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Headscratchers / Soylent Green

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  • If they're using the bodies of people who died by poison for food, wouldn't that make the soylent green inedible?
    • Forget that, the system itself was doomed to failure and would only help a little in the mean time. They would never be able to create a self sustaining food base even by cannibalizing people because the calories inside a body could not possibly be enough to feed a person from conception to death. It was essentially a last ditch effort to keep humanity hobbling along before a civil war over food broke out.
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    • If the death houses use injected potassium to stop the suicides' hearts, like in a lethal injection, it might actually add needed vitamins to the Green.
    • Perhaps they're not using the system as a long term program, but as a stop gap measure until the population can be brought down to manageable levels.
      • If consumption of Soylent Green eventually causes death, it's less mouths to feed. I'm sure the high—ups do not eat it.
    • is this really all such an issue? Is it not possible that some part of the doubtlessly very thorough processing neutralizes any toxins already present in the body?
  • If New York City is so overpopulated that stairwells are literally covered with sleeping people, how come there are so many scenes with Thorn walking and running through deserted streets?
    • It's because of the curfew that is regularly announced throughout the film. Though what the police would or could do to a homeless person sleeping on the street is an open question.
      • There's a curfew. This fact is introduced in the first non-title scene. Thorn is exempt because of his job.
      • Hmm, a movie where people are secretly ground into food by the government. What could they possibly do to homeless people sleeping in the street?
  • "Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for food." So what would they be feeding those people?
    • And what does he mean, next thing?
      • He had just learned that he is a cannibal. Give the poor man a break.
      • Well at that point, no one was actually actively encouraging pregnancy and then rearing children for the specific purpose of being eaten (as far as we know). From all appearances, at that moment in time the Soylent Green operation is just taking advantage of an abundance of death that naturally already exists rather than actively causing a birth-fattening up-death-food cycle, but it's a relatively short leap to make especially with the euthanasia clinics. Thus "next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for food" is a fairly understandable conclusion to reach. As for what those "cattle" would be fed? Presumably it would just be more of the same, even if word gets out about what Soylent Green is. It's a flat choice between cannibalism and starvation in what's already a Crapsack World - I don't think too many people in the grand scheme of things would be that hung up on the morality of where their food comes from, and if they do get hung up on it? They just become food a little sooner than the next person.
  • Why couldn't Sol have told Thorn the secret of Soylent Green before he went to the euthanasia center?
    • Presumably because he was freaking the f*** out and didn't want to wait for Thorne to come back from his shagfest with the high priced whore furniture.
    • He probably knew Thorn wouldn't have believed him if he just told him - it's not something you would really want to believe, after all. He was applying for suicide, and Thorn, in a desperate desire to ignore the truth, would probably have passed it off as a delusion of mental illness. But by giving him a little hint, a nudge and a hook to keep him interested, he managed to get Thorn to see the truth for himself.
    • The movie never states outright that Sol knows the secret in the first place. What he knows from the oceanographic survey is that the algae that was supposed to be made into Soylent Green didn't exist. He may simply have killed himself because he knew starvation was imminent, not because he knew what was in Soylent Green.
  • Where did the Soylent Company get all those people who work for them as workers and hitmen? They would clearly have to be in on the secret. So the government doesn't trust its own law enforcement officials with the secret, yet they trust random henchmen and grunts? Where do they find those people?
    • One person's job is to collect bodies and dump them in a truck. The next person is hired to drive them all to a building and dump them in a chute (that could even be two separate jobs). Yet another person shows up at the factory at pushes buttons. The only part that had to be kept secret is the part where recognizable human bodies are turned to mush, everyone else shows up at a building completely unaware that other people with different jobs show up there too.
    • The workers and hitmen didn't have to know the secret. Everyone in New York is desperate for a job, or to hold on to the job they have. There is no shortage of people who'll take a factory job - or an assassination contract - and ask no questions.
      • Come on, if your job was to drive dead bodies down to the Soylent factory, you'd have to be pretty dumb to not figure out what's going on.
      • That's why they had them switch drivers midway through. The drivers don't see what their cargo is, and the vat o' dead humans is separated from the soylent factory by a large, unmanned section of the factory. It looks like the producers actually thought this a lot, and then decided to tack on a bunch of very flimsy excuses for why the workers couldn't know. I mean, you'd think one or two of the drivers might say where they are driving to or from, and it's not like workers never get lost or go adventuring.
      • Bystander Syndrome. You can't figure out what you don't want to think about.
      • And if a worker gets lost or goes adventuring around there, it probably just means more protein for the next sucker they hire.
    • Perhaps they're told the bodies are recycled as fertilizer to grow crops? That would at least allow a token, one-link separation between the components of this sick food chain.
    • To a government that could engineer such an operation, Thorn isn't a law enforcement officer: he's just a sheepdog, keeping the livestock herds from breaking down the fences. Your dog doesn't need to know that the sheep will end up as mutton.
      • In the movie Cube, one of the cast mentions that nobody knew anything much about what was really going on. They signed things, shipped things, and collected paychecks. This is similar... anybody who asked got fired, anybody who got too close got shot, and most people didn't care and a job's a job.
  • Wouldn't ground-up people resemble, you know, meat rather than tasteless little blocks?
    • That's why food coloring was invented.
      • It might not just be all human, there might be some traces of plankton and such, but human meat (squick) is the main ingredient.
      • There is no plankton. The seas were dead. But it's probably all sort of bits of human, pureed and dried into little cakes with green colouring.
    • No. When you've done enough to meat, it doesn't look much like meat. The stores go to some trouble to shape it like it's meat but now nobody cares; they just want to eat.
  • This is going to sound callous, but what's actually unethical about Soylent Green? People in the assisted suicide place do choose to die. It's gross, and possibly will lead to epidemics of prion disease, but is it wrong? Shouldn't it be kinda less wrong, seeing as animals don't volunteer to be slaughtered?
    • The primary reason is they are turning everyone in New York into cannibals without telling them that that is what they're doing. Also, who says that they're not turning over every other corpse in the city into soylent green. Due to the fact that folks are being paid to turn in corpses to the authorities, I would wager that more than just the suicides were brought into the soylent factory.
    • It's no so much that it's unethical, as that it's the last and most dramatic sign of how bad the environmental situation has got. The film and book are in the science-fiction-as-warning mould: we should tackle overpopulation or we'll end up with a world where the government encourage people to volunteer for suicide, and where the only thing left to eat is each other.
    • Its unethical in the sense that it violates the taboo of cannibalism that most modern societies have, and of course that theyre feeding people other humans without telling them. It isnt OBJECTIVELY unethical, since there is literally nothing else to feed them, but from a social point of view, it is unethical.
    • It's also worth considering the potential consequences of all this. After all, there's very little (practically nothing, in fact) to stop the government from taking the jump from just using people who were already dead to, when the food situation inevitably gets worse, actively hunting for people to become the new Soylent Green - anyone found outside after curfew or anyone who gets caught in the scoopers, for example.
  • Shouldn't the riot police people scoopers move.. I dunno... FASTER? The people could just hop right off at the rate those things run.
    • Let's blame it on bad maintenance and fuel, eh?
    • Sometimes you have to accept it's a film, and they did their best. There was no CGI when this was made, dummies or fast-motion would have looked too fake, and the stunt was probably already pretty dangerous even at the slow speed they used.
    • The riot scoopers were supposed to move people, not hurt them. They're more of a deterrent. It's like complaining about why rubber bullets don't kill you.
  • In a world that has absolutely no resources for anything, why are there abandoned cars lining the streets? Even (especially) if there's no fuel to run them, wouldn't they have been torn apart for the basic resources they contain (metal, glass, etc)?
    • Perhaps they've not the fuel to making recycling them on a large scale economical. We do see people living in them.
    • Recycling wasn't very big in 1973.
  • While this is a very entertaining film, it fails to acknowledge that a situation where the "oceans are dead" would almost certainly result in a massive human die-off resulting in more food (and space) for the remaining people.
    • Never mind the bigger issue of the fact that most of the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from the algae in the oceans - and I daresay we need oxygen much more often than food...
    • I always assumed that the film took place RIGHT at the point that the system had become untenable. Society had been limping along for a while, desperately sucking up the remaining resources. We join them just as the world truly goes to hell. We've yet to see just what the true effects of a dead ocean will do...
  • Also, even if the land can no longer support agricultural, hydroponics could be used to at least bridge the gap. Arable land being present and irrational fears of private drug cultivation are the primary reasons that hydroponics isn't more widely used now.
  • This is more of a question than a complaint, but we never get to see outside of the cities. What's it like for people in (what was once) the countryside? It can't ALL be cities if the resources to build them have burned out.
    • This is addressed in the film, as Thorne tells the furniture that all cities are alike and all countryside has pretty much been converted into farmland, which is heavily guarded to prevent hungry people from looting and eating up all the crops. The logistics, manpower, and organization to field such a thing is not explained.
    • But isn't negated by the whole "soylent green is people" thing? The point of the twist is that there isn't another food source. There aren't giant tracts of land or sea where humanity's food is being grown, Soylent Green is it. So if there aren't any other food sources, why are they keeping people inside the cities?
      • There IS still some arable land and food production in the countryside, its just limited to the rich, which is why Thorn realizes that there is no way a bodyguard could afford strawberry jam. The food production that still exists isnt enough to feed more than maybe a few thousand, presumably.
  • How long can the government lie to the people that their product is veggies? If the government keep killing every person who 'investigated' the factory, the whole scenario would look pretty suspicious after a few months time, and the truth will be uncovered anyway if someone gives the game away...?
    • Thorn reveals the big secret of Soylent Green in the middle of a crowded church as he's being carried off. He's ranting by this point, so there's no way that he and Hatcher are the only ones who know the secret by the end. Unless the government is willing to track down every homeless person in the church, it'll be hard to keep the secret under wraps.
      • Also, the secret DOES get out pretty quickly. This is not the story of some secret being kept for an enormous amount of time before some superhero miraculously uncovers it. It's the story of the government making a desperation play and a fairly ordinary man uncovering it after a fairly short period of time.
  • Why did Thorne suddenly decide to follow the trucks leaving the hospital? That seems like an odd leap of logic, and it makes the whole detective story aspect of the movie less satisfying.
  • Isn't Thorn's warning at the end ultimately futile? The world is due for a mass die-back very quickly. Think about it. In a world where the population is so packed that people have to sleep in mobs on staircases, where do people go in their free time (what precious free time you can find in this society) to procreate? Notice how there's almost no children in this movie. The current generation was born to the last generation that still *could* reproduce freely. The few children who are born probably have next to no chance of living to reproducing age themselves due to lack of resources. If the masses are freaked out about the origin of soylent green and refuse to eat it, it's just going to speed up the die-back as people die of starvation.
    • Perhaps that IS the point of the movie: the warning is only the latest note in an ongoing catastrophe. There are no good outcomes, only bad and worse.


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