Death to 2021: a breakdown of the film and the reviews

Erin Burchill ‘25, Entertainment Editor

Since early 2020, every strange or horrible event has been exacerbated by the prolonged paranoia that society is now facing, stemming from the first big COVID scare. Beyond a years-long pandemic, we have been faced with murder hornets, violent racism and protests, corrupt administrations, attacks against women’s rights…the list goes on. The past few years have been a continuous period of weirdness and horror, and this has—rightly so—elicited lots of criticism and jokes. The mock-documentary Death to 2021 is part of an annual series that takes a look at every major event that has gone down in the past year—the good and the bad, but mostly the latter.

The film opens with a commentary on the insurrection from Jan. 6, condemning the people who took part in the event. Former President Donald Trump was included in this judgment, as his supporters made up the vast majority of the crowd that attacked the capitol building. A news reporter in the film, Madison Madison, asks viewers if “Antifa terrorists infiltrated the count in Arizona diguised as voting machines” and ends her segment with the words “Just asking questions,” which also happens to be the name of her news show. 

Tennyson Foss, a right wing historian, also remarks on the insurrection, comparing it to the battle of Hogwarts in the last installment of the Harry Potter series. Snook Austin, a journalist in D.C., describes the insurrection as “Terrifying and stupid, like a Muppet reboot of the Vietnam War,” while Kathy Flowers, described as an “average American mom,” calls it her generation’s Woodstock, even though she doesn’t know exactly what Woodstock was.

2021 pop culture and viral media is weaved into the film as well. Netflix’s Bridgerton, a show about British royalty that casts people of color as noble characters, is mocked by Foss; according to him, “The multiculturalism is historically inaccurate…the whites are erased from their own history.” Gemma Nerrick, an average British citizen, remarks on Netflix’s hit show Squid Game, jokingly comparing it to The Great British Bake Off. The makers of this mockumentary really liked to plug their original programs.

The film pokes fun at facettes of Gen-Z culture on more than one occasion; Foss remarks on preferred pronouns, claiming he doesn’t have any, and an “in memoriam” shows all of the celebrities, cartoon characters, and children’s toys that were canceled in 2021.

The increasing issue of climate change comes under fire quite literally, when footage is shown of the ocean bursting into flames. The world’s hottest day and raging wildfires are also mentioned, while Madison essentially says that intense heat is just part of nature. This smoothly segues into the new trend of billionaires trying to get away from the dying planet by venturing into space by means of interestingly-shaped rockets.

Somewhat surprisingly, the reviews on the comedy-mockumentary film have not been very positive; critics and rating services such as IMDb, Google, and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 6.3/10, a 2.6/5, and a 31 percent audience score respectively. Some of the worst reviews mainly address the political side of the film, saying “What a ridiculous left wing propaganda,” “[it] was…very ‘woke’ and biased, one-sided and just lame and unfunny,” and “It’s truly a waste of time and portraying propaganda honestly.” The majority of good reviews seem much more genuine, voicing the enjoyment viewers derived from the dark, satirical humor of the film.

Negative reviews that set aside political views complained about the repetitive jokes and “propaganda,” claiming that some might be led to believe that the film is a serious documentary telling real stories; while it is true that the characters—and by extension, their stories—are fictitious, every single one of the characters’ actions is based off of events that actually happened. For instance, Flowers talks about how horrible the insurrection was before the film cuts to an obviously fake video of her taking part in the attack itself. Although this person does not exist and did not take part in the insurrection, real people did. It is important for viewers to understand that these are all things that happened in real life, regardless of whether or not the film’s characters participated.

Taking a look at the content the film provides and the opinions that people share online, I would say that Death to 2021 is worth a watch. It blends comedy with tragedy in a way that allows viewers to look back on the year’s events with a less horrified feeling. At many points throughout the film, I was reminded of an event that I forgot had only happened in the past year, and I was able to laugh and move on rather than be fearful.

A comical recap of the horrible year of 2021 was a perfect way to top everything off. The film criticized multiple groups in complete fairness, and was not entirely one-sided. Although these types of media are not always received well by the public, it is still important to produce them. The thought that all these events happened in one year is slightly baffling, but Death to 2021 was a great way to bring every memory back before throwing it all out to make space for whatever new nonsense we will come to face in the future.

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