Love the environment, hate the environmentalists. Is there anything more partisan than the environmental movement?
I was browsing through Facebook when I saw multiple status updates from a friend who has become an environmental activist and advocate. Every day, he has a new update about sustainability in the home, starving children in Africa, and Conservative-bashing (one of my favorites to see was one bashing Conservatives for criticizing the late Pierre Trudeau with the title something like “Conservatives stoop to criticizing a dead Liberal.” Thankfully, three friends called him out on the situation saying 1) The “Conservative” he talked about has nothing to do with Canada nor the Conservative party of Canada 2) Just because someone is dead doesn’t mean they are exempt from criticism and 3) Just stop blindly bashing a party you disagree with – that’s so Conservative). But that’s not the post that led me on this rant.
It was the one about coffee. Another friend posted something about some guy trying to go to every Starbucks in New York City, of which there are about 150 of or so. Rather than just commenting “Oh, that’s slightly interesting,” Greenie posted something about how much money this New Yorker was going to spend on coffee and how that money could be put towards more meaningful activities – like buying a well in Africa, or paying homeless people to pick up litter. Greenie then ended the post with an insult – “But maybe you just couldn’t comprehend all that over your overpriced cup of coffee.” I’ve had enough of this, so I’m just going to put it right out there: green is the new asshole.
Now this may be a strange rant for a movie blog, but it actually has a direct association with movies, namely, they need asshole characters. Think about the stock character types of most popular Hollywood films: the generic and balanced hero protagonist, the wimpy but hyper-intelligent sidekick, the love interest, the douchey asshole type, and the villain (which can sometimes also be a douchey asshole type). Each stock character plays a clearly defined role in the film world. The douchey asshole type is the character we enjoy rooting against (in Hollywood blockbusters this is often an FBI, CIA, or an other agent somehow associated with the government). We love scenes of the hero exposing them as a) ineffectual b) a coward c) an idiot or d) hypocritical. And we also love seeing them die.
Take the horror film, for instance. There’s almost always this character: stocky, well-built athlete-guy who thinks he’s hot shit and has a lot of dialogue with words like “bro” and “that hot babe digs me.” What a douche. And then roughly about 2/3rds of the way through the movie this character is killed in the most brutal way imaginable and the audience erupts into cheers. Later, bro.
So here’s my suggestion: change stocky, well-built athlete-guy into stocky, well-built environmentalist guy. It’s pretty much the same character, just environmentalist guy really gets into the hero’s face. Typical scenes:
Hero is drinking from a Coke Can.
Stocky Environmentalist: You gonna recycle that bro?
Hero: Well, yeah, but I’m still drink-
Stocky Environmentalist guy grabs Hero by the collar and lifts him up against a locker.
Stocky Environmentalist: You BETTER recycle that can bro or I’mma introduce you to a world of hurt. (At this point, the stocky environmentalist can do a monologue comparing the hero’s threatened “world of hurt” to the inhumane treatment of cows in slaughterhouses – at the screenwriter’s discretion).
Hero and Stocky Environmentalist are walking home.
Stocky Environmentalist: What are you doing this weekend man?
Hero: Uh, going to go to a party, hang out with friends, watch a movie…you?
Stocky Environmentalist: Nothing. Because the more I do, the more I affect the planet. [Stops to look at Hero] You should really consider Mother Nature’s plans before making your own, bro.
Hero gives $10 to a homeless man so he can buy a meal.
Stocky Environmentalist: Dude, you just gave that guy $10? For that amount of money you could sponsor a child for ten months, buy 2,500 pounds of fertilizer for impoverished farmers’ crops, and provide a month’s worth of access to clean water to an indigenous society. [Shaking head] You’re so goddamn near-sighted man.
(Okay, I guess this last one is environmentalist/activist guy – I just lump ’em together.)
Look, I do think it’s important that we look after the environment. I participated in Earth Hour, I recycle, I refuse to take plastic bags from grocery stores as often as possible, I always turn off my lights if I’m not in the room, and I never leave the tap running while brushing my teeth. I also walk everywhere or take public transit. I’m not exactly the gas-guzzling, SUV-driving, destroyer-of-the-environment type. This isn’t a rant about looking after the environment, it’s a rant about the morally superior persona developed by some of those people who look after the environment (and others – sorry lumping activists and environmentalists together again).
Take for instance, the reaction to TOMS shoes. For every pair of shoes a person buys the company donates a pair of shoes to a needy individual in another country. This seems like it would be a universally praised business practice no? I mean, isn’t giving to the needy part of the whole environmentalist/activist persona anyway? Apparently not. Google “TOMS Shoes Negative” and you’ll find about forty blogs talking about what TOMS could be doing instead. Like building latrines or investing in nutrient-rich soil. They’re criticizing a company not for doing good, but for not doing enough good. Activists and environmentalists are the most partisan bunch you’ll ever meet – which is especially peculiar when everyone is just trying to do the right thing.
It’s strange enough living in a time when my biggest contribution to the world is to not have any impact at all (ecological footprint-wise). I won’t be surprised if in twenty years the green movement is seen in the same light as Fundamentalist religious groups are today: close-minded and crazy. Maybe if we change Stocky Athlete into Stocky Environmentalist/Activist we can prevent that from happening. At least we’ll get some great death scenes out of it.