Of ethics and eating: Snowpiercer's food

Heads up, this one has massive spoilers for Joon-ho Bong's Snowpiercer, a post-apocalyptic film where the only survivors are circling the world on a giant train. If you haven't seen it, and are going to, stop now.


Using the French poster, because it's cool!

In the movie, Curtis (Chris Evans) is the leader of a rebellion, which sparked when the poor people in the slums at the back of the train decided they had had enough. The angriest we ever see Curtis is over the food that they had been made to eat. But here's the real question:

Why in the hell was Curtis so upset when he found out that the processed protien bars the poor people were given was made of this:



These are people who were willing to kill a baby for food. And, you know, ate each other's arms and legs to survive.

Maybe it's just me, but I would say that bugs are a major step up from that.

I mean, when they get them to eat, they don't even look like insects. The bars look more like the insides of a fig newton.1

So what's the big deal here? Why does Curtis lead a revolution over this?

No, I'm actually asking, because I really don't know. Snowpiercer is the type of film that begs you, at practically every moment, to question our world - it utilizes its science fiction setting to make grandious statements about classism and social warfare, but those statements don't hold together. And nowhere is that more apparent than with the food.

Now I can't talk about food the way some of my colleagues on this site can and probably will. But it strikes me as odd that a filmmaker that would take a food that is perfectly acceptable in today's world, and is even a delicacy in some countries (including this filmmaker's home country), and turn it into something worse than cannibalism.

It's not a Soylent Green moment - they already had that, when Gilliam2 (John Hurt) offered his limb up to the hordes.

So I'm left to wonder, is Bong somehow trying to suggest that these people, living in essentially a concentration camp on the end of a train, are somehow in a better place than many, many cultures today, because they can afford to turn their nose up at eating bugs? Because if that's the message then I think someone has misplaced priorities. I can't say that I'm a huge fan of eating insects, but if it ever comes down to a choice between that and eating a human baby, I'm going to choose the bug every time.

But I think I'm giving this film too much credit - I don't think anyone thought about how ridiculous it was to start a revolution over insects when the alternative was eating people. Nothing else in this movie makes me think that Bong was that concerned about internal continuity. He even goes so far as to reference Terry Gilliam - a filmmaker not exactly known for being concerned with making sense. But, and here's the difference, Gilliam takes you on an experience; he doesn't require that you think about every piece of the story and then create a story that falls apart with the slightest prodding.

So, if you are craving a dystopian thriller, save your time. Skip this one and go watch Brazil.


1 Now I'm wondering if fig newtons are actually made of figs...

2 Yes, really, that was his name. Hold that thought, I'm coming back to it.




Snowpiercer. Directed by Joon-ho Bong. The Weinstein Company, 2014. Film.