Reality Television and "The Hunger Games"

May 2, 2019

 “The Hunger Games” movies were a big deal. They were not only popular amongst the readers of the original books but also appealed to a mass audience of casual moviegoers. The four movies pulled in a total of 1.4 billion dollars in North America alone and proceeded to be referenced, memed, and gushed over about for years after the first movie’s release (anyone who has been to middle school remembers that one kid who always shouted, “I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE” at any opportunity). For a series that is so politically rooted to become this widely applauded is rare, and it leads one to wonder if the public reception of “The Hunger Games” movies is exactly what the message of the films warn against. 

To revisit the intention of the movies it is necessary to consider the origins of “The Hunger Games” books. Suzanne Collins was inspired to create the dystopian world of Panem after a night of casual channel surfing. She recalls switching from footage of the Iraq war to popular reality TV shows and fusing those two opposing scenes into one image: The Hunger Games. 

The translation of these ideas into both the books and movies is found on every page and in every scene. The people of the Capitol live in extravagance and gluttony while ignoring the starving districts around them that provide their luxury. This contrast can be equated with the U.S. and developing countries that manufacture most of our products. Like the government of “The Hunger Games,” our society also uses reality TV drama as a distraction from the horrors of the reality.

 

 The people of the Capitol are led by the producers of the games to focus on the manufactured storylines of the young tributes instead of the true perils of their surrounding territories and the corruption of their own city. Peeta and Katniss’s relationship was created purely to make them interesting in the public eye. This parallels the way that celebrities and contestants on reality shows often create less-than-true drama in order to remain relevant on the show or other forms of media. In summary, entertainment can be used to distract you from what’s really going on. 

So how does this relate to the public response to the movies? Well, it’s important to acknowledge that the majority of the audience understood the message. The imagery is far from subtle, and the ideas of the movie translate strongly. Consider these articles, however: Are you Team Peeta or Team Gale? Which HG character are you? How would you survive the Games? These headlines represent the other portion of the audience: those who likely understood the message but don’t draw connection to our reality. The concept of “teams” ignores the point of the movie. Katniss’s issue wasn’t who she was going to date but surviving as the symbol of resistance in a movement fought through propaganda and television. Confining “The Hunger Games” into the romance genre contradicts the point of the movie: you’re choosing to acknowledge the relationship while failing to remember the tournament that systematically murdered children.

 

Do you want to watch a movie while you wait the long two weeks until my next article? Watch (or re-watch) “Logan,” the final movie of Wolverine’s story that stands apart from the rest of his feature movies in terms of story and appeal. It explores the end of a superhero and goes deep inside the mind of Logan. Who doesn’t need more sad superhero goodbyes in her life? 

 

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