don't look up

Image: Regina Silveira


Comment on the film, recently released in Brazil, directed by Adam McKay

We are constantly bombarded by cinema with purely Manichean works, in which the relevant social relations boil down to the struggle of good against evil. Real social relationships, the private appropriation of the social product that results from such relationships, or the paradoxical type of sociability and the social ills derived from them, are at most motives for documentaries for a specialized audience. In the works of the great circuit, evil is evil, that is, everything that is suffering, misery, destruction, among so many other social ills, exists because it exists and, in the end, there is only one way to fight: to wait for good in the form of an enlightened being, of a super hero.

In many of these works, evil is almost always associated with something outside the human being (a paranormal entity, an alien being, the forces of nature, etc.). When evil comes from the human being, it is usually associated with some kind of trauma in childhood (violence, abandonment, etc.), which triggers actions of unspeakable violence, which are exposed to us on screen as something that could even happen. (if…). Regardless of the type of evil, in the end, humanity always deserves a second chance, because when everything seems lost, a feeling of unconditional love, as the foundation of human life, resurfaces to rescue us from fatality (something like where there is life, there is hope regardless the size of the damage). This way, it shatters two great illusions with just one asteroid: of technology as a lifeline for humanity; and our idyllic start on a new planet.

In general, this is the representation of the world that has always been presented to us, of how it works. Its implications, when observed from the perspective of capitalist historical work as a whole, are socially and psychologically devastating: it prevents the existence of a communitarian logic (the individual is always placed as more important than the collective); it places the social organization as something external to the human being; and turns the latter into a type of puppet (obedient and subservient as a being in the world of capital), under penalty of unleashing the forces of evil against himself.

Nothing against entertainment, everything against alienation and its dehumanizing implications. These alienated manifestations of social relations (economic structure) are intrinsic to the very form of reproduction of capitalism as a social totality. This alienation can only be overcome, as Marx warns us in the item “Fetishistic character of the commodity and its secret”, from Book I of The capital, “[…] when the daily relationships of practical life present themselves daily to men as transparent and rational relationships that they establish with each other and with nature […]”.

So, in general, cinema is an expression of this process of alienation. However, there is also critical thinking in this field and, from time to time, it finds intelligent ways to reveal itself even in the context of major productions. Including showing how difficult it is to establish reality and its consequences in the context of a completely alienated society. This is the case of the movie don't look up, by director and screenwriter Adam McKay, released in December 2021.

A cinematographic interpretation that brilliantly summarizes the contemporary dilemmas of capital society, although it still does not descend to the floor of the social relations of production. The motto of the work could be anything, but perhaps to have wide public acceptance (or just for fun) he chose the collision of a large asteroid with the earth. Already, from the beginning, science is presented to us in two ways. In the first, scientific research as activities that seek to understand the universe and its functioning for what they really are.

In the second, science, especially information technologies, as an instrument of incessant capital accumulation and social domination (the use of children in the presentation of a commodity and the treatment given to them away from the public eye is quite symbolic) . In the film, as in our world, the mass media serves for everything but to inform. The news of an imminent disaster told by the scientists themselves in the national media, when they were not taken seriously by the President of the United States, receives less importance than that of the termination of a couple of influencers or presidential elections.

However, saving the land later presents itself as an excellent campaign platform for the president's re-election. Finally, a plan of the first form of science is put in place to deflect the comet. However, capital sees in the comet an opportunity for profit, annuls the previous plan, overrides the government and society and imposes its technological solution (technology as the redeemer of all our ills). His plan is to wait for the meteor to approach the earth, explode it into smaller fragments and collect its precious resources for business purposes, regardless of the threat this measure poses to humanity.

We have here, clearly, an example of domination and manipulation of capital over institutions (government, science and society), such as the melting of democracy in the real world. As always, the argument of big capital is that society will be favored with the generation of jobs, from the economic exploitation of the asteroid. So, not looking up is a way to meet the wishes of capital. Even more, to call on all of society to despise anyone who thinks differently, thus establishing the irrationality of the contemporary debate, expressed in the polarity don't look up/look up, or in our reality, left/right. Irrationality because a debate that is based on an alienated, denialist pole, impregnated by the daydreams of capital and directed by it. What remains for science, true science in this world? The end of the film could not be more revealing in this regard.

Finally, the main point of the film, even if it is a mere mockery, is to show how big capital personified privately appropriated institutions, including the State, establishing a paradoxical society from the end of the XNUMXth century onwards, because at the same time asocial, ahistorical and apolitical.

*José Micaelson Lacerda Morais is a professor in the Department of Economics at URCA. Author, among other books, of Capitalism and the revolution of value: apogee and annihilation.



don't look up (Don't Look Up)
USA, 2021, 145 minutes.
Directed by: Adam McKay
Screenplay: Adam McKay and David Sirota
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance.


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