Death To 2021, Exorcises Tragedy With Tongue-In-Cheek Wit

Death To 2021, Exorcises Tragedy With Tongue-In-Cheek Wit

After the dystopian 2020 inspired the Netflix mockumentary Death To 2020, the equally thrilling year we left behind us inspired its sequel: Death To 2021. Both films are produced by Broke and Bones — a company founded by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, best known for their work. on science fiction anthology series Black Mirror.

The narrative formula is almost identical to the one of the previous film: retracing the year in chronological order from January to December, through images of real-life events alternating with interviews made to fictional scientists, influencers, average citizens and journalists. The different opinions that emerge are always over the top. The narrating voice is once again that of Laurence Fishburne and many well-known faces already presented in the previous movie return, from Hugh Grant to Cristin Milioti and Joe Keery; there are also some new entries such as William Jackson Harper, Lucy Liu and Stockard Channing. 

January 2021 began with optimism through the announcement of vaccines and the arrival of Joe Biden at the White House; but horrors soon followed with the assault of Capitol Hill by supporters of outgoing President Donal Trump. Conspiracy theories of anti-vaxxers claimed the existence of a “plandemic”, in parallel to the arrival of Covid’s variants — Delta, Alpha, Omicron — inspired by the Greek alphabet, despite the “Greeks are already busy making yogurt.” The pandemic influenced also the dating world: a woman explained that on the Apps, to be safe, she swiped only men wearing masks in their photos. 

The entertainment world also characterised 2021, from Oprah’s interview with Harry and Megan, to the success of Bridgerton, that to some viewers, “shows how wealthy good-looking people had sex in the past,” or according to old white men it constitutes “cultural appropriation,” since black people are playing aristocrats during the Regency era. The phenomena of documentaries like Seaspiracy and My Octopus Teacher or the successful television series Squid Game spoilt the joy of eating seafood. Whilst the death of the Duke of Edinburgh was addressed cheekily referencing to his Royal Highness, as the “Duke of Deadinburgh.” 

The reportage further includes events like the sentencing of Derek Chauvin, the policeman who killed a defenceless George Floyd in 2020, and natural disasters such as Australia’s mice plague, the biblical floods in Germany and the fire on the ocean surface west of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Climate change is further confronted with COP26 in Glasgow, that trolls Scots by saying the city is in London.

The return of the Taliban to Afghanistan, with Biden’s decision to have the US troop withdrawal, is explained as “American soldiers wanting to work from home, just like everybody else.” And whilst one country was released from foreign presence, the universe was gradually being colonised by billionaires such as Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos who were ready for the “gentrification of space.” As regards grand events, the Olympics in Tokyo had no live audiences, contrarily to the 93rd Academy Awards that gathered the usual attendees in a “woke” key…just like the new Bond movie, No Time to Die, “ double-O-woke-agent-he-slash-him.”

Society’s regression is then attested by Texas’ laws prohibiting abortions, and the UK, US and Australia announcing a historic security pact in the Asia-Pacific to counter China. Big Tech is also part of the story, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing as a cartoon avatar informing us that someday we will inhabit a 3D virtual world with endless possibilities, and announcing the change of name of his platform to Meta. This followed the moment when whistleblower Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee, leaked tens of thousands of pages of company documents that included how the company’s executives handled politicised lies. But even more ironically “dramatic” than this was how the world stopped, when in October the social network Facebook and its subsidiaries, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Mapillary, and Oculus, became globally unavailable for a period of six to seven hours. As a user says: “it was like being Donald Trump for one afternoon.”

All this sarcasm makes concessions to nothing and nobody. None are spared from the acerbic and sardonic social critique that tries to exorcise a gruesome year, through the tongue-in-cheek wit and humour that only the British possess. Although it may come across as a déjà vu to Death To 2020, with the idea that laughter will save the world, Death To 2021 adds a note of hope and entrusts it to vaccines. The general wish is for our current year to be void of horrific events that may lead to a Death To trilogy, because it would mean that 2022 would finally be the good year we are all hoping for.

Final Grade: B+

Check out more of Chiara’s articles.

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