Disaster flicks like 2012 seem to be the only real source of climate change in film and television. Other than documentaries that are explicitly about the hot-button topic, writers and directors seem to largely shy away from it if it doesn’t involve mass CGI destruction.
Science fiction, however, can bring climate change to life as a topic of discussion in the entertainment world. At this point in our timeline, it’s not exactly possible to have a movie that focuses too much on the issue. Whether it’s because of controversy or people simply not wanting to think about something like climate change while they’re in a movie theatre, the topic really thrives in movies or TV shows that aren’t as heavy-handed in referencing it.
Science fiction allows for less in-your-face approaches to climate change to be possible, mainly because it works really well as an element of the plot.
For instance, Interstellar did an incredible job of referencing the climate while never explicitly talking about it. The sci-fi hit seems to be remembered for its intense story and stunning visuals. Yet, it also can’t be denied that the premise of the plot really centered around a dying Earth with dwindling resources. The genre allows for topics like space exploration to be used for entertainment purposes, all while the idea of our home succumbing to climate change being the spark for the journey into said extraterrestrial territory.
Even in fantasy-driven television series like Game of Thrones, including climate change in ways that aren’t so direct really work in the long run. It was theorized by fans, and eventually confirmed by George R.R. Martin, that the show about dragons and ice monsters can also be seen as a representation of our current political atmosphere and climate change. While the kings and queens are fighting, winter is slowly but surely coming. And, suddenly, it’s an unstoppable force after being ignored for so long and allowed to grow.
Filmmakers can take hints from content like Interstellar or Game of Thrones. While climate change is a bit of a touchy subject these days, it can still be included in film and television if it’s worked into the plot in smart ways. Without being overly preachy, genres like science fiction or fantasy can pave the way for entertainment media to be able to generate discussions that people might not have expected to have.
In the case even of a well-done disaster movie, like The Day After Tomorrow, the climate issues can be hit on with a bit of a heavier hand. Yes, having the father-son duo of Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal couldn’t possibly ever fail. But, if climate change is included in a believable way, that’s important to the movie’s story outside of mere political purposes, audiences can be swayed into liking it. They simply enjoy their entertainment while also subconsciously thinking about the undertones of climate change.
Instead of poorly done CGI-fests of disaster movies, or in-your-face documentaries, smart filmmaking in science fiction can open up immense opportunities for directors and writers. They can allow climate change to be more heavily included in mass entertainment media, a field that desperately lacks much reference to it, mostly for fear of backlash in our current on-edge political climate.
So maybe the next time you’re watching Earth be destroyed by a giant ice storm, you’ll put your popcorn down for a second and think about the possibility of this “dystopian future” maybe not being so far in the future.
Jackson Horvat is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Jackson by tweeting him at @horvatjackson.