Sharknado: Do Cheesy Sci-Fi Movies Cheapen Climate Change Discussion?

Read time: 3 mins

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter over the last 48 hours, you’re probably aware of the made-for-TV movie Sharknado that aired on the SyFy channel Thursday night.  It is exactly what the name suggests – a tornado filled with sharks that wreaks havoc upon Los Angeles.

Those of us who watched the movie (and I admit freely that I love horrible science fiction movies), were privy to scenes of sharks exploding out of sewer grates, surfers being eaten in one bite, and the unforgettable moment where the film’s main protagonist cuts his way out of the belly of a great white with a chainsaw that he inexplicably managed to start only after being swallowed by the beast. 

The tornadoes in the film were spawned by a massive hurricane that made landfall around Santa Monica.  And if you blinked, you may have missed the part where the hurricane, the first ever to hit California according to the film, was the direct result of “global warming.”

But here’s the problem – the fact that climate change is spawning more intense hurricanes, like the one depicted in the movie, is real.  The premise of it spawning tornadoes capable of sucking up sharks and hurling them at the public is not.  They have taken a legitimate, serious issue that should be of concern to the public and turned it into a joke.

I’m sure that no one was watching SharkNado and expecting it to be enlightening or scientifically accurate.  But it has the affect of dumbing down the public discourse on a matter that is actually more frightening than a tornado filled with man-eating sharks.

Another recent “film” along the lines of SharkNado was Arachnoquake.  In that one, earthquakes in New Orleans released thousands of giant, deadly spiders that terrorized the Big Easy.  And the incredible plot twist in that one?  The earthquakes were caused by fracking.

While the science of fracking wastewater injection causing earthquakes is well-documented, the movie made light of the situation to “terrify” the audience with spiders.  It was a fun movie, but again, it hurts discourse.

And so it goes.  Disaster movies involving the destruction of the planet are always a big hit with the public.  The Day After Tomorrow, Wall-E, Waterworld, and a host of movies have all used our destruction of the environment as plot devices to help fill movie theaters and sell popcorn. 

Our fascination with the destruction of our planet is one that should raise eyebrows among the public.  Why do we enjoy watching things go horribly wrong?  Unfortunately, those questions are not easily answered.

But I do have a hypothesis:  Reducing threats and problems to their most ludicrous terms helps the public cope.  We are unwilling to mentally accept the fact that we’re destroying the planet and causing disasters, so we revel in entertainment choices that reduce our horrendous actions to punchlines.  It helps us disassociate our actions from their real consequences – shark tornadoes and earthquake spiders won’t ever happen, its just Hollywood magic.  It gives us a sense of relief, but that relief often leads to inaction and complacency. 

I won’t lie – I enjoyed Sharknado.  But I also understand that there are serious tones behind the movie that the public needs to address before the streets of L.A. really are flooded.

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There are plenty of other subjects that are dumbed down in the same way.  Frankly, anything technical appears outright bogus to the likes of me.

I find it interesting that Fox ran Fringe as long as it did (the heros are multi PHds who can solve anything), and then they killed Terra Nova.

I'm not sure if you saw The Full Monty, but there was a great scene when they were watching “Flash Dance”, and all the welders sitting around noticed that she had way too much oxygen in her mix.

Interesting…  the correction is incorrect!

The purpose of that kind of article is to spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt). It offers nothing but ignorance, and there's no explainations for its logic. Looking further at that blogger, he's clearly a conservative clown.  His other articles are all about economics.  (To be clear, I hate subsidy too.  I'd prefer to see a carbon tax and be done with it all.)

When I read articles such as the one you linked to, the first thing I look at is the language.  A word like 'gleeful' immediately places the whole article in the trash bin.  Period.  Its fantasy and entertainment written by an uneducated politically motivated bumpkin.

The second thing I look at is the source article.  In this case, there isn't one.  A sure sign that its invented crap.  It also shows that the person isn't technical, and likely can't understand what he's reading or even where it came from.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt. If someone had written some hyperbole on the NOAA web page, its not news worthy.  Heck, that could have been their summer intern who wrote it.  There is no review process, so take it with a grain of salt, and look for scientific papers to back it up.

Personally, I feel that people like you should be a lot more careful about the trash you read.  You should look for articles using the scientific method\language, and preferably peer reviewed.  Everything else is just talk.  Much of this comes from Anthony Watts, and he only has a high school diploma.  He's hardly an expert.  (I could be wrong… maybe his high school had an excellent differential equation program…)

When you find someone saying something without any explanatory reasoning you should be concerned.  Such as the hack who wrote that article, stating that 'categorizing mild winters as extreme is nonsense'.  I'd immediately ask, you what criteria they define extreme as?  The dude didn't back anything up.

If you are confused as to how extreme weather presents itself, or you are unfamiliar with the latest science on the subject, here you go;

This explains why you will see more and more mild winters, and yes, that is a serious concern since it damages the natural life cycles of the world.  We are seeing migratory kill offs because birds may fly north early, and cannot not find food.

Stopping climate change will easily save more money and lives than not.

Oil companies throw people of land all the time.  In North America if they don't take it from you, they may just pollute your water (the next best thing).  In any case we DO know that oil and gas is destructive for the environment.  So, your point would be what precisely?

In fact… taking your land for resource extraction pretty much is the law in much of Canada.  Look it up sometime, you may find that interesting to learn about.

We can switch to renewables completely right now.  Solar\Wind require bigger grid infrastructure, and utility grade batteries.  Utility grade batteries cost $0.05 per kwh installed and running today.  Total cost for solar comes in around $.25 to $.35.  That's high, but easily doable.  Heck, Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe is paying $0.30 per kwh.  Its hardly crippling them.

Western military think we are headed to an age of starvation, war and catastrophe.  This is a big part of why they are ramping up.  Do you really think asking your neighbor to 'be reasonable' will work when they are facing starvation?  Hmmm?  If that was you, you'd probably draw your gun. Right?

The least you could do for desmogblog is dig up something intelligent on these subjects.  Stop repeating the same old tired tripe.  We've seen that crap before.

Science fiction creature features and disastor pics have always had an element of “man caused this” to them. 

Them! and Godzilla are about our nuclear weapons, Jurassic Park about our use of genetic modifications, and even The Thing from Another World, added an element when the one scientist tried to save the plant monster that was killing everyone. 

Why? Lots of reasons.

One: how else to explain live dinosaurs?

Two: how else to explain supersized ants?

Three: add a little weight to what could be a very fluffy piece.

Four: Play on people's fears of science and scientists. 

Five: Subtle (or not so subtle) jab at humanity's bad habits. 

Six: An implication that nothing happens where humans aren't the center of the event

So, I wouldn't worry overmuch about Sharknado, because it's only following tradition. 

maybe.   But now I want to see for myself.

At least they mentioned the issue.

I'll go to the barricades for Wall-E. The first act elevated the discourse in an unexpected, heartbreaking direction, entirely without dialog. We need much more of that kind of communication.