Some say the end is near
Some say we’ll see Armageddon soon
I certainly hope we will
I sure could use a vacation from this
Circus sideshow of
Here in this hopeless $&%^% hole we call L.A.
The only way to fix it is to flush it all away
Any $&%^% time, any $&%^% day
Learn to swim, I’ll see you down in Arizona bay
– “Ænema” by Tool (L.A. resident misfits)
Sigh. So now ‘we’re’ going after a kid’s movie. I understand the motivation and the frustration, but come on.
The backstory here, in case you missed it, revolves around “Bigfoot”, a new Netflix movie in which the villain is – surprise surprise – an oil company. The show is apparently (haven’t seen, don’t plan to) about a nefarious plan by an evil oil baron to blow up an Alaskan wildlife refuge to extract oil underneath. A Wikipedia entry on the film kind of sums it up thematically: a young Bigfoot strikes a deal with a wolf (which may happen often in the wild, hard to say) after being ‘ambushed by workers from the oil company’; the assorted cast of cuddly wildlife creatures infiltrate evil oil’s headquarters, film some confession, upload it and presumably it goes viral like any video from any member of the Bigfoot clan would.
The story goes to hell in a handbasket from there. Not the Netflix one, which is nothing more than the same Hollywood formula that’s been rehashed a thousand times over with a current villain inserted (more on that in a second). No, it’s the real-life story that goes to hell, which is not inappropriate considering the hell that Canada’s hydrocarbon sector finds itself in.
The Canadian Energy Centre leaped into action, launching a petition to insist Netflix understand “Canada’s world-class oil and gas industry is one of the top in the world when it comes to environmental, social, and governance standards.”
Oy, please stop. I’m not sure how our industry, this province, or Western Canada is helped by writing a new script that is worse than the Hollywood droppings.
IF it was necessary to launch a defense of the oil industry over this film, then why on earth would we throw our American/Alaskan neighbours under the bus by flagging our great performance, when the movie doesn’t even attack Canada at all (per Wikipedia’s plot summary)?
Is the point to agree with the themes of the movie but take offense should someone think it applies to Canada? No? Then what is it? Why is it so hard to get this elemental messaging right? Is pounding my head on the wall going to help? It hasn’t seemed to so far (there’s a perfect pitch for the commenting crowd).
Let’s put on our thinking hats for a minute. Hollywood is like a pop-culture nerve ending. It is a pool of attention-seekers that will do anything, anywhere, in order to attract attention and, more importantly, adulation. It creates villains that it thinks match the mood of what it reads in the news.
Does anyone remember westerns? Sixty years ago, plus or minus a few decades, the enemy in many westerns was ‘Indians.’ And…where’s Hollywood today on that theme? Kind of quiet, aren’t they? Wonder why…
Hollywood cranked out thousands of movies vilifying Germans and Japanese after World War II. During the Cold War, the film industry moved on to Russians, who were cast as pure evil, and cinematic ‘feel good’ was guaranteed whenever some rugged hero stood on top of a pile of surly-looking Russians.
After 9/11, vague Arab types filled the villain’s role, offering audiences the option of blissful catharsis without, as Eminem says, taking it out on the neighbour’s hedges.
All the while, consider the role that business has played in one guise or another. Whenever there’s been a lapse in Someone To Hate or Be Afraid Of, big business has always served as a stand-in. And not always big business, but business in general. It’s always the little guy against the profit motive.
Surprise surprise, Hollywood’s ultra-sensitive snout has detected in the wind an artificial but powerful hatred of oil companies, and it’s dropped them into the villain chair. Is there an easier target to punch between the eyes, these days? I think not. Hollywood is indifferent; if society turned on grandmothers or plumbers or kittens, they would be the throat-slashers in next year’s crop of filmic moralizing.
Attacking a kid’s movie makes the industry look insecure, raises the profile of the movie, and will do zero to help the hydrocarbon industry’s cause. In fact, it will only hurt the cause, because of the weird ‘Yeah but Canada’s industry is great’ counterattack. There hasn’t been such an ill-placed retaliation since Saudi Arabians bombed the US on 9/11 and the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in response.
Instead of getting bent out of shape about Hollywood’s amoral moralizing, consider this. Maybe in 20 years, after governments have pumped trillions into wind and solar schemes only to realize that they can’t save the world, we’ll see a Hollywood kids movie about poor Teddie Turtle, or some such desert creature, whose home and town and culture has been destroyed by 10,000 square miles of solar panels, and he’ll be helping some underground heroes find oil and natural gas because it will remain as the best fuel for many circumstances, for many decades.
And the evil solar barons will be counting their Bitcoins and laughing at the doe-eyed little creature and trying to make soup out of it.
But right now, you can scour the celebrity landscape with all your might, and will not find a single star or even starlet with the courage to stand against the crowd and acknowledge the value of hydrocarbons. The industry doesn’t work that way. Though I am sure there are many celebrities capable of realizing this fact, the smart move, if in that camp, is to just shut up. McCarthyism in the ’20s is alive and well, it just looks different.
That is the sad state of affairs in the world these days. Many smart voices can readily spot the totalitarian nature of today’s public discourse, where there is one almighty acceptable view and no other. As an industry that remains desperately necessary, let’s not get indignant and irrational. But at the same time, we need to acknowledge the power of this tsunami.
But let’s also not forget that it is a tsunami, which will recede, and after it does, the world will need hydrocarbons just as much as it did 10 years ago. Reality will deal with those who think they will disappear.
So stop attacking irrelevant Hollywood film-flam like guard dogs, and take a page out of Hollywood’s book – let’s try and emulate the stereotypical old farmer, sitting on the stoop whittling, waiting for the ignorant-but-know-it-all blowhards to blow their feet off.
The tide is turning – the world is starting to see the challenges of an energy transition, as mapped out in “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com. Buy a couple! Thanks for the support.