Snowpiercer, based on the French post-apocalyptic graphic novel of the same name (Le Transperceneige) by Jacques Lob, was released in 2013, thirty-one years after the release of this graphic novel in 1982. While this movie makes many critiques on our society in its year of publication, said critiques continue to be valid even today.

Snowpiercer is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the apocalyptic events were brought about due to human-made causes via abuse of technology. These abuses ultimately caused the weather to change severely, bringing about the ice age the events of the movie are set in. Making a clear reference to the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, a man by the name of Mr. Wilford created (with the help of labor, of course) a train of 1001 cars for humanity to survive in. This ark was originally intended only for the wealthy, but many others managed to sneak onto the train, and this ultimately led to a class system where the rich lived in luxury in the front cars, and the poor lived in squalor in the rear cars. 

The critique of social classes is quite obvious here, and it is clear that this is the movie’s focus rather than the apocalyptic aspect of the film, as the plot is largely centered around the events within the train, as opposed to without. That said, the frozen environment outside the train speaks volumes to our current struggle with global warming. The reason for this is simple: the aforementioned cause of the apocalyptic weather change was indeed humanity, but the reason for said change was because we were trying to reverse global warming. During the time of this movie (and even now, during its TV show reimagining), we have been warned countless times that the clock is ticking on climate change, and that, should our efforts be unsuccessful, we’ll need to begin implementing untested technology in an effort to curb it. Additionally, as in the real world, humanity knew that time was running out in Snowpiercer, and as a consequence of either hubris, apathy, or both, continued to try and thwart Mother Nature’s plan for us, only to expedite — instead of slow — the planet’s destruction. Thus, the setting of Snowpiercer almost seems like a foreshadowing of our own future.

Returning to the class struggle, there is a peculiar point of note here: there really isn’t a middle class. The plot focuses on the lower class, and their rebellion against the upper class. A subtle irony here is that the leader of this rebellion is played by actor Chris Evans, a.k.a. Captain America (the movie aired only 2 years prior to Snowpiercer). This shrewdly sneaks in the idea that America is not only above the extreme class disparity present in the world of Snowpiercer (and by extension, the real world), but actively fighting against it. 

Anyways, a year after the movie’s release, the United States hit a record division between the upper and lower classes, as it saw the near extinction of the middle class. The reason for this was, in short, due to the Great Recession. The wealthy, more stable people were more easily able to recover from the economic hit than their counterparts on the other end of the spectrum, thus widening the gap between the classes. Snowpiercer puts a great deal of emphasis on the severity of the rich/poor conflict, echoing society’s trends beautifully.  

 

Snowpiercer. Directed by Bong Joon-ho, performances by Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, and Tilda Swinton, Moho Film, 2013.

White, Gillian B. “Inequality Between America’s Rich and Poor is at a 30-Year High.” The Atlantic, 2014. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/12/inequality-between-americas-rich-and-americas-poor-at-30-year-high/383866/

Fry, Richard and Rakesh Kochhar. “America’s Wealth Gap Between Middle-income and Upper-income Families is Widest on Record.” Pew Research Center, 2014. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/17/wealth-gap-upper-middle-income/

“We Have 12 Years to Limit Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

Galey, Patrick. “Industry Guidance Touts Untested Tech as Climate Fix.” Phys.org, 2019. https://phys.org/news/2019-08-industry-guidance-touts-untested-tech.html