Often when the protagonist of a speculative narrative must struggle against an unfeeling world, that world is represented by a faceless conglomerate, a near-governmental corporation which seems to control facets of society wherever the character looks. So in Stock and Trade, our latest genre fiction feature series, we’re looking at fictional corporations. Today, we’re featuring the Soylent Corporation.
Soylent is the cannibalistic food producer in Soylent Green, the film adaptation of Harry Harrison’s novel Make Room! Make Room!
While Soylent Green as a product does make an appearance in the original novel, that, a few character names, and the themes of overpopulation are really the only connections between the novel and its adaptation. In the novel there is no Soylent Corporation mentioned, and there are no hints that Soylent Green is people.
In the film, the Soylent Corporation began as a health foods producer before the population boom, which in 2022 has come to a head.
The company has since been bankrolled by the government to produce alternative foods with which to feed the rapidly expanding population.
They had already released Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow which are wafers of high-energy vegetable concentrates. The next step was to make a new product from seaweed, but as the world’s oceans had died and seaweed could no longer be used as a food source, they needed a new solution.
The Soylent Corporation requested control of riot police forces and euthanasia centers from the government without explaining, and feeling the need for a solution from Soylent Corporation, they gave in. Both of these became sources for human corpses, which would be processed into food, which would secretly be marketed to the people as Soylent Green, claiming to be made from the Seaweed, as originally planned.
The men who made this decision did not do it out of spite or malice. They saw it as the only way to help the human race survive. They could simultaneously reduce the population and feed the survivors. It was better than letting them starve, and it wouldn’t work if they had told anyone what they were doing.
The demand for Green continued to rise, and eventually they were forced to cut back distribution to just one day per week, and so people were still starving. These specific days however began to be popular days for rioting, as people rushed to get a hold of the new food.
It wasn’t long however before one of the executives of the corporation began to feel guilty, and was threatening to go public with what the company was doing. To protect the secret, and humanity, the company had the man murdered, which is where the Film comes into the story, as the protagonist is a detective investigating the death of this executive.
The detective find evidence in a Soylent Oceanic report which tells of the death of the oceans and the inviability of seaweed, which leads him down a path of inquiry, which eventually brings him to the manufacturing plant, where he discovers the truth. Unfortunately, efforts to stop the detective from going public fail, and he shouts to the world that Soylent Green is made of people. This is where the film ends, however, so the audience is unsure of the fate of the Soylent Corporation after the secret gets out, or how much damage control the company is able to do in response to the ‘rumors’ about their product
Soylent Corporation is interesting because, in a dystopian world, they are trying to help the people, but the measured they must go to are distasteful, literally, and force the audience to consider the lengths that should be gone to to protect society. The film seems to ask: Is it okay to do terrible things in the name of survival? Is it then okay to lie to the people about what you’re doing to save them? While these themes and questions do also run through the novel, they are presented via a much different dilemma.
This is the last entry in the Stock and Trade series. Check back soon for the beginning of the next feature series. If you have an idea for a future series, let us know in the comments.