Rare Exports: Irony about Northern Nature and Commercialized Culture

in Nature and Culture
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How can humor illustrate critical trends related to social, economic, and ecological sustainability? This article is based on a case study that focused on the film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) and two related short films—Rare Exports Inc. (2003) and Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions (2005). These fantasy films employ irony and dark humor that reverse the popular impressions related to Santa Claus and his elves and, more generally, exotic northern nature and culture. By representing the gentle Santa Claus as a savage hybrid creature brutally punishing those not adhering to certain social norms, these films break several conventional dichotomies between good and evil, human and animal, and society and nature. The use of dark humor and irony may compromise attempts to create public understanding based on best available scientific knowledge, but it also opens up complementary and potentially fruitful ways to discuss sustainability issues. Irony provides opportunities to identify and criticize unsustainable trends and to challenge and disclose dichotomies that may otherwise remain unnoticed.