How Climate Change is perceived in the media
I recently watched an episode of a Youtube channel I really like called Our Changing Climate, in which they discussed how and “Why TV Comedies Get Climate Change So Wrong”. In it, the creator discusses how Climate Change is depicted in TV shows as 80% of Americans watch or stream TV. The late 90s and 2000s had a surge of mentioning climate change and its evolution in mainstream media.
The 90s portrayed global warming as having “positive effects”. Comedy shows, like Dharma and Greg and Frasier, had jokes with similar punchlines in which a character will mention how the winter is warmer this year and then state “God Bless Global Warming” or “Maybe this isn’t a bad thing after all”.
In the mid 2000s, many remember the trope of the climate change activist being obnoxious and a pushy person. Shows like 30 Rock depicted the climate activist as an unlikeable nerd and bum. These characters would be portrayed drinking their own urine and being dirty. By creating an image of an activist as an outsider and nuisance, less and less people will be interested and educate people about climate change in the future.
The 2000s also showed climate change in the form of climate denial. The most infamous case of climate denial was when South Park had Al Gore—the VP who addressed the danger of climate change—as a fear mongering politician who wants to be the town hero when they lie about the “Manbearpig” terrorizing their town. Although South Park apologized for their misinterpretation of climate change and not taking it seriously, and later releasing an episode tackling their previous claims, South Park has yet to take the original out of air and weekly reruns of it.
Lately after a drought of mentionings of climate change from 2010 to 2015, discussions of climate change in recent years have been in a more positive light. Rather than denying climate change, shows nowadays bluntly acknowledge climate change; but rather than doing something about it, they are nihilistic and joke about how little difference they could make to the cause. Although it is good to talk about the dangers of climate change, by spreading nihilistic views, it discourages people from wanting to make a change or even ignore and stop participating altogether.
Although many will probably watch these episodes and see the joke as nothing but a joke, however there would still be a significant amount of people who will take it to face value. Even though discussing climate issues can be worrying and negative, and with so much information and people saying what we cannot use increasing, many see these jokes as reality. What we must do however is look at the progress we’ve made and keep pushing for a more green society. Rather than showing jokes, we must show our success.
Written by Lugardo Marroquin ‘24