Soylent Green is People!

By | Sunday, July 16, 2006 Leave a Comment
So, my brother-in-law gave his DVD copy of Soylent Green. He'd watched it, and decided he didn't like it well enough to keep and asked if we wanted it. I actually rather thought it was a good movie, and I tend to gravitate towards dystopian stories, so I was happy to take it off his hands.

Now, on the DVD, one of the extras is an original trailer for the movie. The big hook of the trailer is the repeated tag line: "What is the secret of soylent green?" Of course, thirty years later, there's no big secret -- Charlton Heston's memorable performance crying "Soylent green is people!" is probably more well-known than the movie itself.

Here's the thing, though: that's not the point of the story. The story was originally a commentary about overpopulation and the shortcomings of inadequate planning; indeed the notion of forced cannibalism wasn't in Harry Harrison's original novella at all. Throughout the movie, though, while the "mystery" of soylent green was part the sperficial plot, it still viewed to me like an elaborate social commentary about not taking care of our environment, the widening gulf between social classes, and the de-humanization of the bourgeois. Edward G. Robinson's tearful sobbing at how far the human race has fallen in so short a time is a much more potent and powerful message in the film, I think, than Charlton Heston's soylent revelation.

So why am I talking about this on what is supposed to be a comic book blog? In seeing the DVD again and being reminded of the completely off-target marketing of the movie, I'm reminded about why I enjoy comics over movies as a whole. Comic book marketers, by and larger, "get it." They know what they're selling and why it is (or isn't) important. When a comic sells because of the creators behind it, the creators get a lot of attention and credit. When a comic sells because it's a first issue being sold to a collector's market, the "#1" slogan is plastered all over the cover. Regardless of why you personally buy comics, you are (generally speaking) being sold a product that is exactly what you're looking for... whether that's the latest appearance of Superman, the next installment of an inter-company crossover, the latest creation of your favorite creator, or anything else. You know what you're getting into when you plunk down your three bucks. You're not going to be sold a comic on the merits of its great story if it doesn't have one, you're not going to be sold on the appearance of character that's actually absent from the title. There's marketing hyperbole, to be sure, but it's not wholly and entirely misleading as you often find in other media.
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