Soylent Green 2022

Soylent Green is a movie, and in that film, it is also a processed food that keeps the 40 million inhabitants of New York City and much of the world alive. It is set in the year 2022.

It was the worst of times. Scarcity. 50% unemployment. People living in cars. Women are completely oppressed. The younger and prettier ones become “furniture girls” – mistresses to rich men.

The film Soylent Green was released in 1973. It is an ecological, sci-fi,  dystopian thriller. It was directed by Richard Fleischer, and stars Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young and Edward G. Robinson in his last film.

The 2022 setting of the film is a world of dying oceans, the greenhouse effect (a term less used today) but the changing climate results in pollution, poverty, overpopulation, and depleted resources. Sound familiar?

Soylent green.jpg
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It is also partly police procedural about the murder of a wealthy businessman. The wealthy elite citizens live in elegant fortresses with private security, bodyguards and their “furniture. NYPD detective Frank Thorn (Heston) and his aged friend Sol Roth (Robinson) are on the case. Roth, AKA “Book, “is a very intelligent former college professor and police analyst who remembers the world when it had animals and real food.

The murder victim was William R. Simonson, a board member of the Soylent Corporation which makes the food supply for half of the world. Their cookie/wafers include “Soylent Red” and “Soylent Yellow” but their new product is “Soylent Green” which is a more nutritious version and it is in demand and in short supply. It is advertised as being made from ocean plankton. There are supply chain and distribution problems and that causes riots when supplies run out. Rioters are violently removed from the streets by garbage-truck-type vehicles called “Scoops” that shovel up people and haul them away.

Simonson’s “furniture” Shirl begins a relationship with Thorn and helps him. He is told to end his investigation but continues anyway and finds himself being stalked.

It has been a long time since the film was released, so can I give a spoiler about the plot? The dying oceans can’t produce enough plankton to make Soylent Green. The company needs a new source of protein. I won’t say what that source is – though you might guess – and Simonson’s murder was ordered by his own company because he was troubled by the direction of the company.

Roth is disturbed by what they discover that he decides to end his life using one of the assisted suicide government clinics. Euthanasia is an accepted practice in this version of 2022.

The screenplay was based on the novel Make Room! Make Room! which was published in 1966). In the novel, the setting was 1999.

I won’t say it’s a great film but it did win the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film at the time. Is it a prescient film? Is it accurate in its prediction of 2022? Thankfully, we are not living in the film’s 2022 world, but there are aspects of the film’s future that are true to today.

I was surprised some years ago when I saw that Soylent (meal replacement), became a brand of meal replacement products. I was surprised because what happens in the book and film is a horrible thing.

In the book and 2012  film Cloud Atlas and in another dystopian novel, Tender is the Flesh, food shortages are solved in a similar way to Soylent Green.

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Ken

A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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