Under Pressure

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.

RickMac (67 Posts)

8 Replies to “Under Pressure”

  1. Kids spontaneously blowing is offensive to this parent of two, and it got real old after like the second scene, but was real offensive was the stupid, horrendous arrogance purported by this organization. It is simply much more desirable to nonchalantly destroy the life of those who disagree with you than to work together. Yeah, I know, working together has gotten no where yadda yadda. Well sorry. That’s the way it is and there are far more people in this world than Brits and Americans (the only targeted audience) that have no clue what climate change is and why they should care. This is intended to preach to the choir and not win over any votes outside of the constituency, which it utterly fails at in my opinion.

    I am so pissed off by this stupidity and arrogance and that of many other environmental campaigns out of touch tactics that I’m going to have to write a goddamn post on this myself!

  2. I wasn’t offended by this video, although I think it was bad form to blow up kids. I didn’t think it was funny, either. It more left me wondering — what’s the point? If those folks had *melted* maybe it would have made sense to me.

    The video plays like some folks are venting their anger at people not taking steps to address climate change. But, seriously? Angry that people aren’t changing light bulbs?? The real adaptation and mitigation measures have to be on a policy scale at regional, national, and international levels to achieve massive reform in our transportation and energy sectors.

    Shock video only has value if it effectively communicates the point. Here, we’re just left with a lousy video that has turned a lot of people off from the event, and that is simply a PR failure.

  3. 1. I thought it was extremely funny. And I have two kids.

    2. I think it succeeded where 99.9% of organization-created videos fail miserably — it got people discussing climate change.

    3. I guess i agree it missed the mark, but to point to the one video that actually got people talking as an iconic failure when the climate community has basically bored the public to death, i just have issues with that.

  4. Bloody brilliant! (and I have 8 kids) I laughed til I cried.

    Reduce CO2 emissions by eliminating 10% of the population…

  5. I thought this was hilarious (think “shawn of the dead” comedy). In any case I reckon the whole backlash thing was part of the plan to get people talking about it, just as we are here. This stinks of a media setup, just like most people knew Joaquin Phoenix was acting for “I’m still here”. You’re not in on it are you KZ?

  6. again, i’m with those of you who found humor in the video… what can i say, i like absurd, brit comedy and timing…

    but was the point of “no pressure” to get people to debate the video? i don’t think so… i suspect the point was to galvanize people to DO SOMETHING on 10:10… we have enough talk, it’s time for action…

    knowing how difficult it is to raise funds for a psa, how competitive the funding landscape is, and how any ngo should be focused on OUTCOMES, am i supposed to believe that the best outcome 10:10 hoped to achieve was a pissing battle between those who found this funny or not?

    if the net outcome is that people dug deeper into their positions and this only fueled further argumentation across the aisles, while the bigger issue of climate change mitigation ACTION is overlooked, then i’m calling it FAIL…

  7. True. I guess I have difficulty in figuring out how this could have gone cpmpletely unnoticed until launch. You’re right that the video has ended up as a distraction.

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