A Hunger Games World

Last night my wife and I watched Mocking Jay Part I.

It’s a well made, entertaining movie. The acting’s engaging. The action scenes are large and exciting. (I especially liked the part when the people of District 7 climbed trees super fast and then blew up the soldiers below them.) And, there are many poignant moments that tug at the heart.

At the same time, I didn’t enjoy it.

This has been my experience with all the movies and the books. Here’s what I wrote about the books in 2012:

“They were a good read. They were well written. The characters were multidimensional and evolving.  The plot was unpredictable.  The pace was fast (for the most part), and each chapter left me wanting more.  Typically this is the kind of novel I would love. When I read the final page of a series like this one I usually go into mourning over the journey coming to an end. Not so with the Hunger Games.  I’m glad they are over. I’m not going to miss them.”  

Good books.

Good movies.

So why don’t I like them?

I can’t enjoy the Hunger Games because the picture of the future the series paints makes me sad.

And I’m not talking about the war torn, post-global warming (I’m assuming since a ton of land is under water), deeply class driven, slavery based society of Panem. I’m totally down for a post-apocalypse setting. I love me some, “In a distant future after the world’s been destroyed by nukes!” Crap, I’m even watching The 100 on Fox right now. I’m down for a good, old fashion, war-torn future book.

What makes me sad about the Hunger Games, and what I believe sets it apart from other dystopian worlds like it, is it’s utter lack of hope, justice, and goodness. Here is what I noticed as I read and watched:

6 Things That Make Me Sad About the Hunger Games

1) There was a very low view of humanity.  

The masses in the Hunger Games are easily manipulated and selfish. Whether they were being manipulated by the Hunger Games or manipulated by the propaganda videos of Katniss, they remained sheep through out the story. At the end of the book a conversation between Plutarch and Katniss sums this up well,

“Are you preparing for another war, Plutarch?” I ask.

“Oh not now.  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.”

“What?” I ask.

“The time it sticks.  Maybe we are witnessing the evolution of the human race. Think about that.”

This about sums up humanity in the Hunger Games: fickle, stupid, with poor memories, and little hope for change.

 

2) There is a painful absence of compassion and true empathy.

There are rare scenes when characters transcend the darkness of their world.  When Katniss decorates Rue’s body for example, or at the beginning when she takes Prim’s place.

But at the same time, these moments are tainted by selfish motivations.  Katniss takes Prim’s place to save Prim, but also because she couldn’t stand to watch Prim suffer.  Katniss decorates Rue’s body to honor Rue, but also because she wants to make a statement to the Captitol that she is not their pawn.

Peta seemed to be the one true sacrificially loving character, but for much of the book, his love is seen as a weakness (he is left dying in the mud in the first hunger games for example), and in the end, even he is torn to pieces by the powers that be. The one self-sacrificing character is destroyed, fighting to hold onto the ability to love others.

 

3) There are no heroes.

There are only victims that survive, corrupt power brokers, and martyrs.

 

4) There is a complete absence of the transcendent and eternal.

It is not that I wanted a Christian presence in the book.  I had no expectation of that. But I was surprised that there was no mention of any god, after life, higher calling, faith, or deeper meaning to existence.  The only supernatural element in the books are the horrors developed by misused technology and science.

5) Suicide was often held up as an acceptable, even noble means of escape.  

The suggestion of suicide or characters wishing they were dead or had died is a common tool the author of the Hunger Games uses to illustrate how terrible the characters feel about their circumstances. The problem is, it occurs so often, it becomes a strong theme through out the works.

6) The is an absence of positive ambition for the betterment of humanity.

The peaceful ideal world of the Hunger Games is a return to simple, small town life in which people live quietly, content to watch their families grow old.  There was no ambition or praise for great works that might benefit humanity.  The was no effort to work together around noble, meaningful causes. All progress and ambition in the world of the Hunger Games was corrupt. The epitome of the “good life” was to live undisturbed by the chaos of society, practice a few hobbies, and grow old. In the world of the Hunger Games this was all one should hope for.

3 Things I Wished Were Stronger

There were themes in the Hunger Games I thought were important, things I think the series has to offer the world.

1) When consumerism is king, injustice thrives.

In shadow of Occupy Wall Street, the financial collapse of 2008, and the current racial tensions in the country, the theme of the 99% powerless and disenfranchised existing to build the luxury of the wealthiest and strongest 1% feels down right prophetic.

2) An Entertainment/Media centered culture cares for no one, but exploits all.

This was a powerful theme in the series. Everyone is a potential feeder of the content monster that is non-stop entertainment. The truth isn’t important. All that’s important is what the camera shows. When it’s complicated or doesn’t look good on the screen, no one cares.

3) Celebrity is a myth.

It’s a created thing. It’s orchestrated. It’s agenda driven.

(I find it ironic that books with these themes was made into movies.)

The world of the Hunger Games isn’t just dark. It’s a black hole of sadness and corruption that swallows all light and hope. I haven’t seen the last movie, but I’m curious to see if it ends as darkly as I thought the final book did.

 

 

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