The Politics of the Hunger Games

It seems “The Hunger Games” is a bit of a Rorschach test for people politically. Do the districts represent #Occupy protesters? Ayn Rand workers oppressed by their government? Fodder for meaningless wars? Or something more?

In his review, Roger Ebert writes:

In interviews, Sutherland has equated the younger generation with leftists and Occupiers. The old folks in the Capitol are no doubt a right-wing oligarchy. My conservative friends, however, equate the young with the Tea Party and the old with decadent Elitists.

The Hollywood reporter, um, reports, that reactions are all over the map. Conservatives see big government as the evil, while some even equate the story (weirdly in my opinion) to global warming, assuming that the catastrophe that caused the apocalypse was climate-related. But there’s more. Paul Bond writes:

Occupy-Wall-Street liberals are loving the way the film portrays an extraordinary gap between the rich and poor as simply an innate evil. It’s a black-and-white view in which there’s no allowance that the rich might have earned their wealth — they’re portrayed simply as lazy and overly indulged oppressors. The poor are shown as the industrious ones.

Yet Christian Toto over at Breitbart says: “The fact that the film targets an all-powerful government enslaving its citizens gives it even extra heft for right-of-center audiences.

In my review, I had a different slant. Although I see the oppression of the government angle, I think it’s pretty neutral to our situation. Oppressive governments can be either wildly left, as in the Soviet Union or Communist China, or wildly right, as in Nazi Germany. Some could argue that the socially conservative oil oligarchies of the Middle East are wildly right. At some point, totalitarianism transcends the left-right arguments of free people and becomes something different altogether.

I keyed in much more on the pacifist message. I think the book says that fighting for anything, even freedom, is eventually a chump’s game and never a noble or worthwhile thing.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who saw it that way. Over at Patheos’s Pangea blog, a Mennonite pastor, Marty Troyer, sees the same thing, although he thinks the books falls short of offering a solution. He writes:

In the final analysis, Collins offers us little beyond a sturdy “No!” to violence, leaving us hungering for something to say “Yes” to. What’s missing is the path forward among people’s who have been mutually destructive, such as The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions of Africa. She offers little hope beyond perseverance, no spirituality outside public ritual, and little insight into the world as it should be. Instead, what we get is a masterful look at the end of violence: the world as it is.

Over at Values and Capitalism, run by the American Enterprise Institute (full disclosure – my husband works at AEI in a different department), they have an excellent wrap-up of thought on “The Hunger Games” from the same perspective as me, that there are some things worth fighting for, although the battle may be hard and costly. They’ve done something fun, offering alternate endings to the trilogy. Surely such an excellent series deserves an ending with more meaning and a sense of a battle well-fought, like Harry Potter.

Or maybe this discussion is exactly what Suzanne Collins hoped would come out of her series.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey


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