destroyed nearly all chances of it doing so. Given that the novel is largely psychological, it is hard to get the essence of American Psycho to accurately translate to a screen, even if the movie is well made. Bret Easton Ellis himself said that “American Psycho was a book I didn’t think needed to be turned into a movie” because the novel functioned amazingly well as a satire and dark comedy, but could not be made into a movie without turning into the very mindset it was critiquing.

The Irony in Parents Trick Child into eating vegetables by hitting him?


In the Onion an article called Parents “Trick Child Into Eating More Vegetables By Hitting Him If He Doesn’t Eat Vegetables” explains how two parents hit their kid to make him eat his vegetables. In Dayton, Ohio it explains how the parents think they have found the best solution to having his kid eat his vegetables. They decide to hit their kid on the back of the head if he decides to not eat his vegetables. Their explanation to hitting his is so that he is more inclined to eat the vegetables than to “endure the thrashing”. They would tell their son that if they ate the essentials for growing up and to become strong enough he would be able to fight back.

The Irony to this story is that the parents aren’t supposed to be hitting their kids to become stronger. The parents are seemed to be thrashing their son because he is not eating vegetables but in reality the fact is that this doesn’t happen on a normal basses. Beating a kid over not eating vegetables is very unreasonable and it is Irony because it shows the dramatic response for not eating vegetables. Beating a kid is very out of line which would make the irony dramatic.

This article in the Onion shows the dramatic response from a parent doing something that some don’t even believe needs disciplinary actions. It also shows the opposite of what a parent should be treating their child. In the article it says that they have found a good tactic of getting their son to do what they think is right. Which is doing it by hitting him which is the opposite putting a child in pain and forcing them to do something isn’t right and they will resent you. Which is what the article is portraying because at the end it says when they grow up they will be able to defend themselves. Which isn’t a correct relationship to have between a child and a parent. The parent should love and take care of the kid they put into the world and not put them in pain and have them protect themselves from them.