46

Cop: Are you classified as human?
Korben Dallas: Negative. I'm a meat popsicle.

OK, that's funny. Haha. Except, any self-respecting NY-"I Will Nock Your Punk-ass Down"-PD cop would immediately teach you not to be a smart-ass if you pull something like that. And "Fifth Element" cops don't seem high on peace and non-violence ideas, judging by how they handled Dallas's neighbor.

For that matter, why did they take the smart-alec remark as a truth, and didn't investigate Dallas's apartment? If it was because of switched apartment name tag, they shouldn't have even looked at Dallas's apartment or ask him.

So, why'd the cops totally ignore Dallas mouthing off to them, instead of booking him for some-impeding-or-other to teach him a lesson?

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    Maybe meat popsicles are a thing that some aliens are in future New York, and/or maybe future cops have gotten in trouble for interpreting a poorly translated species description as mouthing off. "Do you have any idea how angry you've made the ambassador from the Ice Mammals delegation of Rigel V? You think everyone speaks perfect English and knows how to translate 'Ice Mammal'?" Jul 7, 2015 at 20:23
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    @ToddWilcox: I like the theory that a meat popsicle is someone who has spent a significant amount of time in cryo-stasis, though for the life of me I can't imagine why he wouldn't be classified as "human" even if that was the case. Jul 7, 2015 at 22:06
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    Isn't meat popsicle a common scifi term for someone who was in some kind of stasis and thus doesnt match the age you might find on their papers? thus it might in this universe be just a normal term to describe yourself then?
    – PlasmaHH
    Jul 8, 2015 at 11:59
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    @PlasmaHH A quick google of "What is a meat popsicle" returns some references to The Fifth Element and at least one adult-oriented definition. A poster on one forum posits that Korben has obeyed the implied police order to "freeze", and therefore is now meat popsicle and is complying with all police commands. Aside from the vulgar definition, it seems like popular usage of "meat popsicle" originates with The Fifth Element. boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-167789.html Jul 8, 2015 at 12:35
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    The Fifth Element also has a lot of foreshadowing, because there would shortly be a "meat popsicle" in Dallas' room - the Colonel and the military aide in the freezer (they got better).
    – jhpace1
    Jul 16, 2015 at 23:20

7 Answers 7

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Because they were interrupted

Immediately after Dallas gives his snarky reply, another cop down the hall says "I've found him" upon seeing the "Korben Dallas" tag on another door.

Presumably any reply or reprimand the cop was about to make was simply interrupted, and he turned to help capture the man they believed was the man they were there to arrest.

The world of The Fifth Element seems more heavily sarcastic than our own, so Dallas's comments may simply not have warranted any punishment, but even if they did the cop quickly found himself with more important matters to attend to. However irritating back-talk may be, it's not as big a deal as uranium smuggling.

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    As can be seen from the reaction of the man finally arrested, smart-ass replies to police might be quite common Jul 8, 2015 at 16:47
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I assumed it was potentially a term military people commonly used at that time in the future, referring to them being cryogenically frozen for long trips. Today, marines will sometimes call themselves jar heads, the Army will call themselves grunts, and other branches have their own nicknames. (Just don't get caught using those names if you aren't one yourself.)

There is also a self deprecating aspect to the phrase, trying to assure the cop that he was not worthy of the term "human" or the officer's notice/time.

And, like Nerrolken said, they got interrupted. Someone else was found to beat on and they forgot about the minor snide remark by Mr. No-Name. They got who they came for, so they simply didn't have a reason to stick around to kick the crap out of everyone else.

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The best explanation for it not being completely snarky (that I've seen) is that he's referring to having been cryogenically frozen (so his actual age would mismatch his physical age)

I agree that the response does sound snarky, though, and they probably would have responded more gruffly had the neighbor across the hall not interrupted.

[Source: https://imgur.com/gallery/Ua33j ]

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The movie is not set in the present but in the future, and a future which was imagined in 1997 at that. But extrapolating from more recent trends:

  • Portable cameras are getting more and more common, and so are fixed security cameras.
  • There were a number of cases where cops got into trouble because they were (or appeared to be) overreacting. Cities paid a lot of money in lawsuits.
  • A remarkably high percentage of U.S. lawsuits gets settled by plea bargains. There are people who see this as a perversion of justice. What happens if "some impeding or other" charges had to go to trial to make them stick? Would the cops really fill the paperwork if they knew they would have to spend a day testifying in court?

Taken together, there could be a culture change where disrespectful or smartass answers are no longer enough to justify a violent response.

4

I always felt that the "meat popsicle" tidbit was reminiscent of some older sci-fi work about people in cryostasis or that had their minds uploaded into a new body.

I believe a similar term was used in Larry Niven's "A World Out of Time" where the protagonist was put in cryostasis (expecting to wake up in the future when a cure for his sickness was discovered.)

As the novel goes on, it becomes apparent many people did that. But society went full dystopian and future societies would let people be frozen forever, or die/decay, or worst, pull them out, or their minds to be downloaded in new bodies, and put on bondage to pay for the cost of reviving them.

Which is what happened to the protagonist, a meat popsicle to be thrown into the grind of dirty, dangerous jobs, or else, put back into the freezer or have his new body impounded (which amounted to a dead sentence.)

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    Your memory is right -- Niven's term for cryogenically frozen bodies was "corpsicle". Appears both in A World Out of Time and several times in the Gil Hamilton stories. Apr 27 at 19:54
  • "Corpsicle"! Yeah, now I remember. May 3 at 13:54
3

It seems like police raids are a daily occurrence in this place. There are permanent markings that you are supposed to put your hands in, and there is something that lets the cops look through the wall. The cops seem to be very cynical and hardened and don't seem to care very much. It's just go in, grab the suspect, and get out, like every day. And if Dallas' neighbor is representative of the other people there, it seems like they have to deal with responses a lot more hostile than that snarky remark.

Also, if you think about it, asking him if he is human is a bit silly. Yes, there are non-humans who look like human in that universe, but even if he was one of those he wouldn't admit it. So I don't think it would be completely unusual to answer like that.

0

I don't think it's necessary to understand what "Meat Popsicle" means, other than there are people who are classified as Meat Popsicles and that means they're not classified as human. It's not funny, it's a perfectly normal response that also helps establish to the audience that the future is not like the present.

It's like "polaron radiation" in Star Trek. What's polaron radiation? Who knows? What does it have to do with shield harmonics? Who knows? Does it matter? No.

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