"Don't Look Up" Through the Lens of Gender by Leanne Lisciandro


A comet is headed directly for the earth and we are all going to die in precisely 6 months and 14 days. This is the crisis humankind faced in the movie “Don’t Look Up” along with the fight between politicians and scientists. The main characters, Kate Dibiasky, Dr. Randell Mindy, and Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe discovered the comet and attempted to tell the President to ensure the survival of earth. This was more challenging than either of them expected because of social media, conspiracy theories, and the need for more natural resources. Throughout “Don’t Look Up”, women are presented in powerful positions within the government and in the science realm which is positively progressive. However, they are also portrayed in several bad lights, for example being overly emotional, and corrupt.


To be a president of the United States is a huge honor and takes a lot of responsibility. President Orlean in “Don’t Look Up” is a woman which is a big step in history for women, however, she is portrayed as being very corrupt and unkind. When Kate, Randell, and Teddy were initially sent to the Oval Office to inform President Orlean about the comet she passed it off because she was more concerned about winning the midterms. All three characters were distressed because of the president’s dismissal but Kate was the one portrayed as being unprofessional and overly emotional. Though having a female character in a predominantly male field is a good thing and can be an inspiration to young girls, producers, and scriptwriters purposely made Kate appear unfit. Both Kate and President Orlean are women in predominantly male fields of work, one a scientist and the other a government official. But the way they are portrayed it seems the makers of the movie intended to show that women are not capable of being in such positions.


After being dismissed by the President, Teddy suggests leaking the information about the comet. Kate and Randell go onto a talk show to discuss the urgency of the situation but they are not taken seriously. Kate loses her composure after the show hosts joke about the comet hitting an ex-wife’s house and tries stressing that an extinction-level event should not be taken lightly. Immediately following this interview, many memes of Kate are made and yet every woman on Earth is swooning over Randell because he is a “sexy scientist”. The difference in reactions of the two is deafening.


The last situation to mention is the relationship between DJ Chello and Riley Bina. Both are very famous singers and get engaged in the movie after DJ Chello cheated on Riley Bina. Riley went onto the same talk show that Kate and Randell went on and she then expressed she still loved and wanted to be with her ex who had cheated on her. The same day, on that talk show, DJ asked Riley to marry him and she said yes right away. This is very obviously a bash on celebrities and their relationships, celebrities such as Ariana Grande and the Kardashians. It also points to the desperation for romantic relationships often attached with women because of how Riley was so eager to get back together with her cheating ex.


The ways in which women are shown as inadequate, overly emotional, and/or delusional in “Don’t Look Up” do not stop here but these were several main instances. When President Orlean was shown as being corrupt with her elections and plainly being a bad president. When Kate was shown as being overly emotional all throughout the movie and unable to handle any sort of pressure or stress. And when Riley willingly took back her cheating ex-boyfriend to be her fiancé on live television proved one point. Though women can make it to predominantly male fields, they aren’t meant to be there and they will never be shown true respect…this is what the creators of “Don’t Look Up” seem to believe.



Leanne Lisciandro is currently a high school junior at Panama Central School. She grew up in Jamestown but then relocated to North Carolina for 5 years while her mom was in the military. She enjoys reading, playing tennis, and binge-watching Netflix on the weekends, especially cringeworthy reality tv shows.

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