Can Works Like ‘Don’t Look Up’ Get Us Out of Our Heads?

Next month, Hulu will premiere the mini-series “Pam & Tommy,” a fictionalized account of the release of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s personal sex tape, which was stolen from their home in 1995 and sold on what was then called the “World Wide Web.” The show presents the tape as helping the web become more mainstream by appealing to base human compulsions — an on-ramp to what would lie ahead.

The pandemic has sent us further down this rabbit hole in pursuit of distraction, information, connection, all the while we try to shake that sense of impending doom.

At one point in “Inside,” while curled up in the fetal position on the floor under a blanket surrounded by jumbles of cords — an image worthy of a pandemic-era time capsule — Burnham, his eyes closed, ruminates on the mess we’re in.

I don’t know about you guys, but, you know, I’ve been thinking recently that, you know, maybe allowing giant digital media corporations to exploit the neurochemical drama of our children for profit — you know, maybe that was a bad call by us. Maybe the flattening of the entire subjective human experience into a lifeless exchange of value that benefits nobody, except for, you know, a handful of bug-eyed salamanders in Silicon Valley — maybe that as a way of life forever, maybe that’s not good.

In “Don’t Look Up,” the chief “bug-eyed salamander,” a Steve Jobs-like character and the third richest man on the planet, is almost completely responsible for allowing the comet to collide with Earth; his 11th-hour attempt to plumb the rock for trillions of dollars worth of materials fails. In the end, he and a handful of haves escape on a spaceship, leaving the remaining billions of have-nots to die.

Juxtaposed with Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men on Earth, launching into space on his own rocket last year — a trip back-dropped by pandemic devastation (and a passing blip on the cultural radar) — is beyond parody … almost.

Near the end of “Don’t Look Up,” Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, an awkward astronomer turned media darling, delivers an emotional monologue. Staring into the camera, he implores: “What have we done to ourselves? How do we fix it?” Funny. We were just asking ourselves the same thing.

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