And 2022 is also Soylent Green year, at least according to the movie Soylent Green. I had wanted to find a number of films, TV shows, or science fiction novels set in 2022, but this was pretty much the only one. Well, the only good one that you might be likely able to find streaming.
I didn’t include any films that were in production after 2019 but somehow set in 2022, because those don’t really count — no one knew when they were finally going to come out, after all. But that’s okay, because Soylent Green had enough of an impact on the zeitgeist of the time (it was released in 1973) that a lot of people still know its most famous line, which I won’t repeat here, and the story still holds up as relevant to today because we’re still facing a lot of the same issues.
Funny how that happens, isn’t it?
The film itself is based on Harry Harrison’s 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!, which establishes the major themes and ideas that we see in the movie, although it’s set earlier in the film, in 1999. This allows Harrison to be even more off in his predictions of the future, at least in the specifics, but the general trajectory was correct.
In his novel, the world population has reached 7 billion people, something that wouldn’t happen in reality until October 31, 2011. In 1999, it had only just passed 6 billion.
Still, the idea was that the people were consuming the planet’s resources faster than they could be replenished, and if something wasn’t done, there would be a Malthusian catastrophe. Neither the book nor the movie deal too much with climate change, although the world of Soylent Green does seem to be perpetually too hot — and that’s in New York City, although we don’t know the season.
Watching the movie now, a lot of things will look disturbingly familiar, including washes, underpasses, and the like having been turned into vast homeless camps, although in this dystopian vision, that’s extended even further, so that even the steps to our hero’s brownstone walk-up have become sleeping space for more homeless people — and our hero is a cop (Charlton Heston).
The one other big thing that resonates with now is that there are a lot of very, very poor people, and very few rich ones — and those few rich people live in luxury that no one else can imagine — high-rise luxury apartments with incredible views, deluxe amenities, heavily armed security and bodyguards, and access to food — like real steak, strawberry jam ($150 for a tiny jar on the black market), and “furniture,” which actually refers to people who come with the apartments and are pretty much sex slaves to the owners.
Although the only two pieces of “furniture” we see in this really cringey hangover from the 1970s are women, one can only imagine what the full range of the catalog was, considering that the people ordering it could afford what they wanted as well as avoid any criminal issues arising from it.
Incidentally, a lot of thses super-rich also happen to be executives with Soylent, the company that makes the plant-based, processed food that’s pretty much all that’s left. You know. Fill a monopoly, make it scarce, then make everyone dependent on it.
Yeah, not that much different than now.
The film is worth checking out as a precautionary tale that draws closer to reality every day, and despite the obviously dated design — which actually works in the film’s favor, because they didn’t try to go too far out with “futurizing” it — it’s quite watchable and holds up. Heston and his roommate/police partner Sol (Edward G. Robinson) are the center of a piece with an all-star cast, and the opening montage alone takes us through about two hundred years (relative to 2022) of American history and its effect on the landscape, resources and atmosphere, entirely in still pictures.
Check it out of it can.