You’ve heard of celebrities embroiling themselves in politics. The news cycle is polluted by examples of Hollywood’s politicization, as studio execs and celebrities have decided that demonstrating their allegiance to progressive causes is more gratifying than making great art. Politicians might as well make the movies — and now they are.
Appropriately named to remind audiences to remain seated until credits roll, the climate change documentary “To the End” debuted in movie theaters nationwide on Dec. 9. The trailer introduces four progressive leaders, each representing a different contribution to what is depicted as a grassroots environmental movement among the younger generation: Alexandra Rojas, a political strategist; Rhiana Gunn-Wright, a climate policy writer; Varshini Prakash, a community activist; and New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a U.S. government official.
The congresswoman fulfills the film’s leading role, and she is shown entering the Capitol to “get her hands dirty” and pass legislation that will be the “moonshot of our generation.” Accompanied by an uplifting song, shots of miscellaneous climate change protests are interspersed with sound bites from the four leaders.
Audio stating that “the media is expecting us to fail” plays, followed by a text from RobertEbert.com’s Nick Allen, describing the film as “set to ignite more Americans to take action.” Americans were not ignited to act, especially to watch this film. After debuting on more than 120 screens on the weekend it was released, “To the End” came in 33rd place overall at the box office, garnering less than $10,000 across all theaters, meaning the movie made roughly $80 per location.
Despite the reality of the numbers, critics like TheWrap’s Elizabeth Weitzman praised AOC’s performance as “painfully poignant,” representative of “…the blend of optimism, desperation, and determination that powers the entire film.”
The former bartender was served a “fresh” critic score of 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and it is too early for the website to display an audience score. However, there are several one-star audience reviews, with one user describing the film as what would be produced if “…a group of middle school kids with no knowledge of science tried to make a climate change movie.”
Footage of AOC trekking through a forest was not enough to convince average Americans of the film’s exigence. After mocking disgruntled constituents at a town hall in October, the congresswoman struggles to convince Americans that she battles elite politicians for the betterment of the planet because she is an elite politician.
Although she was elected in New York’s 14th congressional district as an underdog in 2018, AOC’s infamous appearance at the 2021 Met Gala in a “Tax the Rich” dress exemplifies her shift in priorities. The fusion of entertainment and politics is unavoidable in modern American culture. Like celebrities, politicians must carefully curate their image to respond to popular demand.
Nevertheless, there has been a rising perception that politicians like AOC have abandoned their constituents to bolster themselves within elite circles of influence like those found in Hollywood. AOC’s starring role in the climate change documentary “To the End” failed to bring about anything new under the sun because it was not created with general audiences in mind. The film was made for political action, by a political actor.