Snowpiercer: When Leftist Creators Make Conservative Films

Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP
AP featured image
Director Bong Joon-ho poses for photographers upon arrival at the BFI Fellowship reception for actress Tilda Swinton at a central London hotel, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Hollywood abuses art and I think this is incredibly tragic. So much creativity is poured into creating propaganda and division and I can’t help but wonder what kind of amazing movies, shows, games, and more that we’d have if people weren’t more pressed to utilize their talents to make political commentary.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe art is a superb method of getting a point across. Storytelling was often Jesus’s way of getting you to get it. The problem is that Hollywood is too often a one-note artist when it comes to its political ideas. Very rarely do we ever see anything explored that really shines a light on anything outside of the approved ideological boundaries Hollywood has set for itself.

This isn’t just tragic because we get a shallow pool of entertainment and ideas to draw from, but also because Hollywood has proven time and again that it doesn’t really know much about anything. They live bubbled lives of comfort and abundance while making sweeping generalizations and ignorant declarations about subjects they know little about. Every now and again you’ll get a breath of fresh air, but most of the time, movies fall into the same ideological zone. They’ve gotten so comfortable with it that it’s almost become a moral obligation to profess it. Alienation doesn’t matter to them because they feel like they’re doing to the right thing by pushing their politics into the productions they create.

It’s their form of activism and they use that as a way to justify their wealthy and lavish lifestyle for which they harbor guilt. The trouble for them is that their ignorance does one of two things: They either create brilliant films that prove their opposition’s point, or they create a film that no one wants to watch.

For instance, Joss Whedon created the television show Firefly which almost every libertarian and conservative sci-fi fan list as one of their most favorite television shows. Whedon is a hardcore leftist who didn’t intend for that to happen, but his complete misunderstanding of conservative values led him to create a show that exemplified them with near perfection. That’s an example of success.

There is another.

If you’ve never heard of the 2013 film “Snowpiercer,” I highly recommend you watch that tonight while you’re Netflixing it up. The film, created and directed by Bong Joon Ho, is one of my favorites of all time. Now that TNT has a “Snowpiercer” series, I think pointing out that the film meant to be a critique of capitalism is actually a film in support of it.

To give you a quick rundown, the sci-fi film takes place in an alternate future where scientists attempted to fix global warming by releasing a gas into the air that would help cool the planet. However, the scientists screwed up and ended up plunging the planet into a deep freeze. One corporate magnate by the name of “Wilford” knew that the gas was going to kill the planet and had a massive train built whose tracks span the entire globe. The train, called “Snowpiercer,” was supposed to act as humanity’s life raft, complete with biomes harboring various fauna and flora until the planet could thaw out. Only the wealthy and well-connected could afford a spot on the train but many of the poor and lower class managed to force their way onto the train as well. A class structure soon organized itself on the train with the wealthiest living at the head and the poorest living at the rear.

The film centers around the exploits of a man named Curtis (Chris Evans) who plans to lead a revolution that would allow him and his companions to take control of the train. As the back of the train is often subjugated, enslaved, and abused, many revolutions by the back of the train have been attempted and Curtis watched them all fail. He believes, however, that the previous revolutions depleted the ammunition stores on the train and the front and its armed forces are now effectively on level ground with the back. The movie begins with Curtis getting his revolution underway.

It’s true that the movie does have a leftist bent, but it never really shoves it in your face. The movie, instead, focuses on Curtis’s leadership, the odd world he finds himself in, and his sacrifices and discoveries he makes as his revolution proceeds. It’s a movie that presents moral conundrums, concepts about choice, and really makes you question how much evil you’re willing to tolerate in order to live in the civilization that you do. The film’s tone is tragic but also depicts a sort of surrealism similar to that of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In fact, a popular theory is that “Snowpiercer” is actually an unofficial sequel to the 1971 Wonka film.

Bong Joon Ho, when making “Snowpiercer,” noted that the movie is a comment on our capitalist society. Watching the movie, it’s clear that it isn’t and that Bong fundamentally misunderstands capitalism.

The train, which now constitutes the entire world, is ruled by one man who has instituted a class system that you can be born into but not rise up in. If you began in the back, you end in the back. If you were born in the front, you end in the front.

What Bong made was a commentary on feudalism and a totalitarian society. Capitalism is the opposite of this as, if the train were a capitalist society, those in the back would be able to work their way to the front and Wilford wouldn’t be the de facto leader of the train. The thing is, Bong even makes the argument for capitalism without knowing it through one of the film’s best characters.

Throughout the film, Curtis is often seen focusing on two different directions. He’s either looking toward the front of the train or the back. His decisions often boil down to left or right. The film leads us to focus on those decisions, too, placing you in the position of wanting to get to the front of the train and feeling the consequences of it as well. However, there’s a third option that stares you in the face the entire film and isn’t really talked about until the end.

I’m about to get into spoiler territory if that concerns you.

The character Namgoong, who joins Curtis’s revolution, at first seems like an odd character. Seemingly, he and his daughter Yona are drug addicts who only want payment in the form of a volatile substance known as “kronole.” During tense moments, Namgoong and Yona often have their attention drawn elsewhere as if their drug-addled minds have removed them from reality.

In truth, Namgoong and Yona are focused on more important things. While Curtis’s obsession is binary (left or right) Namgoogn’s obsession is outside of the train.

Curtis wants to take the train and control it for himself, believing he can run the system better and more fairly than Wilford. Namgoong seems to understand that this is a delusion and wants to leave the train altogether. He notices that the snow is melting off and believes that the world is now survivable outside of the train and the totalitarian system within it can be left behind. He believes that even if Curtis’s revolution succeeds, the feudalistic system will continue.

Namgoong wants to be free of the wheel while Curtis wants to perpetuate the system, even if he doesn’t know that’s what he’s doing.

Namgoong eventually reveals his plan to Curtis and upon initially hearing it, Curtis thinks he’s an idiot and notes that his chances of survival are slim. Namgoong answers with a sentiment that conservatives and libertarians alike appreciate more than anyone else. He’d rather die free than live under someone’s boot.

Bong meant to create a leftist film but instead ended up creating a right-leaning narrative. He wanted to paint capitalism as evil but ended up proving the opposite. Not only did he create an amazing film, but he also created an amazing film that argued against much of the draconianism we see today, especially as we deal with the lockdowns and quarantines being forced on many of us.

Imagine a Hollywood where these movies were allowed to thrive and not just unintentionally. Imagine there being more shows like Firefly and movies like Snowpiercer.

Imagine what would happen to a populace free to learn about the world outside of the train.



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