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Food on Film: Soylent Green

filmfestheader Sue Swyt is our randomly selected winner of the $25 gift card. Thanks everyone for your entries! Have you seen Soylent Green? Read on for a chance to win a $25 gift card! Director Richard Fleischer imagines a time far far away when food is extinct!  This is the story of Soylent Green, one of the movies in our Let’s Retake Our Plates Film Series. Movie buffs and team members David Lannon, Ashley Gibbons and Robin Rogison team up to review this 1970's sci-fi movie. davidlannonDavid Lannon is the President of our Northern California Region of Whole Foods Market. He is a film buff and can help you win your Oscar Pool. Here's his take:
The year is  2022!  (not so very far away!)  Natural food like fruits, vegetables, and meat are now extinct. Global warming has overheated the earth (all the way back in 1973 they had figured this out!) and New York City has 40 million starving people. The only way they survive is with water rations and eating a mysterious food called Soylent. A detective (Charlton Heston)  investigates the murder of the president (Joseph Cotton)  of the Soylent company. What is in Soylent Green? Charlton Heston was the go-to action star in the late 60’s to early 70’s for these dystopian visions like  Planet of the Apes and  Omega Man. He co-stars with Edward G. Robinson (they were also in The Ten Commandments together). Edward G. Robinson died shortly after the completion of the film.  This film was directed by Richard Fleischer, who also directed Fantastic Voyage one of the best sci-fi movies ever. This was a low budget movie with bad pre-Star Wars special effects and even though it is the” future”, all the men have long hair and side burns and bad 70’s pantsuits.  It is a odd time capsule of a movie, but as good sci-fi, it puts a magnifying glass on what is we are doing to Mother Earth. It also gives us a classic Chuck Heston line: Soylent Green is people!!!!!!!
ashleygibbonsAshley Gibbons, Marketing Supervisor at our Arroyo store in Pasadena, loves eating food other people have cooked at home. When left to her own devices however, a monstrous salad and Murphy’s Stout usually hit the spot.
Is it just me, or were the 70's a supremely scary decade? I remember being afraid of Hells Angels, pot-smoking headers, kidnappers, white vans (the autos, not the shoes), strangers, possessed hotels in the mountains, and bombs. The movies of the era were so bleak and the population seemed demeaned by untruths of their government. Good thing I hadn't seen Soylent Green yet. I would have been afraid of food. The year is 2022, and NYC has a population of over 40 million. There is nothing fresh to eat for the masses. Only Soylent Green (and Yellow and Blue). And they crave it like ravenous beasts. This dystopia brings all our fears into one: too many people, too hot from greenhouse gases, no food, no community, polluted air, a powerful minority of wealth hidden and protected behind secrets and deception, people belonging to people, no justice, no rights, no compassion, no warmth, and seemingly no mothers. And then you add in the dark shadows of the movie, the tight, cramped spacing, and it just throws me over the edge. Yes, it lives up to its campy reputation; however, I am still prone to my childhood fears. And the secret of Soylent Green makes me want to yell like Charlton Heston. Super gross. Our only sympathetic moments come from "the book" Sol Roth, who decides to end his life instead of revealing the truth. And the assisted suicide is the only time we see respectful treatment of a person. Soylent Green is worth the watch if you haven't seen it, if for no other reason than the punch line which is embedded in our DNA by now. All together now: “Soylent Green is People!”
robinRobin Rogosin is our Southern Pacific Region’s regional Supplement and Body Care Buyer.  For over 30 years, she has been an advocate for eating more green vegetables.
Soylent Green is a frightening portrayal of civilization in dire straights in 2022.  Overpopulation, global warming and food scarcity has driven the government to institutionalize the Soylent Company, which has a way to feed its tens of billions.  Many regions of Earth are uninhabitable; people are required to remain in cities and have lost their connection with nature and the kinds of food that had once grown from plants…only the uber rich can afford a natural morsel.  A police detective, played by Charlton Heston, is looking for the murderer of the Soylent’s President and along the way he finds the secret behind Soylent’s food production strategy. It was the early 1970's when Soylent Green was released as a warning about a plausible future.  And if you haven’t seen it, here’s the shocking plot spoiler: Soylent Green is people!
Do we have any sci-fi fans out there?  Add your review of Soylent Green by April 21st for a chance to win a $25 gift card!

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Laura Mattos says …

Soylent Green really had an impact on me as a child. It gave me such a respect for things I would normally take for granted everyday. Eating an apple or a nice steak, having a warm, safe place to sleep at night and Strawberry jam!! I swear, every time I eat Strawberry jam I think of Soylent Green. I made my children (they're adults now) watch this movie with me when they were young thinking they too would find meaning. Nope!! They were just irritated they had to watch such an OLD movie. I should have sent them to Grandpa's to watch old Westerns in black and white.

jengd says …

I have to admit that I've never seen this but I've always wanted to just for the reason you mentioned- that "Soylent Green is people!" is a "punch line which is embedded in our DNA by now." I know the ending, one day I want to see the story. :)

Kathy says …

Back in the 70's I watched Soylent Green and have been terrified ever since. This new attention to this film and its food content is very disturbing. Its time to plant, can and plant some more. Now to publish a list of fruits and vegetables that grow in extreme heat!!!!

Sue Swyt says …

I'm going to sound like the crazy person in a "The End Is Near!" sandwich board but this movie shows us our present, not our future. My husband and I, who saw this as kids, joke about this movie "Soylent Green is peeeeople!" but starvation, overpopulation, food riots, human trafficking, polution, huge inequities in income, an inner city-world that has no access t fresh healthy food? It's not the future, it's the evening news.. or podcast. For some months, my child and newly teen friends have been trying to sneak and see old horror movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th. I'm thinking of allowing them a viewing party of this little old gem (if the other parents allow). This has been tagged as cheese-ball 70's sci-fi, but it's actually horror. And all the more horrific for the truth it reveals about us. I'm convinced the nightmares seen in this movie that has fueled quite a bit of my own community and environmental work. Don't laugh it off, watch it! Then get to work.

Xkun says …

Given global warming's increasing presence in our lives, I must admit this film gives me a bit of a queasy feeling after a view. The thought of the world being a lifeless, overheated, overpopulated mess where ruling corporations decide it's easier to eat our own dead than coax any food out of the ruined ecology is pretty frightening stuff. Let's hope Soylent Green is not too prophetic.

Jennifer says …

I saw this movie as a teen, with my mom in the '80s (maybe, maybe earlier, who can remember that far back!) and again recently, we rented it from Netflix. It is truly disturbing and one of the very reasons I'm a low- government-intrusion libertarian. I want to be in control of my life and what my family and I eat.

Syd says …

I saw this movie as a kid and didn't understand the implications then. Charlton Heston was cheesy even then (funny how we use a high-price food reference to classify this film). However, I'm glad this movie was made as it was prophetic in its vision. Surprising with all the remakes coming out of Hollywood this last decade that Soylent Green hasn't been tagged yet for a makeover. I see Will Smith or even Stallone in the detective role. It could even be in 3D now!

Aaron Wheeler says …

I think that this movie laid a good foundation for conversation about food and where it comes from. I am vegetarian and when friends and I talk about food, they are usually a little surprised to realize that they don't really know where their meat and dairy are coming from. The movie itself was very silly in some ways, but was significant in terms of concept - a lot of food comes from sources that are grosser and more inhumane than we'd hope!

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