The Hunger Games: Full of Political Dynamics
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 20:04
Youth is the most startling thing about the movie The Hunger Games. As readers of Suzanne Collins’ books undoubtedly know, the story centers on Katniss Everdeen’s journey from her district to the authoritarian Capitol to participate in the Hunger Games: a competition to the death between 24 children aged 12 to 18. Two children from each of the 12 districts are selected, one male and one female.
One child in particular epitomizes the tragedy of the tradition: Rue. About 12 years old, she is killed by a fellow contestant in one heartbreaking scene. Though children dying in films and television is hardly a rare occurrence, the bizarre violence and intentionality of Rue’s death is almost paralyzing for the viewer unfamiliar with Collins’ books. Contributing to the shock of Rue’s death is the maternal role the protagonist, Katniss, occupied for Rue. This role results in unavoidable empathy with Katniss’ stinging grief as she cradles the body.
To a point, it is easy to forget that the entire country of Panem is watching The Hunger Games with you. Though the film makes full use of the conventions associated with reality TV, sports broadcasts and talk shows, these techniques are used so ubiquitously in the media and the film that they are forgettable. The shock of the children dying and the cruelty of the spectators onscreen jolt the viewer back into recognizing the horror of the Games.
When Rue’s death incites rebellion in her district, Katniss becomes a folk hero with a symbolism that her government finds it cannot contain. The threat of Katniss’ martyrdom heightens the intensity of the Games. They are not just about finding a winner, but they have also been a means to maintain the status quo, which Katniss’ actions have endangered.
The epithet “They just want a show,” which is echoed through the film, is used to explain both the frivolous and symbolic power of the games.
All in all, the film seems to be an incredibly appropriate medium for the story of The Hunger Games. A low-angle shot of the forest in an earlier sequence allows the audience to appreciate Katniss’ reverence for the landscape of her home district. Her isolation and the intermittent guerilla warfare between contestants maintains tension in the film.
Uniting the ugly threads of snuff films and propaganda in cinematic history with the modern concept of the reality TV celebrity, The Hunger Games comments on cinema as much as it comments on political dynamics.