Film

Let's Talk About Blowing Up Children!

After disappearing in a puff of embarrassment, 10:10's misguided No Pressure deserves to be re-examined -- not because it didn't fail, but because nobody seems to get it.

About a month ago, global warming awareness group 10:10 released a video called No Pressure to YouTube. They assembled Franny Armstrong (The Age of Stupid), superstar writer Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually), and commercial veteran Dougal Wilson (that video for Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" where hot women use power tools) for the project. The pitch was a no-brainer: environmentalism could finally shed its image of self-righteous humorlessness, and look good doing it. No sooner was their final product hoisted before the captious eyes of the Internet, though, than was it sheepishly pulled. Like honors students getting implicated in the suicide of their classmate, it begs the clueless question: what the hell happened? See for yourself:

A misfire, to be sure, even if all they wanted was attention. (Show of hands: who here isn't hearing about this for the first time?) According to the alarmist right, however, it's more than just that: it's Triumph of the Will in horror film shorthand. It's "eco-terrorism".) It plays into a collective fantasy of eviscerating so-called climate skeptics -- a fantasy shared by the leftist mainstream media, who continues a "blackout" on the incident. Except, that is, for the New York Times (those guttersnipers!). And Fox News, whose tell-it-like-it-is integrity absolves them from any accusation of MSM-ness. (Oh, and by the way, the liberals weren't too happy about it, either.)

To the enraged rabble, allow me to pose this quote from Michael Winterbottom's brilliant 24 Hour Party People, in which Tony Wilson defends his label's offensive band names:

Reporter: How do you respond to charges you're a fascist?

Wilson: What?

Reporter: Your band Joy Division, named after people who were captured by the SS for the purpose of breeding perfect Aryans. Isn't THAT sick.

Wilson: Have you ever heard of Situationism or postmodernism? Do you know nothing on the free play of signs and signifiers? Yes, we've got a band called Joy Division. We've also got a band called Durutti Column and I'm sure I don't need to point out the irony of that.

Claims of irony are, of course, cheap and easy, but in this case, they seem unfortunately necessary. Even somewhat reasonable climate ‘skeptic' Anthony Watts called the video "unbelievably vile"). The cartoonish bloodbath of No Pressure is proof positive, to folks like Watts, that environmentalism, at its philosophical foundation, purports to "end the scourge of mankind". Let's pretend for a moment that this isn't ridiculous (it is), and give such assertions the benefit of the doubt. Is No Pressure endorsing exactly what it depicts? Let's break it down.

Detractors accuse the film of us-versus-them simplemindedness, and it is, ostensibly. Identity politics are on full display. In two of the four vignettes, those who plan on following the 10:10 initiative -- that is, the unofficial personal pledge to reduce your carbon footprint by 10% -- are asked to give a show of hands. No stereotypic markers necessary: the players come right out and name themselves. It's the PSA equivalent of a slasher flick flag football game between the Virgins and the Incorrigible Sluts.

The ‘skeptics' are killed off, as the prosecution states. But they aren't exactly Watts or, say, Jim Inhofe. First up is an officious little kiss-ass only too eager to share her family's plans for Greenness -- a Tracy Enid Flick by way of Southampton if there ever was one (and I'm sure there was, and is). Then it's on to the naysayers, who burst at the push of a Big Red Button Second is a crew of cubicle dwellers -- more motley than the children, but not by much. The conformism here is a bit more severe, as evidenced when one mustachioed worker stares in terror at his smug colleague's raised arm. There are dissidents, whose explosive demise follows soon thereafter. After that, the agitprop trades nuance for pop surrealism, pitting climate-conscious ciphers against inured celebrities -- soccer star David Ginola and Gillian Anderson, a.k.a. Special Agent Dana Scully, in this case -- who meet the same fates as their faceless allies.

When the stars enter the picture, No Pressure occupies a different universe. But the first half bears some resemblance to reality, where most ‘skeptics' (or ‘deniers,' according to some activists, rising to the bait of a rhetorical pissing contest reminiscent of Roe v. Wade) are simply nonchalant, and something like 10:10 is as much an opportunity for self-congratulation as for healing the Earth. And then there's the method of murder, which is impossibly easy and unimaginably brutal. The inspiration, of course, must be David Cronenberg's Scanners, who used the equally realistic power of telekinesis to blow people up. So when critics list that (strategically-sequenced) first scene as yet another strike in the "Green War on Children", I want to shake them and say, "Gee, ya think?!"

Think of it this way: if the third act, Radiohead-scored call to action were replaced with, say, a wry Ben Stein intoning, "Ever feel like environmentalists would blow you to smithereens if they had the chance?" there would be little controversy, and no question about the videos meaning at all. No Pressure isn't the collective fantasy of so-called eco-fascists. It's a satire of exactly the paranoid, reactionary mindset that believes it is; that underneath those glibly smiling faces, telling us there's "no pressure" to reduce your carbon footprint, is a ticking time bomb of sociopathic destruction.

Not that it takes a film theorist to decipher the comic code of "No Pressure." Nobody with the intellectual capacity to operate a blog could honestly accept something like this at face value. (Although Malkin might.) And the term "splattergate," drawing from the designation given to cheapo horrors that mix humor with excessive gore, doesn't do much to reflect the fuming "outrage" detractors purport to feel. Probably because they don't feel much of anything at all. (And that they claim to is an insult to victims of real violence, not this over-the-top kind, but never mind.) The narrative of "No Pressure," put into non-descriptive words, makes it perfect fodder for humiliating 10:10 -- and by extension, all environmentalists -- via blunt, inarguable moral indignation. Children and office workers are blown to bits for their difference of opinion; isn't that sick!

The problem is that Curtis, Wilson, and Armstrong are simply too clever for their own good. The second half gasps for breath; Anderson's soundproofed combustion, drenching the walls in viscera like a watermelon depth charge, loses its faux-alarmist power when she comes off as nearly snide enough to deserve it. Moreover, they have a target, but what's their point? They're so caught up in skewering the sniveling preoccupation ‘skeptics' have with discrediting their opponents, rather than disproving them, that they've foregone all beyond the most marginal mention of global warming itself.

Instead, No Pressure amounts to little more than an interesting failure, best summed up by Green cartoonist Marc Roberts:


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