For centuries food has been seen to be a tool used to unite individuals, s highlighted by Robin Fox “food is always shared; people eat together; mealtimes are events when the whole family or settlement or village come together”. However, food has also been seen to be adversely used as a mechanism to create social, economic and political divided within society.

With the aid of pop-culture, specifically film, individuals have been able to use it as a vessel in order to depict their interpretation of the future. Joon Bong Ho’s sci-fi thriller, ‘Snowpiercer’ (2013), demonstrates his, exemplified, interpretation of the relevance of food within society. ‘Snowpiercer’ (2013) presents humanity in a self-created post-apocalyptic world, as a result of a geoengineering failure. As a result, Earth has collapsed into an eternal winter, therefore causing all life to perish.

Above: Snowpiercer (2013)

In order to save the remaining survivors of humanity, individuals are subjected to life within a perpetual-motion engine train, thus to survive the harsh contains. Within the train a social class system develops, the class orientated society is epitomized by the people who inhabit it. The food consumed by the lower class of the train, also known as the “tail-enders”, is symbolic as it illustrates their position within the dystopian society. Fox expresses the relevance of food within society, “eating is a display – as a code of messages about selves and status”. Bong Joon Ho highlights during the film how the upper class provides fresh produce, having been cultivated from orchards, gardens and aquariums within the train. The food production of the upper class illustrates they are more highly regarded and valued within society, as they are given the opportunity to eat fresh and nutritious produce. Whilst the “tail-enders” are given protein bars created from crushed insects, consequently leaving them hungry and malnourished. Additionally, Fox’s work exemplifies this, “food becomes a focus of symbolic activity about sociality and our place in society”. In conclusion, the symbolism of food within in society is manipulated for the benefit of the individual, inherently its purpose to provide nutrients and prolong the life of the consumer. However, once an agenda is applied to that is when it becomes interpretable to the individual. Bong Joon Ho’s interpretation of the future allows individuals to reflect on the political, economic and social relevance of food within their society. With this new perspective, it allows the responder to reflect on the relevance and symbolism of food, not only within their society but at a global level. Therefore, providing them with a renewed perspective of society and their place within it.

Above: Snowpiercer (2013)

So how can we change this current course of history? How do we actively try to change the socioeconomic conations behind certain foods. As highlighted by Sohal Inayatullah’s academic paper , “Six Pillars: Futures Thinking for Transforming”,  “by mapping the past, present and future; by anticipating future issues and their consequences; by being sensitive to the grand patterns of change; by deepening our analysis to include worldview and myths and metaphors; by creating alternative futures; and by choosing a preferred and backcasting ways to realize the preferred, we can create the world we wish to live in.” By actively considering the future we have the ability to initiate change and eventually change the socioeconomic and political conations behind food.

Above: Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Snowpiercer’ (2013).  The truth about the protein blocks disgusts Curtis, our protagonist, as illustrated by the close-up shots of his horrified facial expressions.

Above: Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Snowpiercer’ (2013).  

Fox, Robin. 2002. ‘Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective’, Oxford: Social Issues Research Centre: 1-22.

Inayatullah, S. “Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming”, Foresight, Vol. 10 Issue: 1, 2008, pp.4-21