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Rennie Parker: Fact vs. Fiction & Eco-Anxiety in Film (OGT Intergenerational Series - Essay #4)

At OneGreenThing, one of our goals is to stop talking AT younger generations and to encourage everyone to listen TO younger generations, from 20-something Millennials to Gen Z and Gen Alpha, the generations who will inherit the Earth. As part of our countdown to the release of our CEO & Founder Heather's debut book, One Green Thing: Discover Your Hidden Power to Help Save the Planet, we are releasing a series of essays by members of Gen Z. We are so grateful for their willingness to share their stories and lend their voices to the mission of "saving our sanity & the planet."

By Rennie Parker

Movies rock. This is something everyone can agree on.

People are entranced by the possibilities and alternate realities shown on the silver screen; we make quizzes identifying to characters, we write fanfics inserting ourselves into the narrative, we make fan pages for the newest love-of-our-life movie stars, and we spend years of our lifetime watching superheroes and wizards and larger than life events playing out from the comfort of our couches.

Movie makers know just how powerful their content is. In the past few decades, movies have been used as a platform to highlight issues, make political statements, and start movements.

Climate change has been one of these issues; the versatility of the topic gives it endless cinematic possibilities through the array of scientific ideologies and technologies, known causes, and varied effects.

The problem with writing about climate change through movies, though, is the thin veil (or screen) between science fiction and reality to those of us who are not climatologists. In many movies, the disasters are hyperbolized for the sake of dramatics, but to us viewers who are left wondering where the fiction of the premise stops and reality begins, this can create the ever-feared eco-anxiety in these masses of audiences.

The 2007 Dreamworks film The Bee Movie is one that sticks out to me; after rewatching recently with a critical eye, I realized many holes in the science behind the plot. For the sake of the film’s pace and appeal to audiences, the effects of a world without bees were greatly exaggerated and framed as irreversible. To children watching, this movie translates to reality without any question and gives them worries based on fantastical liberties with the writing.

The 2004 film Day After Tomorrow also does this. Middle-school-me finished watching feeling panicked and hopeless. I had the paralyzing fear that the emissions from one car ride would be enough to send the world into a doomsday Ice Age. It took years for me to watch it again, and another rewatch to ask myself– and Google– just how based in reality the plot is. The simple answer is that it’s not.

These films are dangerous to those of us that already struggle with eco-anxiety, but by acknowledging that these are simply actors on a set with no paid consulting scientists, we can take a breath and enjoy films for what they are: fiction.

Intern Rennie Park is a recent graduate of Salem Academy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


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