Photo taken by Madison McGill
When I was 10 years old, I watched the Hunger Games movie for the first time. I loved the young adult dystopia that took over the late 2000s and the 2010s, the fleshed-out backdrop and Katniss Everdeen. She was the first on-screen female character I saw who didn’t try to be completely likable, which I found refreshing as a young girl trying to find herself.
However, I didn’t understand the nuances and political landscapes that mirrored ours until years later. I knew it left me unsettled and disgusted, though, even back then.
Now, over 10 years later, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes made over $100 million in its first weekend at the box office. The prequel is an origin story for President Coriolanus Snow, the ominous and elusive villain of the original trilogy, and his rise to power by any means necessary. But the most compelling part of the combined stories, by far, is the way author Suzanne Collins’ wrote warped levels of humanity, which stem from realities in this world.
For a quick recap, the original trilogy presents a fictional world called Panem, the former North America, which was divided into 12 districts and the Capitol. Most of the people in the districts are poor, working class individuals who produce everything that the Capitol citizens need to thrive, including textiles, lumber and coal.
The differences between the Capitol and the districts are stark. Capitol citizens have everything they want, spend their money and throw up in the bathrooms of parties to stuff their faces even more with the excessive amounts of food they acquire. They dress up in sparkly clothes and colorful wigs, waiting around for their annual entertainment.
The districts, on the other hand, face extreme poverty and starvation — and in the heinous manner — those reaped for the games are the only ones who see and experience the decadence that the Capitol lives in all year round.
The real world and The Hunger Games
Although the disparity between wealth distributions may seem over the top for the sake of the novels, it’s eerily similar to the current state of the United States and throughout the world. We see billionaires get everything they want while other people work multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their heads. There may not be games to the death, but people do plenty of things to keep their heads above water.
I’m certain that a lot of people in our society would put their names in the lottery more times than required to get grain and oil, just like in the book. So how far-fetched is it all, really?
Collins’ inspiration for the original books, which include The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, came from flipping through channels between reality television and the Iraq war. She was afraid that people would blur the differences between reality and entertainment, and that’s exactly what happened.
Like most dystopian fiction, we pretend that it’s far off from the world that society built, but there’s always a level of truth to the bizarre concoctions. It’s getting more and more difficult to separate the two, especially for works like The Hunger Games, which uses realistic economic and political elements far more than the biological advancements and classist medical care to convey the horrors within this despotic creation.
Yet, some of the similarities between the fictional Hunger Games and the real world are even more jarring, including:
- The power of control, and who wields it
- The demoralization of people during and after war
- The implications of censored communication.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of The Hunger Games and its subsequent works was Collins’ ability to accurately predict the growing obsession with media coverage about people’s personal lives. Collins wrote the current social media storm without knowing what it would look like, and she successfully wrote about the most terrifying parts.
People care about the people on their screens far more than ever before, whether it means loving them or hating them, and it turns everything into a show. It isn’t completely unlike Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman or his ancestor, Lucky Flickerman, who poke and prod at young tributes to extract their juiciest secrets before they’re sent to die.
Now, our lives may not be that dramatic, by any means. But the principle is still the same, and at the very least, it says a lot about our thoughts on the concept of “celebrity.”
Let’s be honest. We followed the non-existent love triangle as if we weren’t watching something about the power of revolutions and using your voice when you’ve been forced down. Then, we decided that Snow wouldn’t be absolutely horrible in the prequel, and we were wrong.
We chose teams and searched for any romantic moments, even with waged wars and watching fictional children die.
Perhaps that’s why we care about these films and books so much and why they’ve left a lasting impact on all of us. Most of us can see what we didn’t when we were young. We see our capabilities presented to us and we can either improve, or we can shove it down and pretend we didn’t understand it at all.
So, The Hunger Games will continue to leave a lasting legacy. Real or not real? Real.
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