Overload. Pop culture overload.
In 1990, The Earth Day Special aired on TV. And it starred everybody. Meryl Streep, Will Smith, Bette Midler, Robin Williams, Porky Pig, Neil Patrick Harris, Danny DeVito, Barbra Streisand. Let that sink in for a minute. Kevin Costner, Queen Latifah, Christopher Lloyd (as Doc from the future), Dustin Hoffman, Martin Short, Jack Lemmon, The Muppets, The Golden Girls, The Cosbys, the Bundys from Married With Children, a Ghostbuster, Blossom, E.T. And so many more. At one point Tweety Bird says ‘I tawt I taw a Meryl Streep.’ It’s amazing.
The basic premise is that Mother Earth (Bette Midler) is dying. Like, in a hospital, being overseen by Doogie Howser (Neil Patrick Harris), due to how human beings have destroyed her. And as everyone on the planet (ie. a range of American celebrities) waits to see if she recovers, there are funny/educational skits and info-packed segments that try as hard as possible to ram eco-awareness down your throat.
You can watch the full thing here. Or if you just want to watch the Meryl Streep/Kevin Costner scene, check it out below:
Unfortunately, the whole thing is very (white) America-centric. For an Earth Day special there is little focus on the other inhabitants of the Earth. The whole thing is just ‘don’t pollute so that our American air and rivers stay clean.’ And also so you don’t kill Kermit the Frog. So it’s basically a self-interest and ‘saving the critters’ environmental message. And it is also heavily focussed on people changing their personal habits, rather than lobbying government to make some deep changes. Lastly, the whiteness of the whole thing is kinda unsettling. Apart from the Cosbys segment and Morgan Freeman, black people only really show up halfway through to do a rap.
These criticisms, however, don’t detract from the fact that the basic message is spot on. And kudos to all involved. I think the sad thing is that this TV special is more relevant today than it was back in 1990 - and Bette Midler’s/Mother Earth’s disbelief that human beings will actually change their ways and stop her destruction has proven, unfortunately, unwaveringly true.