‘Snowpiercer:’ A Train Ride Through the Horrors of Liberal Extremism

Liberals see only ‘class warfare’ in this Korean thriller, mostly ignore villain’s embrace of radical left-wing views.


It is true that people see what they want to see. Far-left websites Alternet, Slate and Mother Jones all raved about the “class warfare” themes and “political allegory” of “Snowpiercer,” a violent, Korean-made, art house picture set entirely on a train circumnavigating the globe.

At first glance, it appears the poor who live at the back of the train are driven to revolt by their lack of freedom and ruthless punishment if they step out of line. One man’s arm is frozen and then smashed off for fighting the guards after they stole his son. Tail-sectioners live in cramped, squalid conditions and are only fed disgusting black gel “protein blocks” they later learn are made of ground up bugs.

However, the movie’s villains also embrace a number of beliefs of the left including Malthusian views about the need for population reduction and a general disregard for human life, making liberal praise for it more than a little ironic.

“Snowpiercer’s” premise is that the only surviving humans live on the train because the world has been frozen over by a botched attempt by big business to geo-engineer the planet and rescue it from global warming. The train is controlled by a deified ruler who keeps most of the passengers in abject poverty. A group unites under an old man named Gilliam and his young devotee Curtis to take over the train, seize control and kill its driver.

“Mother Jones” generously called it “The Best Post-Apocalyptic Film About Class Warfare You'll See All Summer.” Of course, that’s not exactly a wide genre. The lefty outlet praised the movie for having “political relevance pumping through its veins” and quoted the director Bong Joon-Ho who said the message that “big business tries to both use and control nature” is intentional.

Alternet probably made film junkies around the world cringe when it claimed that this “dystopian parable” was the “best action film of 2014, and probably the best film, period.” “Snowpiercer” was released in the U.S. on June 27. It had made a little more than $1.5 million as of July 6, according to Box Office Mojo.

Left-wing fandom for a movie in which the oppressed classes violently rise up in revolution isn’t surprising coming from the same people who loved Occupy Wall Street. But there is no capitalist system visible aboard the train, even though there are stark differences between treatment of rich and poor. The resolution of the film even makes it clear the class warfare was all a ruse -- the poor are driven to revolution by the powers that be for the sake of population reduction.

Vox, Ezra Klein’s new Comcast-backed startup, claimed that the message of “Snowpiercer” was that “[s]o long as the system exists as it is, those who seek to change it are doomed to become chewed up by it. You can say you want to do something about income inequality, but the only thing that will really change it, in Bong’s view, is exploding the order as it exists and embarking upon something new entirely, even if that something new leads to certain death.”

Vox’s interpretation seems to be much more radical than Bong Joon-ho’s own words to Esquire magazine. When asked, “Do you want something to happen beyond the screen? Are you trying to create an opportunity for social change?” Bong said, “A film is just a film. It’s really about the beauty of the shot and the excitement of watching something in the dark for two hours. That’s really the most important thing: that the audience enjoys the film.”

“As for the ‘message’? That’s not that critical. As it’s a sci-fi film, Snowpiercer is probably the most overtly and directly political film I’ve made. It’s the most extreme case in my filmography. My future films probably won’t be so overtly political. The idea of people enjoying it cinematically for two hours, just the beauty of it, that’s fine. But maybe you’re on your way home, and you think about it for ten seconds. What were they trying to say? I think that’s enough. That’s satisfying to me,” he added.

A conservative watching the Korean sci-fi thriller, could see a very different picture altogether: the evils that result from dehumanizing people for any reason, dictatorship and the embrace of liberal views like Malthusianism.

In “Snowpiercer,” Mr. Wilford, the head of Wilford Industries, is the conductor and secular god controlling the train. His views of human life and the need to “balance” the population properly are thoroughly liberal:

Human life has no intrinsic value. Without the belief that humans have the right to life, many horrors from murder to eugenics become possible. Liberals already dehumanize the unborn, viewing them as less than human and expendable if they are not wanted. Some in the academic left have even argued for the ethical permissibility of infanticide, which they labeled “after-birth abortion.”

In the film, the view that human life (or at the very least certain human lives) doesn’t have intrinsic value leads to the greatest evils in the plot: like locking 1,000 poor and dirty people in one train car without food or water and not stopping them when they resort to cannibalism and murder. Wilford also has no problem with stealing their children and making them work as train parts, or stirring up revolution for the sole purpose of righting the population balance of the train (rich and poor).

Population control. It was Thomas Robert Malthus who thought that the human population was going to grow too fast, resulting in poverty, famine and starvation. Those fears have been stoked even more recently by environmental extremist Paul Ehrlich and Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society. Watson infamously said mankind is a “virus” and that the population needs to drop below 1 billion. Of course, human innovation and progress has proved neo-Malthusians wrong time and again.

In “Snowpiercer,” this same philosophy is embraced by Wilford and phrases like “balance” and “sustainability” get tossed around a lot by the train’s bureaucrats. Wilford’s flunkie Mason says fish is only served twice a year in order to “maintain the proper sustainable balance.” Sounds like Grist talking. Even left-wing Vox.com noticed the Mason’s language “could be taken from the pamphlet of any local food co-op.”

Although they are not explained until the end of the movie, Wilford’s embrace of Malthusian thought is evident when he tells Curtis, “the population must always be kept in balance,” and it results in atrocities against people on the train which included fomenting revolution in the tail section to inspire uprisings.

Centralized control. Wilford taken the role of a deity and formed a dictatorship aboard the train that he controls by the same tried and true methods used throughout history: brainwashing, fear and force. Wilford tells Curtis (played by Chris Evans) that a “balance” of fear, anger, anxiety and horror is necessary for people to survive on the train.

Liberals looking for political allegory in “Snowpiercer” see corporate control as a great evil. But this movie could just as easily be a warning that when you give any leader or government too much control it has the potential to become more controlling and dangerous over time.

— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.