“Everyone in Atlas is a rich asshole.”
False. CRWBY has gone out of its way to only show us tiny glimpses of Atlas, in an attempt to trick the audience into believing it would be okay to let it be destroyed.
‘Glimpses’ such as only ever showing us Atlas through very limited lenses: Jacques’ galas and parties, one or two closed-off locations in the Academy, a grand hotel, and a fancy park where fancy people have fancy picnics. The show was very careful to only show us these things, because CRWBY is relying on the audience’s perception of Atlas to carry their message that “RWBYJNR are right to abandon it.” They tried to portray Atlas as an advanced form of “Snob Hill.” They tried to pretend that Atlas is not a city, but is instead, a neighborhood, in which only the very wealthy live. This can be illustrated through the highly specific way in which Weiss and May talk about Atlas in their tea-party scene: “Our two families specifically have been harmful to us personally, therefore the city doesn’t deserve saving.”
But this clean-cut surface-level illusionary curtain of “Only the obscenely wealthy live here” is transparent and easy to tear apart.
Atlas is not a Rich-Folks Neighborhood. It’s a city. Atlas is a huge, heavily populated city, and it’s been established as one from the very beginning. Yes, it’s a highly problematic city and it does house the worst of humanity within it - but it’s still a real city. A city full of mansions, shopping districts, hotels, restaurants, parks, penthouses. A city connected by transportation options such as a city-wide underground subway system. A city housing the military headquarters and the Huntsman Academy of the region, as well as at least one prep school, along with presumably a combat school (common in the Four Kingdoms, according to Ozpin) and additionally, schools offering more basic education for the children of Atlas. Do you know what all these kinds of places have in common? Staff.
The city of Atlas presumably would have to house thousands of working-class people in order to even function. Teachers, janitors, butlers, housekeepers, cooks, busboys, waiters, dishwashers, window-cleaners, street-sweepers, valets, groundskeepers, sales associates, etc. you name it. People like Klein, or like the waiter serving drinks and hors d’oeuvres at Jacques’ galas. Also, by the way, literal child slaves like we have now been told exist via Cinder’s backstory. And yes, some people might decide to believe that every single working class person who works in Atlas all commute to homes in Mantle, but A. that is statistically improbable, and B. even if that’s true, there would still always be working class people physically standing in Atlas at all times, due to night-shifts running transportation services or hotel operations or garbage collecting or street sweeping or construction or manor upkeep at night during the off-hours of the rich people.
Additionally, there are the people working and training as Huntsman or military soldiers, who do definitely live in Atlas and don’t commute down to the city at night, as the military headquarters and Academy dorms are both up in Atlas. We see thousands of human soldiers lining the fields and being completely decimated by the Grimm Salem is unleashing upon them, and it is impossible to believe that every single one of those soldiers comes from a rich family, like Weiss and Winter did. In fact, we don’t even have to make assumptions to know that not all soldiers in Atlas are rich, because we have Neon and Flynt studying in Atlas Academy (a faunus girl and a kid from a working-class background) and we also know from Blake’s Volume 5 trailer that the Atlas prep schools also accept students from other cities (as Ilia was originally from Mantle before she began attending an Atlas prep-school and kept her Faunus heritage a secret to do so.) It is false to say that every single person living in Atlas is a rich person. Yes, Atlas is the home to Jacques and Weiss and Whitley and Henry Marigold. But it is also the home to Neon and Flynt and the literally thousands of soldiers from all walks of life that I mentioned.
We also now suddenly have to accept that farmers live in Atlas. By making sure Monstra landed on farmlands outside the city on the floating island, CRWBY established that literal FARMERS live and work on the floating island of Atlas. FARMERS. You can’t get more “working class” than that.
Not to mention, we know that the military was already evacuating the residents of Mantle to Atlas before Team RWBY split off from the military. They repeatedly said things like “We’re not finished evacuating Mantle!” “We haven’t evacuated everyone from Mantle yet!” “There are still people left in Mantle!” The evacuations were already underway when Team RWBY split off from Ironwood! What, are we supposed to pretend he de-evacuated all the Mantle citizens who WE KNOW were already on the island before RWBY left? Team RWBYJNRO weren’t evacuating everyone from Mantle into the Crater, they were evacuating everyone who remained into the Crater. There are actually Mantle citizens on Atlas RIGHT NOW as Ruby, Weiss and Blake sit around drinking tea and wondering if they should care about the millions of people in the city because they have personal problems with the 1%. (Also, by the way, you’ll notice that neither Weiss nor May ever say ANYTHING about having a problem with the wealth gap. Weiss does not seem to see anything wrong with the fact that SHE’S SITTING IN A MANSION WHILE THE WORLD BURNS OUTSIDE. She’s only upset that she personally was blocked from inheriting said mansion. May boils it all down to the horrifically simple level of “My family mistreated me, so I’m okay with letting the entire city die.” Which… What?? Their problem with the wealthy is not that they are wealthy, they’re only mad at the individuals, not the system.)
When people say they’re okay with Atlas being destroyed, they’re not JUST saying “I’m okay with the 1% of Remnant being destroyed,” They’re actually saying “I’m okay with having millions of service workers, transportation workers, farmers, cooks, children, students, soldiers, refugees, and literal slaves all be killed, because they happen to presently exist on the same plot of land as Jacques Schnee.”
That’s why I’m so frustrated with RWBN-May right now. They don’t express any concern for the millions of innocent people who will die if Salem isn’t stopped. They decided that the Schnees and the Marigolds were beyond saving, stating personal reasons for this assertion while conveniently not mentioning their family’s true crimes in any meaningful way, and are now using their grievances against their parents as the reason why they shouldn’t try to save the other million people who happen to live in the same city.
Pretending that Atlas is peopled exclusively by the obscenely wealthy completely ignores not only the obvious way cities work, but contradicts everything we’ve been told about Atlas from the start. It’s bad enough to see the Main Cast buy into and propagate this lie; even worse to see it repeated by the fans of the show.
Also, I’m seeing people in RWBY comments say that the destruction of the City of Atlas would somehow fix the systemic racism and wealth inequality in Remnant?? Like, huh??? Removing a city off a map and taking a few individuals off the playing field wouldn’t fix systemic racism and wealth inequality. That’s not how these things work. If a major world system is set in place that keeps certain people groups elevated above other people groups, then wiping a specific location or individual off the map wouldn’t change the system. All that would happen is the transfer of power from that location or individual to a different one poised to accept it. Besides, it’s completely false and disingenuous to claim that every single rich and powerful figure lives in Atlas. Yes, Atlas is the one where we see it most obviously, but destroying the City of Atlas would just prime places such as Argus to take over. You know what exists in Argus? A thriving economy and heavy military presence. Would it suffer a great deal if Atlas fell? Yes, but it has already been established to be able to cope without the immediate assistance of Atlas (since, you know, the borders closed and the embargo hit them too). Additionally, the other three Kingdoms were also shown to be major world powers, containing technology the rest of Remnant doesn’t have access to (such as airships, which have so far been shown to be a Kingdoms-Only perk, and reliable communication, which the Elder in that village in Volume 4 claims “was already bad before the tower of Beacon fell,” implying that the CCT towers “Atlas gifted to the world” were only installed to the four Kingdoms and a few special places like Argus.)
As I already mentioned, the main cast in RWBY doesn’t seem to think the systems set in place are actually wrong. Everything they’ve ever fought for has been the preservation of the status quo; challenging both the individuals who oppose it, and the individuals who block them from participating in it. Removing one city from the network of cities that benefits from wealth inequality doesn’t remove wealth inequality. And removing a select few individuals from the network of individuals that benefit from systemic racism doesn’t remove systemic racism. This idea that “Remnant, minus Jacques and Atlas, equals better Remnant,” is blatantly flawed and an incredibly naïve and ignorant view of real-world problems. Classism, racism, wealth inequality, and other things like this can’t be solved as simply as removing a chess piece from a game-board. The City of Atlas, and by extension, families such as the Schnees and the Marigolds, are byproducts of a flawed system, not the singular flaw itself. The destruction of Atlas would not be a victory for the poor and the oppressed; it would be a catastrophic event that kills millions OF the poor and oppressed, and also happens to knock out a couple of their oppressors along the way.
If the system that created these problems remains in place, then the only thing that changes with the destruction of Atlas is who’s in charge. If all the problems in Remnant stem from the fact that Atlas is the richest kingdom, then removing Atlas doesn’t solve the problems in Remnant, because the second richest kingdom will just become the richest and inherit them.
In conclusion: Atlas currently contains millions of people, and only some of them are weatlhy; and even if they were 100% wealthy, killing all of them wouldn’t fix a thing.