Scripted TV shows and films ignore concerns about climate change

A new study by environmental nonprofit Good Energy and the USC Norman Lear Center found few references to climate change and environmental crises in a survey of more than 37,000 screenplays from 2016 to 2020.

The study aimed to track the level of “representation of climate change” in mainstream scripted entertainment. The data showed that only 2.8% of 37,453 scripts analyzed used “climate change keywords,” while only 0.6% contained the words “climate change.” Only 10% of stories depicting “extreme weather events” linked the occurrence to some form of climate change, while only 12% of these linked the problem to fossil fuel use.

CBS and HBO Max were named as the broadcast and pay-TV platforms with the highest rate of climate change-related scripted content, with CBS scoring 7.5% and HBO Max scoring 6.4%. This compares to research that suggests about 40% of Americans live in countries affected by extreme weather events.

“Right now the vast majority of shows and movies are set in an alternate universe that doesn’t involve that
climate crisis. This study shows that audiences are starting to feel that disconnect,” said Anna Jane
Joyner, Founder and Director of Good Energy. “That’s why Good Energy exists – we support
Screenwriters uncovering how characters would authentically address the climate crisis. what is
What’s exciting is that this process unlocks all sorts of new character conflicts and story possibilities.”

The study, A Glaring Absence: The Climate Crisis is Virtually Nonexistant in Scripted Entertainment, claims that polls show that viewers have a growing interest in climate-related stories and that this gives Hollywood incentive to weave stories dealing with the Real-world climates address issues such as wildfires, floods, extreme winds, drought, hurricanes, superstorms, and other destructive aspects of climate change.

“Despite his absence, viewers want to see stories that address the climate crisis on their favorite TV
Shows and movies,” said Erica Rosenthal, director of research at the Norman Lear Center. “Three out
Four of our survey respondents said they learn social topics from fictional television or film. The wide
The majority are at least open to seeing climate issues portrayed in fictional entertainment, and it was
This is especially true for those who are most hopeful about climate solutions.”

CBS’ track record on climate change was fueled in part by the 2014-2019 drama series Madam Secretary, starring Tea Leoni as US Secretary of State.

“’Madam Secretary’ was a show about international issues and climate change is the ultimate global concern. We tried to shed light on the crisis that unites us all,” said Barbara Hall, creator, showrunner and executive producer of Madam Secretary.

The Lear Center and other study partners are urging Hollywood storytellers to shed light and inspire innovation around issues fueled by fossil fuels, overpopulation and conspicuous consumption.

“We are in a moment of tectonic cultural shifts: the intersection of climate catastrophe, racial reckoning,
and economic crisis. It’s a moment of extreme hardship – but also of endless creative possibilities,” he said
Favianna Rodriguez, President of the Oakland, California-based nonprofit Center for Cultural Power. “Writers and other Hollywood creatives must seize this moment to help disrupt oppressive narratives and tell the stories of all people, including those hardest hit by the climate crisis, urging us to envision and implement bold solutions. “

Good Energy was founded by Joyner in 2019 to partner with entertainment industry insiders and champion stories related to climate-related issues.

only 12% of Scripted TV shows and films ignore concerns about climate change

Charles Jones

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