Aww, summer. Guiltless time to watch and re-watch “Moments of Wonder with Philomena Cunk – Climate Change” and laugh to the point of tears. It aired a few years ago but it is new to me. I’m a huge fan of comedian Diane Morgan‘s work, and while not all of it is appropriate for classroom use, it occurred to me that this piece on climate change is a great addition to any media literacy toolkit.
Morgan is brilliant as Cunk. The character is simpleminded but can’t be written off completely because, for all her lack of critical thought and journalistic integrity, she has a crystal clear vision of how her news segments will appear in the final edit. It doesn’t really matter who Cunk is interviewing, which questions she’s asking, or whether or not she’s listening to the answers. Cunk knows that the right combination of stock footage, well-lit b-roll, pensive voice over, and stirring music will come together to make a compelling news story. In this news universe, someone like Cunk can claim expertise while challenging the credibility of actual experts. She cobbles a selection of conjectures and loosely understood facts into a satisfying narrative. Our shrinking attention spans and TLDR attitudes are accommodated by Cunk, indeed championed (“How does weather actually work? And if you could make it snappy cause it’s gonna be on iPlayer.”). The audience is willing to trade content for form. Cunk’s character is confident that the final product will not only look like news, but will most likely have more appeal to viewers than the actual real news, whatever that means anymore.
I know that nothing is worse than someone explaining why something is funny. But smart parody like this can breathe life into classroom discussions about media literacy and journalism. I’d love to watch this video with high school students and ask:
- What production and post-production techniques are used to lend Cunk and her show credibility?
- How does Cunk poke fun at the idea of fair and balanced journalism? How does the debate around an issue like climate change present challenges for journalists who are expected to be fair and balanced?
- Parody is a comic imitation that works better the closer it gets to resembling our shared truth. Who is Cunk imitating, and how? Are there parallel personalities, attitudes, or production techniques we can point to in our legitimate mainstream media?