What's Happening

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.


This new name is unacceptable. Soylent Green was a perfect, snappy title that fit extremely well and that almost every person in the western world will understand the moment they hear it. now, its been changed to a reference to a single line of dialogue ina relatively obscure show, and explaining it requires A TEN LINE QUOTE THAT TAKES UP MORE SPACE THAN THE TROPE DESCRIPTION ITSELF. this is not "changing for clarity." this is not "changing the name to a more fitting one." this is pure fanboyish self-masturbation, done for the sole reason for shoehorning someone's favorite quote into a trope title.

Some Sort Of Troper: Going to have to call bull on this- people weren't getting what the page was about, they were confusing this trope for what is more usually Human Resources. That's the problem, Soylent Green is a perfect snappy title... for a different trope. The numerous people who discussed the name didn't give a shit about the trope namer so went entirely for what they felt was more fitting. The page quote is just a page quote, it's not part of the description, it's there for some dialogue example or as a joke, an adornment to the page. Yes, I feel it's too long so I edited it away because you see when I see a problem I try to fix it rather than shifting into bold all caps like a bad Goa'uld rip off.

Some Sort Of Troper: So there's been discussion for a rename here and a crowner here and a new name has taken a considerable advantage and had a consensus formed around it so a three day countdown has begun.

Countdown completed, tropes renamed. After a long and tortured history Powered by a Forsaken Child has come home.
* One episode of the original Twilight Zone has an old couple uncork a genie who can grants wishes, but warns of the price to them. When the couple figures out to carefully word their wishes, the husband wishes to be a leader for life in a modern European nation, but he still messes up when the genie gleefully turns him into Adolf Hitler. Understandably, he quickly uses the last wish to turn him back to normal.

Seth Moved to Literal Genie, i see no aspects of Soylent Green here.

Andyroid: Do we have to have a spoiler on the quote from Soylent Green up there? It's been referenced and spoofed so many times, I wonder just how many people who have never seen the film know that line. Hmm, there may be a trope for that: surprise endings that have been spoofed so much, they're not much of a surprise anymore... besides Soylent Green, there's Luke, I Am Your Father, and the Planet of the Apes Ending.

Seth: It was supposed to be ironic

Morgan Wick: Nine words: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Morgan Wick, later: We might want to have a page for the movie Soylent Green.

Ununnilium: Soylent Green would be better than moving this page, IMHO.

Jordan: I was thinking about this trope, and was wondering if the Yerks from Animorphs would be an example, given that they depend upon taking over other species in order to have any real mobility.

Lale: It's the hosts paying the price, not the Yeerks, so, no.

Jordan: But isn't that the case too in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas? I'm not sure I see the difference.

Seth: That's just a parasite, not anything to do with this trope. They are considered different in fiction due to their real life counterparts - an alien/monster wouldn't find killing a human too much of a price - this trope relies on the question of the price.

I think we have a trope on Alien Parasites somewhere if not Alien Parasites is the best name

William Wide Web: You're thinking of The Puppetmasters.

Soylent Green as a title for this trope is damn close to Soylent Soy and also violates the rule about naming tropes directly after titles.

My recommendation: But At What Cost? (Source: Star Trek III, but often parodied as being said by Kirk)

Prfnoff: I say keep the name Soylent Green. It's a well-known reference even though not many have seen the movie.
Prfnoff: Removed examples from Star Trek: The Next Generation (contested) and Watership Down, neither of which were really examples of Soylent Green. A couple of other examples were moved to Aesoptinum.

TBeholder: Why not to separate titles and tropes ? E.g. tropes could be kept in /Main/name and titles moved to /Title/name. That way UR Ls would differ and it would be obvious what's what before clicking.

As to Witchblade anime: Takayama explicitly confirmed (episode 10) that corpses were used in manufacture of Excons/iWeapons. It was not said but implied that Excons/iWeapons were based on BlackBox-like technologies derived from examination of Witchblade (identical transforming effects and interaction with Witchblade/Cloneblades suggest this anyway), but not that they include Cloneblade as such. BTW, when Excon/iWeapon is broken, it looks like normal destruction, not Superpower Meltdown of Cloneblade wielders. If it was said, please point out where, i didn't found.
Mike: replaced "the Link Connect Liquid, better known as LCL" with just "LCL", as the idea that LCL stands for "Link Connect[ed] Liquid" was Jossed in the Evangelion: Death and Rebirth theatrical program. [[ source]]
MythSage: This has been bugging me for a while, and really has more to do with the film. (And it's not under Just Bugs Me because apparently I'm bugged about stuff that bugs other people) I haven't watched the film for a good four years, so maybe I'm missing something, but anyway. How, precisely, does Soylent Green violate the laws of thermodynamics (which people seem to state)? I'm pretty sure it's not the second law, because cannibalism has little to do with entropy and heat and all that. So I'm taking that it's the first law; energy can't be created or destroyed. Somehow it makes sense to a small part of me; we can't keep society going indefinitely with cannibalism. We'd run out of people for people to eat. But, we're dealing with massive overpopulation, so there should be enough to keep the world going for a while, right? At least until we get down to a manageable level of people. I mean, really, human flesh works just as well as anything to keep people going. So did they say somewhere that it the program was going on for a ridiculously long time?

Some Sort Of Troper: It is actually to do with the second law with has implications and versions beyond the common one dealing with entropy. When you eat someone, you take the energy store break it down and then build it back up into another energy store. Now let's say we do look at this via entropy goggles: I break something down, turn it into a disordered mess and then try to reorganise i.e. I increase the entropy and then I try to decrease it back to the same starting levels. That can't relly work so the system can not truly be 100% efficient.

To put it another way- a certain amount of work goes into making a human being, I have to take all that work and then convert it into free energy - another way of stating the second law is 100% efficiency in turning free energy into work is forbidden. Add onto that the fact that biological systems aren't even going to match the maximum theoretical limit and basically, if I have one human being, I can not process that efficiently enough to get enough to make another new human being out of it so if I wanted to feed the world on people, I have to use up more than the same amount of people in the first place. So in the film, half the world is surviving on Soylent Green which means that the other half of the world has to a) be eating their own normal food (due to the first law as you mentioned) and b) be the food supply for the second half.

Now that's only if the food supply is 100% people for that half but it throws in complications for any future dystopian society that wants to recycle the dead. Essentially you would have to compare it to ecology, where biomass is lost between the transition from plants to herbivores to carnivores. There always have to be fewer carnivores than herbivores and there must be fewer herbivores than plants.

Preserved for historical reference:

Jisu: Isn't this just Soylent Green?

Nezumi: Yes, but it's a catchier name, IMHO, and doesn't risk confusion with just food products made of people—which falls under I'm a Humanitarian. On the other hand, it's not as immediately recognizeable a reference.

(Kilyle: It is definitely a recognizeable reference; my comments are at the bottom of this page (since I came in after this conversation was finished).)

Lale: The trope has nothing to do with being powered by a forsaken child and everything to do with Soylent Green. Overlaps w/ Soylent Green, Artifact of Doom, and The Dark Side.

Seven Seals: "It's a catchier name" is a reason for moving a trope to a new title, not for having a duplicate. I could see some justification for a "phlebotinum that involves morality" supertrope somewhere, but this isn't it.

Earnest: Most of this is covered in the YKKTW, this is different from Soylent Green in that it's meant to force an Aesop, it can be good phlebotonium just as often as it has a great cost, but the main thrust of this trope is that it crams the episode moral message down your throat.

Nezumi: Seven Seals, it was late, and I forgot to actually make the important step of saying it, but I was arguing for migrating Soylent Green over. It'd discourage the faux-examples that reference the original Soylent Green, but have nothing to do with the trope, instead being variants on I'm a Humanitarian. (Soylent Cola in Futurama is an example, although the Slurm in the same is a geniune, if intentionally silly, Soylent Green.)

Seven Seals: Well, in that case, good luck! Lots of examples that need sorting out. *sits back in his comfy chair*

So I'm too busy watching Heroes, sue me.

Morgan Wick: We do arguably need to rename Soylent Green just to clear space for the movie. Maybe just Soylent Green Is People.

RRH: This trope currently has three 'flavours.' The second one, where it has positive effects, but a terrible price, is covered by Soylent Green and Artifact of Doom, I guess. The first one may also be different enough from the third. One is something that artificially changes the behavior of the characters, while the other is a case of the writer's putting their thumb on the scale to make a controversial issue more black-and-white.

Morgan Wick: The ending to the movie Soylent Green is, so far as I can tell, a Twilight Zone Twist - not this. The original YKTTW was about an author who, trying to force An Aesop, comes up with Applied Phlebotinum that's really contrived and/or doesn't really make much sense, thus making us detect the Writer on Board. IMO, it's possible to have tropes for the "flavors" but this trope for this particular reason for applying them. Though this then comes off as "the flavors, but badly done" and we don't need that.

RRH: So the distinction between this and the Soylent Green is that Soylent Green doesn't have to involve an Aesop?

But I don't think this flavour: "The Phlebotinum's use or effects require, promote, or enforce a higher level of morality or humanity..." necessarily requires an Aesop, either. It's about changing the morality of the characters, rather than of the audience. I can easily picture an author using that to explore the question of whether it is right to improve someone's morals at the expense of their freedom, without aesoping about the improved morals themselves. The Stephen King "The End of the Whole Mess" has water that prevents violence, but I don't know how much aesoping he tried to fit in.

We need a different title for the End of the Whole Mess scenario, so we can split that off.

Then I think the Heart-of-and-Orphan can be expanded to include non-phlebotinum cases of controversy balance tipping. For example, if an episode has an atheist and a Christian arguing about religion as the primary conflict, and then it is revealed that the Christian is a pedophile to allow the atheist a moral victory. This, I think, can be well done as long as the balance-tipping aspect logically follows from what precedes it, rather than being out of left field.

Mark Z: Agree with RRH's last comment—the "rigged contest of morality" doesn't require phlebotinum at all, and should be split off. It's a sister trope to Broken Aesop. The moral message doesn't follow from the story, so the writer can handwave and blatantly assert it (Broken Aesop), mutilate the message to make it fit (Family-Unfriendly Aesop), or contrive a situation that supports the message. If we want a name for this I suggest either Forced Aesop or Thumb On The Scale.

The Powered by a Forsaken Child name, IMO, belongs with phlebotinum that does something good but at a horrible and arbitrary cost. This is usually just a means of Holding Back the Phlebotinum—turning it into a forbidden technology so nobody will use it later. Sometimes this is used to raise questions about ends vs. means, which can lead to a Forced Aesop/Thumb On The Scale as the writer tries to teach a lesson through the contrived example.

"Phlebotinum that makes bad people good" is arguably one form of that, but is used to raise a different set of questions (about freedom vs. order), and the horrible cost is not contrived but simply the dark side of the intended result. I don't think we have anything on it yet, though it ties into Knight Templar.

Morgan Wick: Well, sometimes the way the phlebotinum makes bad people good is contrived. I think you've got some sense of the trope, but I don't really like the name. Others' thoughts before I go insane?

RRH: Okay, so we need titles to split off the useful stuff.

1) What to call it when phlebotinum transforms a character's behaviour for the better? Artifact Of Good

2) Can Powered by a Forsaken Child be expanded to include non-phlebotinum cases of arbitrary aesop tipping? Do we just call it Aesop Tipping?

Sikon: Do the Evangelions count? Granted, for obvious reasons it isn't public knowledge what they're really powered by, but the horrible mental effects on the pilots are public knowledge.

Seth: All i get from this discussion is that this is just Soylent Green, its like having a trope for the end of the world and then a specific trope for the end of the world brought about by bunnies. Redundant in the long run - i suggest Cut List'ing this one

Earnest: It's actually been suggested earlier on this page that the Soylent Green trope be cleared for the specific act of cannibalism, leaving the phlebotinum side of it here.

Ununnilium: You know, I was the one who did the YKTTW that lead to this, but this trope as it is is only about halfway what I was thinking of. The first kind doesn't seem to be it at all. Neither do the Enterprise or Astro Boy examples. It's just Applied Phlebotinum where the way it works is wholly tuned to creating An Aesop.

YYZ: I suggest we narrow it down to: "A form of Applied Phlebotinum that has only one logical reason for existing: the author can build An Aesop out of it."

Earnest: Took out
Mixing it up: The 'Death Head' of the Astro Boy game for Game Boy Advance. It had the power to annihilate every robot on the planet earth - but the release of this power is controlled by an innocent girl robot, who will only do so if she decides that robots have become evil by trying to Kill All Humans. An interesting, decidedly non-Anvilicious point is that the trigger for this usually occurs when Astro Boy battles and defeats the leaders of the robotic rebellion. Cue copious amounts of Time Travel to avoid The End of the World as We Know It.
On Star Trek: Enterprise Captain Archer does a lot of navel gazing as to whether he should save a pre-warp species dying of plague or allow them to die and give the planet's other stone age inhabitants a shot at forming a civilization. Eventually he and Dr. Phlox decide on only giving them pain medication rather than a cure (since, presumably, to do otherwise would be to play god - never mind how often Kirk would break the Prime Directive).
In Star Trek: The Next Generation the crew visits a planet that's a Utopia, they've become that way thanks to enforcing the death penalty on all crimes, so when Wesley falls on a bit grass he wasn't supposed to he's sentenced to death. Eventually they break the Prime Directive (again) because they decide it's not worth it.

arromdee: Taking out Sesshoumaru's sword. It doesn't count, because it's not there for the author to make a morality statement; it was intentionally chosen by a character in the show (his father) to teach Sesshoumaru a lesson.

This page had been deleted for some reason, vandalism or was there a consensus on this?

Seth: We never blank pages, vandalism methinks.

Kilyle: Not enough time to read thru that whole conversation there, but I did skim it, and I caught the title reference immediately. It's Those Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guinn (which I might have misspelled). So the idea would be Phlebotinum or the like powered by an immoral cost. It's one of the things that perhaps wouldn't occur except for an Aesop, but it doesn't cover all those things, unless you want to expand the definition beyond the original reference, which is fine.

I see that Soylent Green already covers "doesn't work unless you pay a really ghastly price." I wonder how clearly we could draw the line between that any "the ghastly price is here to force an Aesop" so I'm in favor of combining these and moving them to Powered by a Forsaken Child, which as a name I like much better. Soylent Green already overlaps with I'm a Humanitarian and with Alien Lunch.

Artifact of Doom covers Phlebotinum that is itself evil. Powered by a Forsaken Child covers an act that is immoral... and while making use of an evil object could be said to be immoral, I don't think it's the same concept at all.

I do think there's something in here we could dig out... the idea, related to Shoot the Dog, that some good is so necessary that it's acceptable even at the cost of the obviously immoral act that accompanies it. I don't think this is quite covered by The Dark Side, as it can be, at least in fiction, a solitary thing that does not start to "leaven the whole lump," that is, drive you to new and greater acts of evil or depravity. People in Omelas weren't slowly drifting over into evil, they were living their lives as they always had, only with the little nag in their consciences that they tucked down into the corners of their awareness so they didn't think about it too much, or when they did, they accepted it as "necessary".

Also, there's a slight difference, I think, between Omelas and, say, the floating city in Battle Angel Alita, or for that matter any kind of accepted Second Class Citizen arrangement. Like the ostracizing of the "untouchables" in, what, India? Anything that says "Our way of life depends on others having a worse way of life, and that's a necessary evil." I've heard this used (in an article about Omelas) to say Americans are morally obligated to sell all their luxuries and give the money to people in need elsewhere. Taken to this extreme, this says people have no right to luxuries so long as someone somewhere is in greater need. Anyway, there's a distinction between the Anvil of Omelas and the general understanding that you have luxuries while someone else lacks necessities. I'm not sure how to point out the distinction.

Earnest: Well, I'm in favor. It would certainly clarify several tropes and clear up the overlap.

Ununnilium: Well, see, originally, it wasn't necessarily "ghastly price". It was more any phlebotinum that would create An Aesop. The apothesis, I suppose, would be a magic wishing lamp that only worked if you had a pure heart, with "pure heart" being definied as "whatever the writer thought was a good thing". IMHO, the trope needs a rename and an overhaul.

Kilyle: I would like to see this clarified, yes. I don't think that the "be on your best behavior" artifacts necessarily fit in with "choosing to do this is immoral" acts, but I could see a page that talked about both of them (compare and contrast!). I do see the connection with the Aesop, though, and I see that you really want "here for no plausible reason other than causing an Aesop" but I'm not sure that is exactly what this title speaks to. But I do think this title speaks, and I think enough people have read Omelas for it to be useful as the title of the trope Omelas typifies. Perhaps that trope is the Aesop Plot (Aesop Phlebotinum?), and if so, so be it.

Possibly related is a movie I saw part of tonight. From what I caught, the President of the United States (admirably portrayed by Sam Waterston) had lost his memory and a psychiatrist was trying to bring it back; I missed enough to miss the overall plot and motivation, unfortunately, but I did catch the dilemma: My wife and kids are in that area, and I need to bomb that area to protect the country I'm sworn to protect. Here it's a heartrending but necessary sacrifice (though, given the plot elements I missed, perhaps the movie held that it had not been necessary). You can't sacrifice a nation to save a few individuals.

However, the decision to save billions over a few is distinct from the decision to maintain a paradise on the backs of a few less fortunates. The people who lived in Omelas had the option to change their lifestyle, give up bliss, live as normal people, and free the child (and make sure future children weren't made to suffer that way), but they chose as a people to maintain their paradise even at that cost.

Fast Eddie: Grabbed a piece of that, Kilyle, and invented Aesoptinum out of it. That might be a good destination for the non-"ghastly price" items. Right now, it just points back here.

Kilyle: I like it, it's clear, it's obvious, it's funny. My comments on the word itself are on the comment page for Aesoptinum now. Thank you for taking this step!

So object-powered-by-Aesop has a home. And your intention is "non-ghastly-price items" so does that mean the "be on your best behavior" items, or does it cover other things we've been talking about as well? I could see pages that speak of moral Empathic Weapons as "Twiggie has a sword made from Aesoptinum" or the like.

Ununnilium: I'm going to start moving stuff over (as soon as I get back from the store!) Note that some ghastly-price items work. For example, "Pax" is an example of this, but Spice isn't.

Later: Done. Going to Cut List.

Haven: Natter cleaning (oh, is this still cutlisted? Well, anyway). Peter never needed brains the way Sylar did, he just wanted to open up heads to...learn what secrets people were keeping from him? Even thuogh he was already telepathic? Whatever.

(It's implied that he eats them, but the producers hesitated to show that for fear of Squick.)
  • As if the massive amounts of blood in each episode, but in particular the ones in which the half-decapitated corpses are shown sans their brains, doesn't amount to equal amounts of squick.
  • As of the third season, it has been revealed that Sylar doesn't actually eat the brains.
  • And now Peter has a craving for brains too, as a side-effect of taking Sylar's ability to understand the plot how things work.
    • Great, guys, thanks a lot. Thank god the Brits are only a few episodes behind, but there are others who aren't, and I didn't know about the second thing yet. Spoilered for future generations.

Nasrudith: Removed the following for accuracy that's dubious at best.

Joseph Leito: Removed this:
  • Citation needed. This troper's researched it and has found more evidence disputing that claim than supporting.
from examples. I don't see it as a problem, as its an example whether its true or not, but regardless putting this on the page is not the proper way to deal with it.
Is the abortion reference at the bottom of real-life examples strictly necessary? It seems like it's inviting a political flame war.
Clarification needed: From the title of this article, and the opening examples/description, I would expect that part of the requirement to be in this trope would be that the end product is in some way humanitarian, or at least something that the general population wants (even if not actually good for them).

Some of the examples, however, go against this interpretation - Darkest Night, 13 Ghosts, all the Harry Potter examples, etc.

This needs to be clarified in the article description - are these selfish/pure evil uses covered by this trope? If so, say so - if not, provide links to the proper tropes.

Janitor: There was a quote that might have left that impression. The article doesn't. I zapped the quote. BTW, the custom is to sign your comments in discussion. Helps tell one commenter from the next.
Just wanted to addd the possibility of another Babylon 5 Use of this. There are Psi-Corp killers that are created by locking someone into the moment of their death, over and over, allowing their bodies to be used for other things while the mind is horribly occupied. The deaths need to be sufficiently gruesome and stunning to be effective, of course.
Mawootad: Removing "I defy you to name one part of the food industry that doesn't involve killing or expoiting something." from real life examples. It's not a particularly good example and it sounds excessively preachy.