HomeTechNamed and shamed: the Hollywood blockbusters failing viewers

Named and shamed: the Hollywood blockbusters failing viewers

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Godzilla Vs Kong skipped over climate change (Picture: Warner Bros)

Many cinemagoers may be familiar with the Bechdel test, a measure of the representation of women in film.

It has three simple criteria. Are at least two named female characters, do they talk to each other, and is that conversation about something other than a man?

You’d be surprised how many films fail, but a new test has just been unveiled that will no doubt trip up even more movies – the ‘climate reality check’.

It has been proposed by a group of scientists, who set the criteria as ‘does climate change exist in the stories on screen?’ and ‘are any of the characters in the film were aware of it?’.

For example, the 2017 superhero action movie Justice League passed the test after Jason Momoa’s character Aquaman said: ‘Hey, I don’t mind if the oceans rise.’

Probably not the message climate scientists are hoping for, but an awareness nonetheless.

Most movies failed the test however, with fewer than 10% of the 250 films assessed meeting the criteria.

That figure fell to less than 4% when considering movies in which climate change was mentioned in two or more scenes.

Lead researcher Professor Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, from Colby College in Maine, said Hollywood is out of touch with viewers, who want to ‘see their reality reflected on screen’.

‘The top line is just that the vast majority of films, popular films produced over the last 10 years in the United States, are not portraying the world as it is,’ said Professor Schneider-Mayerso. ‘They are portraying a world that is now history or fantasy – a world in which climate change is not happening.’

Knives Out failed the test, but the next instalment, Glass Onion (pictured), passed (Picture: Netflix/Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock)
Adam Driver’s character in Marriage Story was described as ‘energy conscious’ (Picture: Netflix/Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock)

The study, published in partnership with Los Angeles-based environmental consultancy Good Energy, also threw up some surprising results when it came to films that passed the test.

For example, Noah Baumbach’s 2019 drama Marriage Story passed in part because Adam Driver’s character is described as ‘energy conscious’.

Knives Out sequel Glass Onion and folk horror Midsommar also passed, as did Don’t Look Up, a 2h 25m satirical metaphor for the world’s response to the impending climate change crisis.

The report also gave special mention to directors Bong Joon Ho and Christopher Nolan, both with two films that passed the test.

At the other end of the scale, films that failed included San Andreas, the 2015 disaster movie about an earthquake disaster, and The Meg, which was set in the ocean – which is being significantly affected by climate change.



Films that passed the test in full

  • Pacific Rim (2013)
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
  • Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)
  • Fantastic Four (2015)
  • Justice League (2017)
  • Happy Death Day (2017)
  • Venom (2018)
  • Aquaman (2018)
  • Midsommar (2019)
  • Marriage Story (2019)
  • Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
  • Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)
  • Tenet (2020)
  • The Hunt (2020)
  • Don’t Look Up (2021) 
  • Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
  • Eternals (2021) 
  • Godzilla Vs Kong (2021)
  • The Tomorrow War (2021)
  • Wrath Of Man (2021)
  • Glass Onion (2022)
  • Jurassic World Dominion (2022)
  • Triangle Of Sadness (2022)

Only 14% of the films assessed featured common climate change impacts, and just 2% included a character with climate anxiety.

Many characters also engaged in unfriendly climate behaviour, such as flying on a private jet.

Most climate-aware characters were aged between 31 and 64 years old, with 20% aged 18 to 30.

The majority of climate-aware characters were also white, further highlighting diversity issues within the industry. Likewise, almost 70% of climate-aware characters were men, despite numerous studies showing women are typically more concerned about the environment.

Kingsman: The Secret Service was one of 24 films to pass the test (Picture: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock)

Alison Bechdel, the cartoonist behind the test of the same name, also commented on the study, which she said was ‘long overdue’.

Writing on X, she said: ‘This is so awesome, and long overdue for movies. To pass this test, Good Energy says a story must demonstrate two things: “climate change exists” and “a character knows it”.’

Commenting further to AP, she added that ‘for a movie set in the present to ignore this existential threat just doesn’t make sense anymore’.

‘I do worry that screenwriters might do it in a kind of rote way, which could be counterproductive, just like rote “strong female characters” are,’ she said. ‘But injecting an awareness of our communal plight into the stories we ingest seems like a no-brainer.’


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