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Aquaman Missed a HUGE Opportunity. When will Media get with the program?
Opinion

Aquaman Missed a HUGE Opportunity. When will Media get with the program?

Although Aquaman debuted in theaters almost a year ago, I finally watched the movie this past weekend. (A few disclaimers: I didn’t know much about the movie or plot, except that it was a comic book, played by sexy Khal Drogo.)

In the beginning, King Orm of Atlantis (aka Ocean Master), played by Patrick Wilson, decides to create giant tidal waves that deposit trash, sewage, and warships back onto the land’s surface. Unlike most environmental stories, it’s the villain that is declaring war on the land, pointing out that humans have a rampant pollution problem that is harming the seas and life below.

Twenty minutes in, I was optimistic that this movie was going to be a statement for our current times.

Unfortunately, the villain’s (and our gripe) doesn’t get resolved. As Aquaman (Jason Momoa) fights his half-brother to take the throne, the movie never delves back into the dire plastic problem or a way to resolve the issue.

*Aquaman from r/funny

What the Aquaman poster should have looked like.

I know, I know. I can’t enjoy anything without thinking about a deeper environmental picture.

This semester, I began a journey as an adjunct in academia at Temple University for a Media & Society class. Pop culture shapes our trends, perceptions and understanding of the world around us. Just think: how many of us fell victim for the Rachel in 1995? (Luckily, my hairstylist steered away from that potential trainwreck.)

The entertainment industry is missing one great opportunity, lacking storylines about the greatest challenge of our lifetime.

If our perceptions are shaped by media, and many actors (Leonardo DiCaprio, Adrian Grenier, Jane Fonda) have taken up climate change advocacy, why aren’t we seeing it on our screens?

Documentaries, while important, are mostly preaching to the choir. On the other hand, Aquaman ranked 17th at the box office in 2019, with over $136 million gross revenue domestically and raked in over $183 million worldwide.

That’s a lot of eyeballs that all have one thing in common: citizens of the earth.

So what could have Aquaman done differently? Perhaps the hero could pledge to unite the land and sea – and find ways to get the humans on land to reduce their waste. Or end the movie with a call to action. Documentaries often this way with suggestions like to saying no to straws or getting a reusable water bottle, with a URL for more information.

Is climate change too “edgy” for our screens? Definitely not. Our entertainment has dove into other dark topics: the dangers of social media and the digital age in Black Mirror, Bullying, suicide, substance abuse for teenagers on shows like 13 Reasons why and Euphoria.

Would it actually matter? Would people make habit changes?

Vice recently dove into this question, sharing how a UK drama created a storyline about a main character’s diagnosis with testicular cancer. Afterward, there was a spike in men getting themselves checked out in UK doctor’s offices.

On a recent Warm Regards podcast episode, the hosts discuss how fiction taps into our fear. We can read about the terrible things the climate crisis will bring, but we can’t visualize these impacts.

Hollywood needs to begin to tackle climate change in an entertaining way. After all, how fast we choose to act on climate may depend on how quickly all of our media sources start talking about the issue.

Aquaman 2 is set to debut in 2022. But by that time, let’s hope that we’ve taken real action on climate and won’t have gripes about the movie next time.


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Julie Hancher
Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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