Andrew has encouraged me to post a sort of companion review to his own over at Andrew’s Den, so here goes.
Perhaps the movie’s main plot was ruined for me, since everyone and her mom knows the twist ending. I found the incidental details to be more interesting this time around, so I spent a lot of time picking out background information and trying to pierce together what had happened to society in this scenario. Based on the clothing you see on the female extras (heads covered, long-ish, shapeless dresses) it would seem that society has swung back to a conservative mindset. This is corroborated by the presence of the “furniture” in the film, played entirely by females, and seeming to exist as the literal property of the more-powerful. All of whom, you might notice, are assumed to be men (but, then, maybe this is just an assumption of the period in which the movie was made). Furthermore, even though there are prominent supporting characters in positions of authority played by actors of color, there are no women in equivalent positions. Shirl, the most prominent female character in the movie, doesn’t think much of being passed from one man to another, nor being peremptorily ordered on to the bed by the antihero Thorn (although her expression in her last scene, when her new boss asks her if she’s a “fun girl” and she realizes the bleakness of her future, is heartbreaking). Similarly, the second-biggest female character, Martha, only appears to laze around in short robes and be brutally roughed up by Thorn.
I’ll just put it out there that I kinda hate Thorn, and we can move on.
Anyway, this ties in to the most important thing I took away from Soylent Green, something which you see echoed in other futuristic works about overpopulation like Burgess’ The Wanting Seed. Although people often accuse those going on about the dangers of overpopulation of being insensitive to the miracle that is human life, overpopulation, and all the ugly conflicts that will rise from it, will result in another kind of insensitivity to humanity. In Soylent Green, we see people being reduced to dumb objects and basic functionality—“furniture” and “books.” We also see people being so devalued as to be scooped up by diggers, and (obviously) used for food. It’s pessimistic and cruel, but it’s not such a far cry from what will happen if we continue to ignore the problem of skyrocketing population and dwindling resources.