Hunger Games (2008)

The Hunger Games directed by Gary Ross, is a sci-fi story about a post-apocalyptic future based on Suzanne Collins’ book. The year that the story was set in is unfortunately unspecified! However, the best answer I could find on the internet  for a educated guess, was this answer on Yahoo! Answers: “It’s most definitely in the future, but not as far as year 5000 for example. If you look at the technology — hovercrafts, high speed trains, holographic control room and effective healing cream that works overnight — you can tell it’s in the future. An educated guess would be about at least 100 years in the future and 75 after the major rebellion. Collins herself has said that it would take “triple digits” (between 100 and 999 years) for the devastated North America to emerge as Panem. But personally I’d plump for between 100 – 200 years. It’s also never really specified if Panem is the only country left or not. My guess is that the ‘Dark Days’ was a civil war-esque kind of conflict, so Panem has cut off all external communications with the rest of the world. Whether or not the rest of the world has had their own conflicts or are living in relative peace is a bit of a grey area. I reckon Collins has done this deliberately in order to keep the focus of Panem and the conflict in Panem…” which is the city in North America that the story is set in.

The kind of society that we are presented with in this movie is perfectly dystopian in its totalitarian government model. I have heard people argue that it is capitalism in the future, and/or an appropriation but misapplication of John Stuart Mill’s doctrine of Utilitarian Ethics: the idea of sacrificing one for the whole. One child between the ages of 12-18 gets selected from every district to compete in the Hunger Games (which is broadcasted over national television. This prevents rebellions and uprisings from the large centralized government from occurring as it accumulates more and more wealth and becomes stronger.

The amount of fear instilled on the people is one of the stronger messages of the story With the opening scene of the Everdeen family being one of a terrified Prim being held by her older sister Katniss.

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It is easy to see the kind of stratification between poverty and wealth that exists in this society.

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The representative of Panem’s District 12 talks to the subjects. She shows them a movie of a brain-washing kind of propaganda about the competition, what she calls, “…a very special film, brought to you all the way from the Capitol!” (in image 4)

The film says: “War… Terrible war… Widows…Orphans…A motherless child…This was the uprising that rocked our land, thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained. And then came the peace, hard fought, sorely won. A people rose up from the ashes and a new era was born, but freedom has a cost and the traitors were defeated. We swore as a nation, we would never know this treason again. And so it was decreed; that each year, the various districts of Panem would offer up, in tribute one young man and woman to fight to the death, in a pageant of honor, courage and sacrifice. The lone victor, bathed in riches, would serve as a reminder of our generosity and our forgiveness. This is how we remember our past. This is how we safeguard our future.”

One can easily see the patterns that are seen throughout history, of the bias of the victors, who are also the ones who write the history. The themes of the cycles of history, competitiveness of nature and survival of the fittest, political and social patterns of poverty and wealth (a lot of this reminds me of themes in Greek and Roman Mythology of the Gladiators and Gods: immortality/mortality, political negotiations, victors versus defeated, the Hero versus the Poet). Look at this gladiator like glorification of Katniss and Peeta in the below image.

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The Lavishness of the life in the Capitol below…

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I absolutely love the sophistication of the politics in this movie, the importance of district 12’s image on Television to the public, their story in the media, (also a Greek motif of “unrequited love”) and their struggles. The way that getting sponsors increases you ability to succeed, is an overlapping theme in capitalist politics, government, and also Greek mythology (in the same way that the mortals made “sacrifices” to the Gods). This theme exists on many different levels too.

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The way that the people watching TV at home perceive you, is who you are to them. It is like the tree that falls in the forest, did it really fall if no one saw it fall?

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Here is an image of Katniss at the Master of Ceremony’s national talk show.

Despite this Hollywood feature’s omniscient-like shots, it seems that this society is highly ordered. There are clear images of order conveyed alongside equally powerful images of violence or chaos, however the chaotic images in the movie only take place during the struggle that occurs in the Hunger Games itself. To preserve order for the greater good, these few sacrifice themselves and their need for order and subject themselves to violence, and all the things that they are guaranteed not to have in society. The story make you feel as if this is all human history, and even nature’s history entails. Arenas that we create for our subjects, that we objectify for entertainment to fight our battles for us. This is done for political motives, for the sake of distinguishing ourselves from beasts. However, as Gale says in this movie to Katniss after she has volunteered, that killing humans is “no different” from killing animals.

Technology hugely affects social interaction! Starting with the broadcasting of everything that happens in the Hunger Games as a way to receive empathy and help from the “Gods” or sponsors. By putting on a “good show” or theatrical performance, appeasing to the Gods or “royalty” from District 1 is possible. This story is a very interesting take on Television as a driving force of power and politics. It is all about “making friends.”

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The attentiveness of the audience and legitimacy of the media in the image above.

Suzanne Collins received inspiration for this story when she thought of reality television shows where people compete with one another to win and when she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq on the news.

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