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Happy Hunger Games!

Mockingjay part 2 is releasing this Friday and all Hunger Games fans like me are super-excited to watch the final movie of the series. There are certain definite factors that distinguish this franchise from regular fiction. Hunger Games is loaded with a subtext of political and social nature. Many have wondered if the world of Hunger Games is our future. I agree; it is a possibility. But I don’t think Suzanne Collins is trying to show us a potential future, I think she’s showing us a reflection of the present time.

Hunger Games
“Hunger Games” by JeepersMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Obviously, Hunger Games is a fictional story and thus is dramatized and exaggerated at many points. But if you look carefully, there are many undercurrents that represent the present-day world. Here, I have tried to critically analyze certain aspects of the books that may resemble our world.

History of Panem

The story unravels several years in future in a country called Panem. History of Panem (which is neglected in the movies) is rather interesting. The world as we know today has been destroyed due to several natural and man-made disasters. Country of Panem is built on ruins of North America. The Capitol is the centre of Panem and there are twelve districts surrounding it that provide different goods and services to the Capitol.

Panem, as described in the book, represents a post-war or post-rebellion society. The reason for the rebellion that happened 75 book years ago is not clearly stated, but one can infer what the reason must have been from the current highly oppressive relationship between the Capitol and the districts. There is a wide gap between the rich and the poor.

Citizens of the Capitol and Districts 1 and 2 are the rich elites. Rest of the districts, are extremely poor and exploited by the Capitol. The districts rebel against the Capitol, but the Capitol wins. Now it has the ultimate control over the districts and applies the even more stringent rule on them. This is where the story begins. The story revolves around Katniss Everdeen, but it’s not only about her. This is the story of a nation on the verge of rebellion. This is the story of Panem.

Controlling the districts

The Capitol is trying to impose a certain perspective on the rest of the population. They call their violent police force the ‘peacekeepers’, show Hunger Games as festivities. But the refusal of the districts to truly celebrate the Games shows the failure of the Capitol in influencing the districts. The aftermath of the rebellion is still fresh in the minds of the people. It infuses fear and resentment against the Capitol. The Capitol, therefore, keeps the masses busy with problems of hunger and survival.

Katniss, in the first book, operates solely on the instincts for survival. Such rampant poverty and hunger are not entirely fictional. The depiction of poverty in books is hardly as grim as reality. But just like in the story issue of poverty is shrugged off and is rather normalized.

As the Capitol exercises full control over the education in the districts, the ideas taught in the schools and engraved on minds of little kids are actual “Capitalist”. The ideas prevailing in the society are therefore the ideas of the ruling class.

Media

Media is used as a prime weapon in this game of distraction. Greater emphasis on the victor’s privileges overshadows the brutal murders of 23 children. Katniss and Peeta’s love story is used to drive people away from the sparks of rebellion. If you remove the murders from the Games it’s eerily like any other reality show we see.

The Elites

The Hunger Games is a very elegant weapon devised by the Capitol which effectively divides the districts preventing the formation of any kind of solidarity. Thus, the Hunger Games don’t allow any kind of solidarity among districts. The citizens of the Capitol clearly don’t understand their class position and the oppressive nature of the class they belong to. The citizens of the Capitol, the prep teams, the escorts are supporting their favourite players from the districts.

They are so utterly unaware of the brutality of the games and so miserably fail to understand what is happening around them that you can’t help but think of them like retards. Is this rampant ignorance a part of our world too?

This can be explained by ‘Reification’ a concept introduced by a Neo-Marxist theorist – Georg Lukas. Reification is a process where people externalize the social systems like economy and religion (in this case the Hunger Games). People forget that they have created the system and give it an independent, objective identity. This leads them to think that they have no control over it. In today’s capitalist society, everyone from upper-middle class and middle class constitutes elites.

We all possess more than we need. When we study and criticize the capitalist society for its oppressive nature we forget that we are the group that creates the demand for the goods and services. We are the driving force of the market. We fail to see ourselves in relation to the whole system.

Why does all this sound so familiar? Are we truly moving towards a dystopian future depicted in Hunger Games? Maybe. Collins has beautifully described the notion of Hope. As President Snow says, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hopes is dangerous.”

Collins brings out the brutality of Human nature and at the same time makes room for a little hope. In words of Plutarch, ‘“Now we’re in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated,” he says. “But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction. Although who knows? Maybe this will be it, Katniss.”’

Collins holds a mirror in front of us and sings the old song with a new tune. If we look carefully this is a call for efforts towards collective thinking, social solidarity and finding a way to a better world. So when you watch Mockingjay, remember to look for the clues that connect Panem to the real world.

May the odds be ever in our favour!

Saee Pawar

Written by Saee Pawar

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