Dangers for Unguarded Youth
My family has an amusing though indefensible love for a wide range of old (and frequently bad) monster, science fiction and disaster movies. We own everything from Reptilicus to The Time Machine, (not to mention every Alien sequel and spin-off ever made). As a Christmas gift my mother received a set including many of her favorites, one of which is Soylent Green. Soylent Green is a drama set in what I suppose to the 1973 movie-going crowds was the far-off future: the United States of America in 2022.
According to this narrative, I’ll be thirty when Earth’s resources are exhausted and the world becomes wildly overpopulated. Our protagonist, detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston), lives in New York City along with 40 million other people, the vast majority of whom live in extreme poverty and survive on the meager food rations produced by the Soylent Company.
The drama unfolds as Thorn investigates the death of a Company official. As he digs deeper, the detective stumbles upon the horrifying secret of Soylent Company’s newest addition to its line of tasteless-color-coded-wafers. He finds the real source of soylent green.
Before I spoil the movie for you (which I will), let’s run through my experience seeing the movie for the first time. My brothers Peter and Rob are new to the film too. Within the first ten minutes or so or the movie, starving citizens attack food ration distributors, bringing riot police to use the menacing “scoopers” to push back the crowd.
Now, keep in mind the city is so packed with people they can’t all lie down to sleep at once. As we watch infuriated rebels being shoveled into dump trucks, I turn to my mother and ask what the police are going to do with them. A sidelong glance from Peter quiets me. It’s a silly question, we both know those characters won’t be coming up later in the film. At the story’s climax, Sol (Thorn’s father) through his death leads us into the heart of Soylent Company’s factory. Here we learn the secret that has been held in suspense:
SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!
While the credits roll, my mother looks expectantly to my brothers and I, interested in our reactions. But our expressions revealed only confusion: “you mean that was the big mystery? They’re using the poor, dead and dissident to make more soylent products? I knew that the whole time!”
To be fair, it’s worth entertaining the possibility that my brothers and I are simply the poster-children for a generation of cynical youth, ready to imagine the worst at the slightest cause. I believe, however, that my experience demonstrates something more generally applicable. Many of us are offended by the accusation that we are affected by media and the prevailing culture. We feel secure in the fact that, as rational beings, we make up our own minds. In this way, avoiding certain influences and rooting others out of our mind makes us feel like we are committing the taboos of narrow-mindedness and insularity. But my own experience hints otherwise. Not only were we accustomed to the ecological apocalypse motif, but we assumed nearly from the beginning of the film that poverty, euthanasia, other types of moral decay, and even cannibalism would descend under the conditions of Thorn’s world.
As someone deeply suspicious of deep green politics and the push towards “family planning” and “population control” often seen coupled with it, I fear I have much to think about when it comes to what I’m being indoctrinated in as a result of the surrounding culture. In retrospect, on of my first thoughts should have been to look at 2012 and see how different I believe the world of 2022 will be, how impossible Soylent Green’s reasons for desperation are. Such thoughts would have reflected better on my state of mind than the assumption that a futuristic society under pressure would feed the poor to the hungry.
*for more information about population control and the problems with sustainable development, be sure to read for C-FAM’s White Page by Riccardo Cascioli!
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