[This has been massively expanded upon, but the basic idea was originally posted on Twitter
[Nota bene: the movie isn't out yet right now, and the Twitter thread upon which it is based was written a week and a half ago when the movie definitely
wasn't out. It's about what seems
to be true based on pre-release info.]
So, the short, short version my my Spider-Man: Far From Home commentary is:
This movie wants to tell a story that's impossible in the post-Endgame world, but it insists it exists in exactly that world. Why?
I just saw an ad for Spider-Man: Far From Home
, and it looks like it's ignoring the premise. Hard.
The premise, remember, is that the population of the universe in general, and earth in particular, just doubled* without warning.
*Caveats aplenty, we'll
link to them.
We have a universe that's only five years removed from the greatest disaster in the history of the universe, and it just got slammed with a new one.
, we're concerned with earth. That's good because we understand earth.
There have not been five years of preparation for, "Ok, about 3.75 billion people are going to pop into existence out of nowhere, so we need to make sure we have food, shelter, infrastructure, and employment for all of them waiting."
Now, obviously, we're going to see a lot of killing and whatnot over other things, but food is what I want to concentrate on.
Carrying capacity isn't a set thing. It changes. Notably, it drops to match a reduced population. Five years is more than enough time for that drop.
(Abigail Nussbaum adds
Also, note that said carrying capacity was already stressed to the breaking point by the disappearance of 3.75B people, with their labor and role in the supply chains. Those five years were spent restoring a broken system, which is now going to be broken again.
When the carrying capacity is lower than the population, you get famine.
Usually this happens because something happened to the food supply (crop failures, for example), but suddenly doubling the number of mouths to feed will very definitely do the job. It'll do the job like nothing ever has, in fact.
Given time, the extra people can do extra work on extra agriculture to make extra food.
In the immediate aftermath, however, we're talking about the worst famine in recorded history. (Immediate, here, is going to be measured in years.)
One reason that famine sucks so much, by the way, is that no amount of pulling together or cooperation can compensate for there not being enough calories to go around. If you're eating the minimum necessary for survival and using all the food, there's nothing more you can do.
Until there's a harvest large enough to feed everyone left alive, you're kind of screwed.
There's a major threat to that harvest that we need to consider.
Those seeds you need to plant to make that harvest? They're food you could use to keep your family alive. Do that, and you have nothing to plant. You need twice as many of those seeds as you thought, and now you're strongly considering making it so there are fewer.
There are shades of the 'tragedy of the commons' here. If one person uses seed stock as food to keep themselves and/or their loved ones alive, that's not going to be noticeable on a global scale. Sure, it'll suck locally when the crops that those seeds would have produced never arrive, but maybe the next town over lucked out and had a bumper crop.
It's never just one person. Everyone counts on someone else being responsible, and the result is catastrophic.
Also, with a famine of this magnitude (and on a global scale no less), it's not actually that unreasonable, from a self-interest perspective, to eat the seed crops thus ensuring that things get worse come next harvest time.
There's a very good chance you, generic you, are going to die anyway. Ditto for those around you. If that's who you care about, you might as well stay fed as long as you can and forget about the future. Sure, it'll screw over the world as a whole, but the world as a whole is basically trying to kill you at this point.
So that's a problem. Things are a hellish famine-scape until there's a large enough harvest, people will be actively doing things to make it so that harvest doesn't come soon.
And, remember, even if no one ate the seed stock, there wasn't enough to begin with.
To get to the famine ending harvest, this is what needs to happen:
- Field space needs to double. It's not like the fields from before the first snap have been sitting fallow all this time and merely need to be sown. They're five years gone. What that means depends on where the fields are, but even those left untouched and relatively intact need to be cleared and tilled (many will need to be fertilized too.)
- The capacity to grow, harvest, process, and distribute food needs to double. This is mostly industrial shit, I know it not.
- A large enough number of seeds to produce a population-feeding global harvest need to be set aside instead of eaten. This is double what people had been setting aside, and given that people have been eating that, more than double what was set aside after the famine started.
- Those seeds need to be planted, cared for, and brought to harvest.
- There's an element of luck in this. Just because everything on the human side is finally set up and working doesn't mean that nature will cooperate.
- Now we're into the processing and distribution, which needs to survive "Hungry people want food now" and "Hungry people want food here." (This is entirely apart from "Grudges, from the famine and before, mean that some people actively want other people to starve, and will work to see it happen.")
And --Woo!-- done, provided that the next harvest hasn't been sabotaged by anything leading up to this point.
One might wonder why I'm focusing on food and not animals. We'll get to that.
To get us back on track with the original tweet thread, a recap: the population has suddenly and unexpectedly doubled. There will not be enough food.
Yes, this includes if all crops were just on the verge of being harvested pre-snap so that, since they were alive, they snapped back, and since they were ready for harvest, they're quickly edible. The system that converts "plants in certain fields in certain places" to "global food" isn't set up to operate on the necessary level anymore. (Entirely apart from the other
disruptions caused by doubling the global population.)
Depending on how you look at it, there is either too little food for the people supply, or too many people for the food supply. While cutting back to the point of "starving, but not to death" and sharing as much as possible will stretch the food supply, there comes a point where it can go no further. There aren't enough calories to keep all of the people alive.
Recap over, let's get back into the original flow of things.
One solution to more mouths to feed than the food can support is the Thanos solution: fewer mouths to feed.
Genocide is a very real possibility, but there's also less sinister things. People will refuse to eat (and thus starve to death) so that there's more food for others. Not "people may", "people will". There has never been a famine like the one we're talking about, but there have been a lot of famines, and we know how people respond to them.
(Part of how we know that people will eat seed stock, even though it makes things worse in the long run.)
Random note back on the evil side: 'Hansel and Gretle'ing will be happening too. It's not just that some people value their own lives over their children's lives, though there is that. The thing about abandonment instead of murder is that it leaves the hope of "Someone else, someone who can feed them, will take them in" which makes it seem a lot less horrific in the eyes of the abandoners.
Quick note before we leave this point, I don't want to dwell on things like genocide, but do note that wars fall into the "things like" category in this case. Sometimes it's the exact same thing, in the case of wars of extermination, but if you're fighting to take away what allows others to survive (food in this case) your success will kill them every bit as much as an extermination campaign.
Anyway, that's a quick rundown of the "fewer mouths to feed" angle.
There are, of course, other ways to approach the problem. One is expanding what one considers food. We've already mentioned that, to a degree, in the form of people eating seed stock. That's only one part of it.
As I said above, the point at which there's nothing more you can do in the face of "not enough calories to go around" is when you're eating the minimum necessary for survival and using all the food. I do mean all
Long before we reach the point of cannibalism, we get people eating every non-human in sight. This is why I've been focusing on harvests as famine enders to the exclusion of livestock, by the way.
At first, livestock is going to seem like salvation. After all, half of all living things from five years ago just popped back into existence, that means half of the animal supply did. Once they're all rounded up, they can be sent to slaughter to help offset the insufficient crops.
That's not the only reason they're going to be sent to slaughter. With five years adapted to half population, there won't be sufficient animal food or grazing land, and the last thing you want right now is for the livestock to overgraze or otherwise run out of food.
Obligatory note that the slaughterhouses, and everything after, also aren't prepared to deal with this much supply. That's industrial, I'm not getting into it.
Something like a cow is a way to convert not-food (grass, for example) into food (hamburgers, for example) and thus really valuable. Couple that with the human-side food shortage, and eating the excess livestock to prevent a livestock food shortage is a good idea.
But it only lasts so long. The first problem we're going to hit is that people who are eating meat at "snapped back and sent to slaughter" levels aren't going to instantly stop once the excess is gone (especially given that, you know, fucking famine.)
Once the excess runs out, we're right back to the "half as much food as needed" problem, except we overshoot.
It doesn't end there, it gets worse for farm animals.
First off, a lot of animals eat things that people can
Know what chickens eat? Mostly cereal grains. Things like wheat and corn. Things that people eat. The rest of their diet? Protein. Either animal or plant protein. Looking specific protein sources used in chicken feed, that's also human edible.
Does this mean that chicken feed is edible?
I have no fucking clue, actually. I tried to look it up, couldn't find an answer. That's not really the point though.
If you've got corn, as an example, would you rather it save people from starving to death, or be turned into chicken pellets? Remember: the people probably pay better than the chickens do.
Why do the people probably pay better when chicken food would be in equally short supply?
Picture yourself as a chicken farmer (but not my sister, because that would be weird) and imagine that you had the option to starve to death (or let your loved ones starve to death) or feed your chickens. Which would you do?
- Male chickens can be utter assholes who will leap into the air and attack you (or your children) with their giant scaly Jurassic Park feet, which happen to be tipped in vicious fucking claws.
- If you decide not to feed the chickens, then it's time to kill and cook (starving the chickens would be cruel), which:
- Means you have meat that you and yours can eat
- Means you also have meat that you can sell.
That second half of the second point is important. Meat prices will have gone up, you can sell at a premium. You can sell at a premium and still be selling at below the market rate. Your customer gets a deal, you get money with which you can buy food other than chicken, everyone but the chicken wins.
(Probably worth pointing out that immediately after the unsnap, what happens to the price of meat will be complex and difficult. Once the unsnap surplus animals are gone, though, meat's going to be like any other food: expensive.)
As to the first point: yes, they will attack babies that have only just learned to walk. Do not leave children (any age) alone with roosters unless they have been verified as rooster combat capable. (When dealing with roosters yourself, be aware that they may wait util your back is turned to attack.)
Hens seem to be safe.
Back on track, if chicken farmers merely put off buying chicken food in favor of feeding themselves, that's going to drive prices down. If they actually start killing and eating/selling the chickens, that's going to drive prices down more. Meanwhile human beings are going to be paying ever higher prices for food, of which there isn't enough.
If chickens had access to money and could buy their own food, chicken feed prices would climb in the same manner as person feed prices, since chicken food is brought by people who themselves need to eat, that's not going to happen.
A second reason that things get worse for farm animals is simply that they're edible.
Just like people eat seed stock, people will eat animals that are needed for breeding to maintain herd size. They'll also eat them early. The fact that a cow will have twice as much meat in 6 to 12 months doesn't mean much if you won't be alive to see it.
And people will eat milk cows and things like them. Egg hens are another example. If I've got things right, it only takes a month for egg hens to lay enough eggs to equal the calories you'd get from eating them, but that assumes there's adequate food for the hens and that you can wait a month.
Keep your animals and they're a drain on your resources, kill them and they're a source of meat, money, or both. When faced with starvation, a lot of people are going to be very interested in meat, money which might be used to buy food, or both.
The one spot of good news for Peter Parker in this livestock nightmare is that the plants he eats are probably produced by humans and machines, so people eating work animals isn't going to touch him.
The bad news is that pets will be on the menu.
There are going to be tough questions for students at Peter's high school.
Questions like, "Would I rather eat Fluffy, or Spot?" and, "Do I have it in me to butcher them myself, or will I need to get someone else --who would take some of the meat as payment-- to do it?"
It's not like pets are the only thing, of course. Given where he lives, you can bet that Peter's diet is going to include rats and pigeons for a while.
They'll run low, of course. They're in the middle of a famine too, and humans outnumber them. But, for a while . . .
It really is the case that any animal is potentially on the menu, so we can imagine a scene where Spider-Man races to the scene of a major disturbance and discovers that it's neither normal criminals nor supervillains; it's just a crowd of hungry people who have decided that the NYPD horses and dogs are a viable food source.
We can imagine it because it's the kind of scene that has to happen in Spider-Man: Far From Home
if it's actually part of the post-Endgame MCU.
We can also say, with a fair degree of certainty, that nothing like it will appear. We aren't likely to see Peter and friends facing food riots or the government response. We aren't likely to see the effect of the political instability that would necessarily exist even if this weren't happening a mere five years after the worst disaster in history.
Remember, there has never in history been a situation where there were twice as many people as the food supply could support. Like the snap, this is superlative. This is the worst famine ever
. It's the first worldwide one, too.
Peter and Pals are in New York City. That gives them front row seating.
Even if they were somewhere less globally connected, since it's global, no matter how hard they try, there is no possible way that they can avoid being completely swept up in this disaster.
Until the food supply and population reach equilibrium this will be their lives, and they will be forever changed by it.
We aren't likely to see that.
Nothing in what's been released about the movie even attempts to address anything that happened in Endgame
other than, "Hey, we're fresh out of Iron Man." An Iron Man shortage is not the major problem left in the wake of Endgame. (I'd also point out that Iron Man isn't the only hero they're out of.)
We know beyond all doubt that the world is falling apart in the worst possible way; Peter Parker goes on vacation.
Which, in the end, is sort of the problem with the MCU.
They wanted a connected universe. They refused to connect it.
Every damned movie they set up things that must necessarily happen, or be true, or have consequences, and every time they ignored it as completely as possible in everything that followed.
I don't particularly want
a "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends have all their joy and optimism crushed in the famine-ridden Hellscape that necessarily follows Endgame
" movie. I understand why they're not doing it. But that's the only Spider-Man movie that can follow Endgame.
So, instead, we're getting a movie that doesn't follow Endgame
. And that's fine. But why, then, are we being told that it does? Why not just say, "This is a different continuity"? You don't need continuity to have the same actors show up as the same characters, after all.
What's the last MCU movie that actually benefited from being in a shared universe?
If they'd just said, "Yes, we're (mostly) using the same familiar face for each character, but don't expect everything to line up," what would have been lost?
I ask because I don't remember the last time it felt like being part of the MCU continuity was lifting a film up instead of weighing it down.
And wow is that fucking uneven. Sorry about that. The plan was to have simple editing of the Twitter thread for readability and typos, then I massively expanded on some stuff, then I ran out of steam after the chickens.
Anyway, here's a massive footnote on why we don't know whether the population doubled. This will be a straight cut and paste of the Twitter thread covering it:
] So, I was writing a thread on Spiderman: Far From Home and how it seems to be ignoring its own premise, and I realized that I needed a separate thread on the caveats to the statement that the premise is "The population just doubled without warning."
So, caveats here.
Some of the people popping into existence are doing it less than idea places. Think "a bowl of petunias and a very surprised looking whale" places.
Well over three hundred thousand would have appeared at airplane cruising altitudes sans plane, for example.
A more pressing concern is probably those who appeared in the middle of roads. Over nine million would have done this in the US alone. That's going to lead to secondary die off, in the form of everyone who gets offed in the traffic accidents.
We could obviously go on at great length, but it's important to note that for all of the people who suddenly find themselves off belay in mid air, or in the middle of the ocean with no boat, there are more who appear in places where they're safe and sound, physically at least.
Which brings us to the psychological toll.
A lot of people are going to be visiting their own (empty) graves and wondering if that's how it was meant to be, and (whether they do that or not) not everyone is going to survive thinking along those lines.
Kicking someone five years into the future would be a strain normally, but this isn't just any future.
Five years ago something happened, and the snapped back people are going to be hit with the full reality of that all at once and it's going to hurt
Five years ago, no caveats, half the population of the universe disappeared.
We're primarily concerned with earth, and even then we limit ourselves to humans instead of talking about ecosystem collapse or intestinal bacteria, so for us it's really more that ~3.75 billion humans.
Those people who would later appear in the middle of the road? They were on the road. It probably doesn't matter whether they're driver or passenger, since a passenger going dust is going to distract the driver.
So on, so forth.
But, again, for every person in an inopportune place, more weren't.
They, of course, had to then deal with the biggest disruption in human history.
Most visions of the Rapture are lighter and fluffier. In real history, the Black Death wasn't nearly so terrible.
It doesn't actually take that much to collapse a civilization; what Thanos did was more than enough to collapse every civilization. In fact, if that had been his goal, we would be well justified in calling what he did massive, absurdly over the top, overkill.
Which brings us to the wars and riots and so forth.
This is when you begin to understand precisely why the filmmakers curled up into a ball, whimpered, and finally gave the fuck up --instead opting to push it off screen with a time-skip-- in the face of what they'd created.
Every recorded war pales in comparison to the inevitable after-snap conflict. All wars combined wouldn't measure up.
Before, alongside, and after that is the political maneuvering and restructuring.
When the bodies are buried and borders settled, earth will be unrecognizable.
The people who burst back into being are going to have to be faced with the fact that the world as they knew it ended, and there's this new thing in its place that they don't understand, don't fit into, and are ill equipped to cope with.
That's before we get to the people.
A lot of the non-snapped people they knew will be dead because of the aftermath. Be it the immediate disaster or the riots or the wars or --and this one is brutal-- because they stopped receiving the care a snapped individual had been providing, a lot of the nonsnapped are dead.
Those who returned have to face that. They also have to face the fact that everyone they knew who lived through it is fundamentally changed.
Other than the ones snapped and unsnapped with them, the people they once knew are gone. Some died, the rest are different people now.
Certainly reconnection is possible, but in the face of people who have lived (and grown) five years through Hell in what was, to them, the blink of an eye, the unsnapped are going to have a hard time relating.
Which brings us back to the suicides.
The world they knew is gone, the new world doesn't have a place for them, they don't know the first thing about making a place, some of the people they care about are dead, others are so very different.
The psychological strain is high.
This also, by the way, is Flight of the Navigator
David couldn't fit into a world where eight years had passed while he remained the same.
David, of course, had it comparatively easy. He was the only one to disappear, so there was no major disruption to life on earth.
Anyway, all of that is why it's difficult to say whether "doubled" is accurate.
Half of the population disappears. A bunch more die. Time passes. The population is now [something]. The people who disappeared reappear. Many die. Is the population now approximately two times [something]?
We can't really answer that. We don't know how many died in the disruption. We don't know if people have been breeding like rabbits.
It's almost certainly the case that the population doubled or more than doubled with the unsnap, but which of those it did is harder to say.