Spoiler Warning (in case you didn’t want to be spoiled for a 49-year-old movie)
DALLAS (KDAF) — If you’re looking through HBO Max’s fantasy/sci-fi category, you might have seen the title for the film Soylent Green.
This film is set in 2022
This 1973 cult classic tells the story of a New York City police officer, Detective Thorn (Charleton Heston), in an overpopulated, starving future.
If this is your first time watching the film, one of the most shocking revelations comes when you see the first frame of the film: a title card showing that this ‘dystopian’ future is set in the year 2022.
So now that we are in the future, let’s compare what our world is actually like versus the predictions of the past.
Well, the first thing to get out of the way is that our world today is very different than the film’s depiction of what 2022 would look like, though the film’s relevance has aged incredibly well.
How Soylent Green talks about climate change
In Soylent Green, the climate crisis has caused the seasons to dissipate, and the residents of the Earth live in constant heat and air conditioning is a luxury only the wealthiest few can acquire.
The film also talks about how the climate crisis has caused shortages in food and water. Most people, except for the wealthy few, eat soybean squares, called soylent. There is soylent yellow (made out of soybeans), there is soylent red (made from the carcasses of animals) and there is soylent green (made from ocean plankton). Soylent Green is the most in-demand food product in this future.
Spoiler: Toward the end of the film, the detective learns that the climate catastrophe has dried up the world’s ocean plankton and in turn, corporations begin making Soylent Green out of dead people.
What the discussion about climate change looks like in 2022
Though luckily, we do not live in that world, climate change is a heavily-discussed topic in modern discourse. The massively popular film ‘Don’t Look Up’ takes a satirical look at how catastrophic the climate crisis really is and how our leaders passively do nothing to stop the destructive practices of corporations.
Recently, NASA scientists were arrested in Los Angeles for blocking the entrance to a JP-Morgan Chase Building in protest, warning that if nothing is done to combat the climate crisis, we will reach a point of no return. Those scientists were arrested.
Though Soylent Green had a more bleak outlook on the future, their concerns regarding climate change are still as relevant today as they were in the 70s.
How Soylent Green depicts class division
Another prominent theme in Soylent Green is its discussion of the division and treatment between the upper and lower classes.
In his detective work, Thorn must investigate the assassination of a wealthy man on the board of the company that produces Soylent products. When investigating this man’s apartment, Thorn marvels at the amenities the rich have access to.
While most people live on the street and sleep wherever they can find shelter, this man has a large apartment all to himself. He has air conditioning, running water and real food. He even has real beef in this film, a rarity in this future.
Class division in 2022
Again, not as exaggerated as the film predicts, but the divide between the wealthiest few and the rest of the world is increasing. According to a CNBC article in 2021, the wealthiest 1% of Americans controlled 16 times more money than the bottom 50% of Americans.