Is Hollywood turning green? Politically speaking most of Hollywood, as well as California, is on the left side of the political spectrum, which is the same side of the environmentalists and animal activists. So the answer is a definite yes.
Each decade seems to bring different perspectives of “green,” or “environmentally friendly,” to our movies. In the 1950s, saving the earth usually meant avoiding nuclear war. In the later part of the Cold War, this idea would surface again. The 60s brought us James Bond, where saving the earth meant saving the human race from a super villain bent on exploiting the world’s leaders. Now, movies lean more towards personal responsibility and adjusting our own personal lives to “save the world,” and be “green.”
Movies have become more political over the years. This can be seen with the influx of movies that are based around politics. Movies like Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, and the latest political film Frost-Nixon. It is also no doubt that the environment has become a political issue. But, then again, it is the responsibility of all leaders great and small to take care of their nations and this includes the environment. Thus, it was only natural that the message of being environmentally friendly made its way into movies.
From the 1950s to the 1960s, there was little talk about being “green.” But people were concerned about the future of the planet as the Cold War dominated people’s lives. Russia had begun testing nuclear weapons and had sent Sputnik into space while we were struggling to stay one step ahead of their space program. People were afraid that Soviet Russia could/would drop bombs on us from space and the whole nation prepared for nuclear war.
The original The Day the Earth Stood Still brought us characters like Gort, a giant robot whose ray gun made guns and tanks vaporize. These characters warned us that if we kept up on our present path of destruction chaos would befall the planet (in the form of nuclear war).
The classic monster movies of the 50s brought us the same tone. In films like Them and The Beginning of the End, giant insects that are byproducts of the nuclear fallout from testing sites wreak havoc on the United States. These films warn us that the ill effects of nuclear waste could have unforeseen repercussions that we might not be able to detect until it’s too late.
The late '60s and '70s brought us a different kind of environmentalism. Ian Fleming’s James Bond finally made it to the big screen and showed us that saving the world meant stopping an evil scientist bend on world domination who also had nearly infinite financial resources. Movies like Dr. No and Moonraker pitted the secret agent James Bond against a mad man who believed in re-making the world in their image, which usually had the intended affect of destroying the old world first.
At the same time the counter-culture movement was growing quickly and more and more people believed that to truly be “green” meant returning to nature. In many movies during this time the hippie persona is quite prevalent. The movie documentary Woodstock can give the reader an insight into this pseudo-environmentalist sub-culture.
After the unfortunate incidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl many politicians condemned nuclear energy as unsafe and this made its way onto film with titles such as the “China Syndrome,” and others where there is a nuclear reactor on the brink melt-down.
Today in movies, we see a lot of hints at environmentalism and being “green.” There are quite a bit of characters these days in movies that drive around in Hybrid-vehicles and there are less and less characters smoking in films.
Two movies that hit the box office in 2008 and stand out as having a powerful “green” message are Wall-E and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Wall-E, a Disney film set several hundred years in the future where Earth has become nothing more than a gigantic landfill due to over production of meaningless un-reusable, unrecyclable materials and a finite amount of space in which to dispose of all the trash.
Humans are still around, but they live in luxury on giant cruise ships in space where their entire lives have become fully automated. People are obese and their limbs have nearly atrophied due to lounging around all day talking on cell-phone like devices, eating, drinking, playing electronic games, and watching videos.
In the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Klaatu, a human looking alien played by Keanu Reeves comes to save the Earth. He says that there are only a handful of life-giving planets like ours in the galaxy. So it is essential, that the planet’s ability to sustain and foster healthy life be zealously maintained.
It doesn’t take long in the film to realize that Klaatu came here to save the Earth from us before we render it unsalvageable, hinting that the planet’s demise is our (humanity’s) fault and that humanity is on the brink of self-destruction. His goal is to preserve specimens of all life on Earth (except humans) to repopulate the planet after he sends his wave of destruction cleansing it of all the people and everything humanity has created.
We may see more messages like these appearing in our media and pop-culture. As the future of Planet Earth’s ecosystems and the environment looks more and more grim the need to be “green” begins to equate the need to survive. This being the case, we may see an increase in the production of films that have original stories as well as powerful, profound, and moral messages.