Soylent Green–Low Tech Science Fiction
I’ve heard the phrase Soylent Green before, and I vaguely remember it being a movie. However, I never actually saw it until recently. I have to say, it’s a fairly heavy movie that touches on oh-so-many social issues.
The premise behind this 1973 movie is that the earth in year 2022 has been overtaken by global warming. The environment has been poisoned by pollution. Food, as we know it today, including fruits, vegetables, and meat, are a rare and expensive commodity. The economy is depressed as half the population is out of work and lives in hallways, staircases, and anywhere else they can find a place to be. Food and water are rationed out.
Food, such that it is, consists of hyper-processed wafers by the Soylent corporation. Soylent Red and Yellow are advertise as “high-energy vegetable concentrates.” Soylent Green, their newest product, is advertised as being made from “high-energy plankton.” It is highly desirable, but it is in short supply–only given out on Tuesdays. When the supply runs out–and it often does–riots ensue.
Unlike most science fiction, the “technology” in the film, such that it is, hasn’t aged since 1972, when Soylent Green was filmed. No attempt was made to make the technology look “futuristic,” though that is besides the point. Shirl is shown playing the first commercially sold video game called Computer Space, and is perhaps the most futuristic looking thing in the entire movie. Detective Thorn uses old-school police boxes to call into dispatch while he is on the street. Research was done the old fashioned way–in books. It’s a picture of a different time for sure.
What struck me most was the food situation in the movie. Most people couldn’t eat fruits, vegetables, meat, or most anything else, simply because it was rare and expensive to obtain. Only the wealthy could even affor proper food. The masses mostly ate freeze-dried food supplied by the Soylent Corporation.
In the real world, though, a lot of the food that we eat here in the U.S. comes from a package, a box, a bag, or a wrapper–almost as fake as Soylent Green. It’s not doing our health any favors, for sure, nor is it doing our taste buds justice.
There is a scene where Detective Thorn shows his roommate and “book” Sol Roth the food he lifted from William R. Simonson’s apartment while investigating his murder. Thorn shows him the various fruits and vegetables and also unwraps a slab of meat. Sol cries and wonders aloud “how did we come to this?” Watch their feast below:
I hope that in the real world, for whatever the reason, it never comes to this. People–all people–should have access to real, whole food. Food that isn’t processed by some mega-corporation, fortified with vitamins and minerals. Unprocessed–or as minimally as possible–meat, fish, veggies, and fruits. May they be plentiful and that society doesn’t go down the road of eating Soylent Red, Yellow, and Green.