Essay on The Hunger Games: Fiction or Reality?
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Fiction is “the act of feigning, inventing, or imagining”, but in Suzanne Collin’s book, The Hunger Games, fiction is merely a reflection of what is already going on in the world today (“Fiction”). Could this fiction novel, The Hunger Games, really be America’s future? Well, major themes in the book such as inequality between rich and poor, suffering as entertainment, importance of appearance, and government control point toward the answer being yes. Primarily, the major comparison between the novel and our world today is the theme of inequality between rich and poor. In The Hunger Games, there is an immense gap between the rich and the poor. The rich living in the city’s capitol, Panem, and the poor living in the twelve districts,…show more content…
Similarly, American’s are some of the wealthiest people in the world, but still some of the poorest. There is “nearly 49 million Americans, including 15.9 million children that struggle to put food on the table” (“US Hunger”). The families that are starving are often hard working families who can simply just not make ends meet. Organizations like Feeding America have food banks that give out food to “over 1 million or more Americans each week” (“Hunger in America”). Like the citizens in The Hunger Games, American’s see these major problems, yet do not get up and try to be proactive. Thus keeping this vicious cycle on repeat and letting it continue to worsen. Along with inequality, is the additional theme of other people’s suffering as entertainment. The games are all about fighting, suffering, and death. The more that tributes battle one another, more blood is spilt, thus making the games more entertaining. Katniss specifically speaks about a certain year where half of the tributes died of the cold and she remarks, “It was considered very anti-climactic in the Capitol, all those quiet, bloodless deaths” (39). The suffering is not just physical though, it is also emotional. For example, Peeta and Katniss become star-crossed lovers, “meaning ill-fated”, therefore catching the attention of the capital and its citizens (“The Hunger Games”). The two star-crossed lovers are bound for a certain doom intensifying
I was certain I was going to hate it. All of my four kids have been fans of the series of books by Suzanne Collins since before they were cool; therefore when the movie was announced, we all knew the midnight screening on the night of release was a must-do. But in the run-up to last night's trip to the IMAX theater, the reviews I read and heard helped confirm my feeling that this would be a disgusting movie: violent, gratuitous in every way, repulsive to my social conscience.
I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
I tend to approach these cultural phenomena with a concern that my comfort level will be jolted. What I should be concerned about is what these phenomena say about our culture, and in the case of "The Hunger Games," what it says about the generation that elevated the story to its current status. With an eye to the latter, I drove home early this morning with a deep satisfaction that my kids were smarter than I was at their age, and that their generation understands something mine did not.
First, yes, the movie is violent, and disturbingly so. The story is one about a future world in which a wealthy ruling class dominates a world that it is linked to, but separate from, through overwhelming police and military power, and entertainment that both enthralls and intimidates the underclasses. The focus of the story is an annual gladiatorial ritual in which representatives from the "districts" under domination give up children to a tournament of slaughter and death. Yes, this movie is based around images of children killing each other.
It is a valid question to ask: Why must we tell stories that constantly elevate the level of violence necessary to grab our attention? Why is it now necessary to portray children killing other children, and children dying by each others' hands? This is indeed an important question for our society to wrestle with. But more importantly, we should direct our moralizing to the question the film itself seeks to ask: Why are we satisfied to be part of a society that finds it necessary to feed upon its young?
Viral successes like "The Hunger Games" reach mass audiences because they strike a nerve. The audience for the books and the film -- the "millennial generation" -- is not lost on the message. Our society is held together by a craving for violence. What is, say, middle-school football, after all? We should ask: Is it tolerable for us to send our young boys into a game that breaks legs, destroys knees, causes concussions and otherwise changes the course of life forever? Of course it is! Not only does the game bring our community together, provide economic opportunities, but for the lucky few, college scholarships and professional opportunities. For the players, they are willing to risk limb and even life for a lottery-styled shot at fame and fortune. For the audience, we are willing to cheer when the fallen player limps off the field, or worse is carried off to the emergency room, sighing a concern or uttering a prayer for the well-being of the child who may suffer permanently in the name of our entertainment.
"The Hunger Games" causes us to consider other forms of this structural violence. Not to only pick on the venerable institution of football, the film's prevailing metaphor can be applied to all kinds of American institutions of empire: soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, Treyvon Martin, state-sponsored gambling (the lottery), Wall Street and so on. Face it: Our society is one that eats its young. Through its horrific portrayals of a society that dominates via a tournament in which children kill children, "The Hunger Games" might well shock us into seeing the way we ourselves do it.
After the movie, my kids wanted to know my reaction. Did I just see it as yet another violent kid-pic? "No," I said, "I didn't expect to come here and see a movie about the young Israeli soldiers sent to occupy the West Bank."
In return I asked if, when they read the books, they saw them as overtly political. "Yes," my 14- and 17-year-old kids replied. And while they discussed on the way home the ways the movie changed story details of the books, I went to bed at 3:15 a.m. knowing that the major theme was not lost on them.
It gives me hope.
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