Can We Have More Solarpunk Movies, Please?

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Strange World Disney

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that looks at Disney’s 2022 animated film ‘Strange World,’ and its incorporation of the futuristic ecology-minded up-and-coming genre known as “Solarpunk.”

Science fiction’s vision of the future is, on the whole, pretty bleak. Sand dunes that used to be oceans. Rotting skylines, affixed with salvaged neon billboards selling soft drinks. Underground bunkers hastily built to shield humanity from a toxic atmosphere. We’ve seen it before. We’ll probably see it again.

Indeed, the image of a deteriorating corporate dystopia has almost become ordinary. Which, consequently, defangs any purported “scare ’em straight” messaging. If the polluted worlds of Mad Max or The Matrix were powerful enough to prompt change, we wouldn’t be experiencing the hottest summer on record … every summer.

Solarpunk offers an alternative approach. Not quite a genre in its own right, but quickly making a name for itself across a variety of mediums, Solarpunk is an optimistic reaction to more cynical readings of the future. Maybe there’s a future where we can find a way to make sustainable urban living a possibility. Maybe the more radical thing is to envision a future where we aren’t living on a deteriorating planet.

Released in 2022, Strange World is thematically aligned with Solarpunk values. And while its Disney origins do have a certain greenwashing aftertaste, its keen interest in systemic change (rather than individual action) and its acknowledgment of Solarpunk’s debt to indigenous and afro- future-proofing is noteworthy.

Is Strange World an on-the-nose allegory? Yeah. But there’s also an argument to be made that its Solarpunk message has more bite than what the rest of climate has been slinging for decades.

Watch “In Defense of Disney’s Strange Solarpunk World”

Who made this?

This video essay on why solarpunk vibes make Disney’s Strange World worth defending is by Pop Culture Detective, a YouTuber who makes essays that explore the intersections of politics, masculinity, and entertainment. The channel is hosted by Jonathan McIntosh, and you can subscribe to it here. They’re also on TikTok!

More videos like this

  • There’s a companion “audio episode”/definitely not a podcast that goes along with the above video. Have a listen here.
  • Pop Culture Detective frequently investigates gendered tropes in film and television. This video essay, on the “born sexy yesterday” gambit is a rock-solid watch. Likewise, this two-part essay on instances in film where sexual assault against masculine folks is played for laughs is also super informative and well worth the watch if you’re up for it.
  • We’ve shared this essay five years ago back in 2018 (it’s been that long folks!). But it’s worth sharing again. Here’s why 2016’s Passengers — and other films that pass abduction off as romantic — are super messed up.
Meg Shields: Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.