Title text: 'But what's the buzz about the film?' 'We're hoping it's distracting.'
This comic depicts an entertainment news television program. Hairy, as the news anchor, notes that "all Hollywood" is in town, meaning there are a lot of members of the film industry. The event is a movie premiere, a common place for reporters to interview celebrities, actors, and other people related to entertainment.
Megan represents the reporter at the premiere reporting for the television program. The red carpet is a tradition whereby a long red carpet is laid out leading to the entrance of a theater as a symbol of elegance. Movie stars are said to "walk the red carpet" when they arrive and do interviews and pose for photos along this carpet, most famously seen at the Oscars.
When asked the ambiguous question "How do things look?", instead of reporting on the premiere and the movie stars arriving, Megan reports on the bleak long-term outlook for the Earth as we know it. She states than in about 800 million years the Sun will become so hot that the Earth's oceans boil away. According to the Wikipedia article this will though first happen in about 1.1 billion years. But the 800 million years may have been the best estimate back in 2012 when this comic was released, see for instance this article from 2013 that states 850 million years. (The loss of oceans will still happen long before the sun turns into a red giant in about 5 billion years).
When Hairy then asks how the stars are reacting (meaning how the movie stars are reacting to this news about the oceans), Megan instead replies that the stars are reacting with hydrogen fusion, the nuclear reaction of actual stars like the Sun, thus again ostensibly mistaking the intent of the question. All astronomical stars eventually die when there is not enough hydrogen (or other heavier atoms) to continue the fusion process that keeps the stars stable.
Hairy then clarifies that he (of course) meant the movie stars, but Megan keeps being bleak in her reporting as she notes that they also won't last forever, and by the way no one else will. She is of course right as eventually everyone dies, just as the stars will eventually die, but of course much sooner for any living human, movie star or not. This reminding people that they will soon die is a common thing for xkcd, apart from the whole segment of comics to make one feel old, there is a specific example in 1393: Timeghost and even more so in 926: Time Vulture.
In the title text Hairy ask about the buzz about the film. The buzz here refers to ongoing discussion of the movie, analogous to a continuous humming sound. Megan exclaims that she hopes this buzz distracts people from the apparently grave news she has already reported.
Also, since "premiere" etymologically means "first", the title might be a pun on the comic number, which only consists of four ones (1111).
The joke of Megan answering a question in an interview in an unexpected manner was used again in 1302: Year in Review.
Megan had an existential crisis already in 220: Philosophy and later again in 1822: Existential Bug Reports. In the latter it was the Sun swallowing the Earth (not the oceans) that was her concern.
- [The setting is a standard entertainment newscast. Hairy as the news anchor in the studio sits behind a desk, resting his hands on the desk, starts off the segment with an inset feed to the right where Megan can be seen in front of a crowd behind her. The title of this segment is shown below the feed.]
- Hairy: All Hollywood is in town for tonight's star-studded premiere! We go live to our reporter on the red carpet.
- Hairy: How do things look?
- Title: Red Carpet Report
- [Megan switches to full-screen. Megan is standing in front of a full crowd of Cueball heads who are behind a line held up be sticks, one of which is visible behind her. She holds a large microphone up to her face.]
- Megan: Bleak.
- Megan: In 800 million years the aging, brightening Sun will boil away the oceans, and all this will be blowing sand.
- [Switch back to initial framing with Hairy moving his arms further away from himself and Megan now with the microphone visible.]
- Hairy: Oh. Um. ...Sounds pretty grim. How are the stars reacting?
- Megan: Hydrogen fusion. But it won't last forever.
- Hairy: I mean the movie stars.
- Megan: They won't last forever either. None of us will.
- Title: Red Carpet Report
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Maybe I'm just splitting hairs, but I'm not sure that's Megan. Her hair looks a little shorter. --Joehammer79 (talk) 20:55, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
- The coif de mode is for the camera; she's gussied up for the event! -- IronyChef (talk) 15:29, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
I think the title text "distraction" is not about a literal buzz, but about the movie in question: the mindless Hollywood "entertainment" is supposed to distract us from our problems of total, eventual annihilation at the hands of a mindless, uncaring universe. --BigMal27 / 184.108.40.206 12:41, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
I think the comic is existential, and perhaps even mocking fatalism. Everything Megan says is technically true, but also immediately irrelevant and the terms used, and even bringing it up is over-the-top bleak.
Then again. It might make fun of news, since being over the top about things that often doesn't matter is a big part of what they do. So perhaps what news would be like if the reporters where more knowledgeable but still acted as stupid?
Take your pick. I am not adding it to the explanation yet, since it is only two of several interpretation, but existentialism has been a feature of many other xkcd strips. Carewolf (talk) 14:50, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
- Personally, I would consider the limited livespan of Sun to be more important that the movie. Less pressing, of course. The movie stars will be dead sooner ... unless you consider them live as long as their films are showing, in which case they may last as long as our civilisation. --Hkmaly (talk) 07:55, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
I highly doubt any media produced today will survive as long as our star. Shakes spears works or cave paintings have only been around for a micro sliver of our suns life cycle. Their mediums would not last that long since even our mountains won't last that long. DruidDriver (talk) 07:40, 21 January 2013 (UTC)
- And yet they'll still be under copyright... -- The Cat Lady (talk) 20:52, 6 September 2021 (UTC)