The audiences loving (& hating) Don’t Look Up

The audiences loving (& hating) Don’t Look Up

  • Media

6th January 2022


This year's top Christmas movie wasn't Love Actually (actually), or Die Hard. Audiences instead tuned in to Netflix to watch climate disaster movie Don't Look Up, before taking to social to share their reactions.


But while critics had very mixed reviews, audiences were at large more receptive to the film. Using Pulsar TRAC to map different associations and instances of positive or negative language, we can see that the audience reaction was some degrees warmer. 



Delving a little deeper into this reaction, we find positivity from media folk who sit outside the traditional centres of broadcasting:



As well as amplification of the critics who do profess admiration via likes or retweets:



The film's entry into the wider discourse around the climate crisis, and the cast's advocacy for change in their accompanying press, also meant that the movie was frequently judged as an artefact within a wider struggle, rather than simple entertainment, for better: 



And for worse:


So who was contributing to this discussion? We split the conversation between positive and negative, to observe the differences and commonalities between these two groups. 

Within this conversation we see various communities that belong to one side or the other, some expected (US Conservatives), others less so (South African Astrologers). One immediately obvious aspect is the existence of very similar communities on either side of the divide. 

In the case of movie buffs, represented on one side by Nintendo & A24 Dudes and the other by Cinephiles, the conversation is driven by metatextuality and comparisons, with judgement likely to depend on the perceived quality of the filmmaking and execution. 



In the case of the Socialist groups seen within both the Positive and Negative conversation, debate was more centred on the issues raised, with contentions arising over whether the movie's politics were misplaced, naive or timely.

As an aside, this group appears to have quickly co-opted the movie and its message as a meme or shorthand within other, unrelated conversations: 



Beyond who's having the conversation, there's also the matter of what, exactly it is that's driving conversation.


In addition to acknowledging the presence and performance of a starry cast that included Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep, this mode of analysis also indicates that word of mouth was regarded as more important than critic reviews in this instance.
Believability is also cited as a factor - if not in the sometimes elevated set-pieces, then certainly in the attitudes and values portrayed.
Whether Don't Look Up can affect any real change is up for debate, but early indications are that it's had a more positive impact than early critical responses might have suggested.
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