A recent news round up gave details of a video competition run by Denise Baden at Southampton University and we have noted other initiatives in the recent past such as our review of Resurrection Trust.

Denise had a piece in The Conversation last week which argues that the missing ingredient to fight the climate crisis is positive fictional role models. She argues that history teaches us that as technology progresses and we become more efficient, we simply consume more, and that this has associated environmental problems, such as plastic waste, water pollution and mining for finite resources. And so, to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis effectively, “we urgently need to address cultural values relating to consumption” with an important aspect of this being the role models presented on screens and in books.  Denise argues that “research into the growing field of educational entertainment shows that when people are immersed in a story, they become more open to the persuasive messages embedded in them – a process called narrative transportation. She says that research also shows that fictional role models can have cultural impacts both good and bad, and that exemplar theory suggests that role models affect values and behaviours in ways that may be less conscious but more impactful than just telling people what to do. Currently, Denise argues that characters trying to live more sustainably tend to be “portrayed as irritating, quirky or odd“.

Unsurprisingly, the article has the fashion industry in its sights, arguing that “In the real world, the fashion industry emits twice as many carbon emissions than aviation and shipping combined, pesticides in cotton and chemical in dyes and micro-plastics in clothes pollute vast amounts of water, and the fast-fashion trend towards increased clothing production and decreased garment usage lifetime continues unabated.” Denise speculates that in an alternative film, another Emily in Paris could get her clothes from fashion swaps and vintage shops, and use her amazing marketing skills to highlight all the new apps and opportunities to rentborrowshare or buy second hand. An example of positive green imaging is Denise’s own eco-themed rom-com novel, Habitat Man, and she says that embedding green solutions within a story aimed at a mainstream audience results in actual changes in behaviour while not compromising the storyline. 

The article concludes:

“I suspect that in ten years when climate change and mounting waste is impossible to ignore, we’ll find the mindless consumption in shows like Emily in Paris jarring. But we don’t have ten years. So let’s call them out now and encourage writers and producers to develop more planet-friendly characters for us to emulate and enjoy.”

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