Science communication in the face of skepticism, populism, and ignorance: What Don’t Look Up tells us about science denial — and what it doesn’t

Abstract

‘Don’t Look Up’ tells the story of a team of astrophysicists whose efforts to warn politicians, media makers, and the public about an apocalyptic comet impact on planet Earth are undermined by fundamental skepticism toward their expertise. On the one hand, the film offers a rich portrayal of contemporary anti-science sentiments, their societal conditions, and the media and communication ecology surrounding them. But on the other hand, ‘Don’t Look Up’ ignores and exaggerates several facets of those sentiments and the communicative settings in which they spread. This commentary analyzes this contrast through a science communication lens. It scrutinizes the (mis)representation of science denial and science communication in ‘Don’t Look Up’ — and aims to inspire further debate about portrayals of anti-science phenomena and potential remedies within popular media.

Publication
In Journal of Science Communication, 21(5), C05.
Main cast of ‘Don’t Look Up’.

Main cast of ‘Don’t Look Up’.

Niels G. Mede
Niels G. Mede
Science Communication Researcher

I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Communication and Media Research (IKMZ), University of Zurich, Switzerland. My research focuses on science communication, public opinion, populism and its implications for science and science communication, and survey methodology. From March to May 2022, I was a visiting scholar at the Department of Life Sciences Communication of the University of Wisconsin—Madison.