Hollywood Movies

Hollywood movies fail to reflect climate change crisis: Study

May 28, 20243 Mins Read

Portland: The vast majority of Hollywood movies have failed to reflect the current climate change crisis, according to a new study.

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The Associated Press (AP) reported that the study conducted by researchers found that most of the Hollywood blockbusters failed the “climate reality check” proposed by the authors, who surveyed 250 movies from 2013 to 2022.

The test is simple — the authors looked to see if a movie presented a story in which climate change exists, and whether a character knows it does. One film that passed the test was the 2017 superhero movie ‘Justice League’, in which Jason Momoa’s Aquaman character says, “Hey, I don’t mind if the oceans rise” to Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne.

But most movies fell short — fewer than 10 per cent of the 250 films passed, and climate change was mentioned in two or more scenes of fewer than 4 per cent of the films. That is out of touch with a movie-going public that wants “to see their reality reflected on screen,” said Colby College English professor Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, lead researcher on the study.

“The top line is just that the vast majority of films, popular films produced over the last 10 years in the United States, are not portraying the world as it is,” Schneider-Mayerson said. “They are portraying a world that is now history or fantasy — a world in which climate change is not happening.”

Researchers at Maine’s Colby College published the study in April along with Good Energy, a Los Angeles-based environmental consultancy. The results were peer-reviewed, and the authors are seeking publication in scientific journals. The researchers view the test as a way for audience members, writers and filmmakers to evaluate the representation of climate change on screen.

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.

The authors narrowed the selection of movies by excluding films not set on Earth or set before 2006 or after 2100. They found streaming services had a higher percentage of movies that included climate change than the major studios did.

The study is “valuable for marketing purposes, informational purposes, data accumulation,” said Harry Winer, director of sustainability at the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. Winer, who was not involved in the study, said it could also help serve as an incentive to connect audiences with climate stories.

“The audience will be more open to hearing a dialogue about what is right and what is wrong,” Winer said. “It’s a conversation starter.”

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