On Sunday October 10, 2010, people across the world are planning to stage local community action in order to reduce global CO2 and other greenouse gas emissions.
On the morning of September 30th, 2010, 10:10 UK–the British organization responsible for the project–debuted a promotional video titled “No Pressure” on the 10:10 website. In less than 24 hours, the video was pulled and replaced by this message:
“Sorry. We missed the mark with today’s ‘No Pressure’ video, and have removed it from our website. [...] Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn’t and we sincerely apologise to anybody we have offended.”
Four days later on October 4, 10:10 followed-up with another, rather more amplified mea culpa, this time from the Executive Director:
“As you may have heard, last week, 10:10 made a mistake by releasing a short film about cutting carbon which was supposed to be humourous but in the event upset a lot of people. We quickly realised that we had made a serious mistake and took it down from our website within hours.”
“We also issued a statement apologising but there has subsequently been quite a lot of negative comment, particularly on blogs, and understandable concern from others working hard to build support for action on climate change.”
“We are also sorry to our corporate sponsors, delivery partners and board members, who have been implicated in this situation despite having no involvement in the film’s production or release”
“I am very sorry for our mistake and want to reassure you that we will do everything in our power to ensure it does not happen again.”
If you have yet to see the offending video, have a gander [trigger warning for violent images]:
As a bit of absurd, British comedy, I’d have to say, “Success”. I’ll go on the record as saying I thought it was funny. Dark? Yes. Harsh? Oh, mais oui. But funny. The video immediately made me think of the classic Monty Python sketch, “Sam Peckinpah’s Salad Days.” It could have been a skit from the Chappelle Show or come from any episode of South Park.
The video was written by Richard Curtis, who also was the writer for the long-running Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley TV series, and the film Bridget Jones’s Diary. So needless to say, the man knows a thing or two about absurd, scatological, envelope-pushing humor.
But 10:10′s mission isn’t absurdist, shocking comedy. It’s climate.
The Guardian has gathered a fairly complete round-up of post-10:10 analysis. The video has been labeled, “the kind of stupidity that hurts our side.“ Others have asked, “What is the message? Who are the audience? The video literally doesn’t make any sense.” Even Randy Olson, no stranger to marrying absurd humor to serious subject matter, went on the record with, “I think the film was horribly offensive. I also think Stephen Colbert should be boycotted for making a mockery of the U.S. Congress, Jon Stewart should be punished for his unwillingness to treat serious American politics seriously, and South Park should be banned altogether.”
Okay, forget that last one. [Though Randy's got a point that I agree with--that maybe we've all got our asses puckered a bit to tightly over this. Does every climate change outreach effort have to be yet anothert dreary, lugubrious doomfest?]
In any event, you’re left to wonder how this video could have gone so awesomely, stupendously, outrageously wrong for a well-meaning group trying to make an edgy, funny, and effective PSA on climate change. A video of this production value doesn’t get slapped together overnight. It’s got a star writer, X-Files star Gillian Anderson as narrator and actress, special effects, a large cast, and a soundtrack. There had to be meeting after meeting to develop storyboards. And version after version of rough drafts that needed review and sign-off from the 10:10 team.
Yet no one on the 10:10 video development team, 10:10 leadership, or 10:10 board thought it was a miss? I’ve got a gut feeling that the 10:10 crew were so dazzled by their cleverness and edginess that they forgot their message-ness™.
I think No Pressure will be instructive to the environmental movement for some time to come. The folks at 10:10 are already sifting through their video rubble. In the latest message from their Director Eugenie Harvey, they plan, “to investigate what happened, review our processes and procedures, and share the results with our partners. Responsibility for this process is being taken by the 10:10 board of directors.” Humor can be a powerful vehicle for education. So can shock. And sex doesn’t hurt either. But it takes balance, proportion, and knowing your audience as well.
Perhaps 10:10 will be a success, despite this video setback. We’ll certainly find out soon enough.