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The Hunger Games

25 MAR 2012

by Benjamin in Media EcologyMusingsPolitical

Count me in among the millions of people who went to see The Hunger Games in theaters this weekend.  Given the publicity and popularity of this series, I had to find out what the hype was all about.  And I’m glad I did.  This movie is well directed, engaging, and a display of top-notch acting.  But don’t take my word for it – you can find a much better and more thorough analysis of the movie from one of the many film critics that actually get paid to review movies for a living. Instead, I am writing to share an observation that I made, one that I suspect the average movie-goer was unable to perceive for themselves.

Disclaimer: I have not read the book upon which the movie is based so any further comments will be limited strictly to the film.  Please pardon any misunderstandings or possible inaccuracies that I may communicate.

The Hunger Games is about a futuristic society in which people are organized into districts, carefully managed by a one-world government and limited in their available resources.  Hence, the people rely on the provision of a supposedly benevolent government that promises peace.  In order to ‘remember’ their roots, an annual contest is held where 24 children are selected – one male and one female from each district – to compete in a fight to the death.  In reality, this is a crude form of entertainment for the aristocratic class; a victor emerges only to pacify the masses. The Hunger Games then could be understood as a political message encapsulated in a sci-fi universe and marketed to teenagers;  George Orwell’s 1984 meets Gary Paulson’s Hatchet meets The Truman Show.  Or, as I’m told, a remake of The Running Man starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

However you describe The Hunger Games, it is a fascinating if not scary concept bearing several powerful themes.  The idea of children being required to kill one another is indeed dark.  It causes one to contemplate the immense value of a human life and then question if it is worth sacrificing your morals for the sake of self-preservation.  Furthermore, readers and audience members recognize how power corrupts.  They are forced to meditate upon the motivations of the state.  Can governments really secure peace?  Do they have the peoples’ best interests in mind?

Unless the plot line has been altered dramatically for the film adaptation, I suspect these themes run through the book series as well.  However, one theme could not be nearly as apparent in the original book as it was in the film.  Towards the beginning of the movie, Gale Hawthorne sits beside his best friend Katniss Everdeen and asks the question, “What if they held a Hunger Games pageant and nobody watched?”  Good job thinking outside of the box, Gale.  Would that end this horrific practice?

We get so caught up in the games themselves, gripped by their inhumanity or anxious to learn the main character’s fate, that we miss Gale’s broader message.  We are supposed to be disgusted by the wealthy district, by those who direct the games and trivialize human life – and indeed we are troubled – but what irony!  We have been played!  While we criticize the story’s government and cringe at every character who watches this televised event, we forget that we must only look in a mirror.

I turned my gaze and looked at a full theater, hundreds of captive audience members (including myself) sitting in the same room to be entertained by a story of senseless killing. There is no denying that this story is presented to share more redeeming themes, but The Hunger Games does not reflect an Orwellian society.  The future is now!  We are so easily entertained, drawn into the motion picture with little consideration for what we watch or the consequences behind our actions – yes, even in passive activities.

The selection process for the 24 candidates is known as “the reaping.”  Likewise we reap what we sow.  In movie form, the Hunger Games is less about the characters and more about the audience.  We, too, are caught up in a game but one in which we are hungry for entertainment. For decades now the entertainment industry has pacified our modern society and planted an entitlement attitude in which the viewer always craves more, demands more for their very identity.

I would recommend this film to age appropriate audiences and I will likely be checking out the book now that I have seen the film.  Still, I will heed Gale’s warning: when the games are hosted, sometimes it is better not to watch.

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”


Lessons From The Great Pumpkin

It might be a comic strip, but I still consider Charles Schulz’s Peanuts a modern classic in the literary world.  Here is a fantastic article which expresses why Peanuts has been and still is my favorite comic strip:

Rather philosophical for a bunch of child characters, quite thoughtful for a traditionally brief and humorous medium.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: With a Pencil in Hand « The Workshop of Worship

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