The Political Message of The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games Political Message
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The Mockingjay, symbol for rebellion. This article contains spoilers for The Hunger Games.

With 4.3 million copies sold in 2010, The Hunger Games rapidly became a cultural phenomenon. Its popularity tripled after the first film was released in 2012, with an astounding 27.7 million copies sold worldwide. Suzanne Collins wanted to write a book to educate young people about the realities of war. “I don’t write about adolescence. I write about war. For adolescents.” By doing so, she outlines the factors that spur war and offers a wider reflection on the world. War in The Hunger Games ties in with political, social, racial, gender, cultural, and environmental questions. Collins asks her readers to reflect upon wider issues, and shows how the intersectionality of these issues can fuel war and destruction.

Suzanne Collins' Book
Suzanne Collins’ Book

Katniss Everdeen saves her family, but in doing so she also frees a whole nation from tyrannical oppression. For those who don’t know the plot, it is set in a near future where countries have been destroyed and replaced by 12 Districts under the control of the Capitol. To strengthen its tight control over the districts, the Capitol organises games each year where 24 children and teenagers called ‘tributes’ have to fight to death in an arena. They confront dangerous animals and cruel tactics implemented in the games with the sole purpose of destroying the teenagers both physically and psychologically, and entertain/control the crowds. The winner, after killing all the other tributes in order to survive, has to deal with the pain and the nightmares. Forced to appear on camera constantly, physically changed and shaped for entertainment purposes, the tributes remain under the Capitol’s control. Katniss is one of these tributes. She volunteers instead of her sister to protect her, and takes her place in the arena. As the books go on, Katniss gets more actively involved in dismantling the system and the Capitol. Whether she chooses to or not, she ultimately becomes an embodiment of rebellion, a ‘weapon’ against the tyrannical system.

Collins creates a dystopian state called Panem, a successor state to the USA. She traces back its historical roots, drawing an interesting parallel with Romans and their arena games, linking past and future and showing how humanity always had, and still has, an impulse for war and destruction. Yet one can say that Collins offers far more that an anti-war commentary in her books. She portrays very complex mechanisms like the use of entertainment games to assert power over people; the overuse of media in culture; the social divides within the districts, with undertones of class-colour divides which opens up her story to racial interpretation; the danger of tyranny; the danger of rebellion; the destructive force of individual desire for power; the destruction of habitat. By reflecting on Panem’s political system, its socio-economic and racial divides, its media industry and its environmental impact, Collins shows the anti-war commentary is embedded in wider reflections that her readers must take into account. Readers must reflect on these in their own present context in order to understand what made war and Panem possible, and how we must avoid Panem and the Capitol becoming a reality.

I. The Political Reflection

The Hunger Games Snow, at the head of the Capitol
President Snow, at the head of the Capitol

The political commentary of The Hunger Games is open to contextualisation, but it clearly depicts a tyrannical government, The Capitol, and its opposition movement, The Rebellion. In that sense, we can recognise this clear division of political camps in our own history, looking at past and present dictatorships and their opposition groups. The world of The Hunger Games is frighteningly similar to our world. While some elements seem a little fantastical like the weapons, the fire costumes, the structure of the arena, the machines etc… they are all developed through technology which makes them potentially more attainable. Hence the dystopian feel – strangely possible in a near-future reality.

These weapons are used to instil fear in the crowds, while also developing a weird fascination in people for violence. Through fear, destruction and fascination, the Capitol is able to assert its control over its people. It limits its citizens’ freedoms, categorises them in different districts with unequal opportunities, bombards them with brainwashing images on TV, kills them publicly… with these familiar tropes, the reader can identify the Capitol as a dictatorship. President Snow’s political structure is based on supreme authority, government overreach and sadistic entertainment to satisfy the Capitol’s and his own thirst for violence. Control is the key word, whether it is through the repression of any rebellious movement – even peaceful protests – by the state police (ironically called the ‘PeaceKeepers’) or through constant TV recording. His tight control of everything that happens in Panem gives him exclusive authority and security. Snow embodies the tyrant figure in its most extreme brutality.

Collins asks how this tyranny was able to take place, how Panem became a reality in The Hunger Games. We get glimpses of the past and understand that there was a democratic republic before – that actually, our real world was the predecessor to Panem. By doing so, Collins reflects on the limits of our current political system – what failures in our system have led to building Panem and for the Capitol to take over? To think that Collins is simply telling us that democracy needs to eradicate tyranny and take over is a little too simplistic, and fails to consider all aspects of Collins’s subtle piece. Democracy is never presented in the book as a perfect model. Look at this dialogue for instance:

“Everyone,” Plutarch tells him. “We’re going to form a republic where the people of each district and the Capitol can elect their own representatives to be their voice in a centralized government. Don’t look so suspicious; it’s worked before.”

“In books,” Haymitch mutters.

“In history books,” says Plutarch. “And if our ancestors could do it, then we can, too.”

Frankly, our ancestors don’t seem much to brag about. I mean, look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet. Clearly, they didn’t care about what would happen to the people who came after them. But this republic idea sounds like an improvement over our current government.

The Hunger Games Katniss surrounded by Stormtroopers
Katniss surrounded by PeaceKeepers

The ancestors are actually us, and as Collins says, we don’t have much to brag about between the wars going on right now, the remaining racial, gender, sexual and social inequalities and the environmental crisis. Here, she shows the future repercussions of our current politics and asks the reader to reconsider his/her own actions and mindset to help prevent the extinction of our planet, and to prevent a future dictatorship. That said, she doesn’t dismiss the idea of a republic, but registers it only as an ‘improvement’ over tyrannical power and dictatorship. By doing so, Collins doesn’t simply offer a democratic republic as an easy solution, washing over its limitations and failures, but makes us actively reflect on the limits of our political democratic thinking and establishments, and what we can do to improve them.

The Rebellion doesn’t always inspire trust in The Hunger Games, and Katniss is very aware of the rebellion’s own manipulations. Their leader, Coin, seems uncannily similar to the Capitol’s president, Snow. Snow himself warns Katniss against the rebellion’s intentions. Is this just blind faith in his own authority and the strength of his political system, or is he suggesting that whether he lives or dies, nothing will change? That someone as thirsty for power and abusive will replace him, and that the whole system is inescapable? Collins perceives a recurring flaw in every political system – the individualistic thirst for power and the temptation to abuse of it.

Plutarch also seems to believe in this inescapable destructive spiral, but he centres it more around war than the political system in place. For him war is something humans carry within themselves, nurtured by this self-destructive impulse and this constant need to unleash violence, thus it is doomed to be repeated.

“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.”

Plutarch voices Collins’ concerns here – history can repeat itself regardless of what political system is established because of this egoistical thirst for power and violence, and because our collective thinking and memory is short-lived. Still, Plutarch holds on to a bit of hope that it might end. Hope is needed to shake people and is feared by president Snow: “A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Hope is fine, as long as it’s contained.” By Catching Fire, he’s modified his stance: “Fear does not work when there is hope.” The idea of hope and the collective are presented as the baby steps towards freedom from oppression.

Some actors from the film have expressed their own political understanding of the books, and through it have expressed hope for change, just like Plutarch. Donald Sutherland (President Snow) believes in its power to change our politics today and sees in the films the same potential as The Battle of Algiers, a film about the organisation of a rebellious movement during the Algerian War in 1966 and that has been source of inspiration for insurgent groups:

“Hopefully they will see this film and the next film and the next film and then maybe organize,” Sutherland said. “Stand up. They might create a third party. They might change the electoral process, they might be able to take over the government, change the tax system.”

Jeffrey Rights, who plays Betee in the films, praises the series’ openness to interpretations. “It’s welcoming of the entire political spectrum,” he told the website Hypable.

“Some people look at these stories and take a 1% versus the 99% perspective, which can be read something as a left-leaning perspective. I think others look at this and they view it from a more right-leaning perspective as a condemnation of government. Others may look at is as a validation of a need for strong allegiance to the 2nd Amendment. So it’s non-discriminatory, it’s non partisan.”

Peeta and Katniss saluting District 12 after they have been chosen to participate in the 2nd Hunger Games.
Peeta and Katniss saluting District 12 after they have been chosen to participate in the 2nd Hunger Games.

This is the strength of Collins’ work – she doesn’t tie her work to any political camp or alliance. As Robert Thompson, a professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University states: ‘The Hunger Games’ has this feeling of being contemporary and political but without being really clear what its politics are”. Collins doesn’t give a political solution because it is impossible to create the perfect system. It is an utopia. Rather, Collins perceives a recurring flaw in every political system – the individualistic thirst for power and the temptation to abuse of it.

II. The Socio-Economic Reflection

The Girl on Fire The Hunger Games
The Girl on Fire

The Hunger Games, as its name indicates, is all about hunger. Not only metaphorical hunger for political freedom, social ascendance or self-realisation, but actual hunger. The districts are hungry and Katniss’s main preoccupation is to keep her family fed. Her father died in a mining accident, working to feed his wife and daughters. Katniss hunts in the woods illegally to earn money. Poverty is everywhere, in each corner of streets. Her first meeting with Peeta was a product of hunger. He threw her a piece of bread when she was starving on the pavement. Hunger is a reflection of poverty and of social inequalities. And hunger often signals uprising and revolution (the French Revolution started mainly due to exasperation at the king who let his people starve).

The entire trilogy is founded on the gap between wealthy and poor districts. The people in the Capitol are portrayed as lazy, overly self-indulgent people, who benefit from the works of those in the industrious, poor, worker districts. Extravagant, all-consuming party-goers, they don’t care about what’s going on outside their golden-gated-community. They believe in Snow’s lies and have no notion of waste. After banquets, they drink little concoctions to make themselves sick and then eat some more while others die from starvation. They are never hungry. Never yearning. They are completely out of reality. The only reality they follow is TV reality, fashion, trends. Can we recognise in Collins’ text a criticism of our own socioeconomic system, perhaps of capitalism? With on one hand, an overlooked class of workers/slave-labourers unable to ascend, violently oppressed and with no voice? And on the other hand an oblivious group of wealthy people who over-consume, turn a blind eye on the condition of the people who give them their food and produces, but who also have no voice as their behaviour is dictated by media, entertainment and tight political control?

It’s interesting to see how this portrayal relates to our own socioeconomic context. James Pinkerton, contributor for Fox News, relates Collins’ depiction of class divide to our political and social system, where a central political core grows rich from the toil of the masses. It’s also interesting to see how actions have been taken in response to Collins’ books. The books have led to a whole campaign launched by the activist group the Harry Potter Alliance, with a campaign called ‘The Odds In Our Favour’ (article on the Guardian’s website by Liz Bury). Inspired by Collins’ work which they believe is a reflection of contemporary America, the movement encourages fiction readers and fans to act on the issues Collins is making them reflect upon, and promote access to health-care, voting , food security, houses for the homeless and employment. It’s interesting to see readers taking such a political and social reading from the books, and actively creating alliances and launching new projects to fight for social and economic justice. Of course, actions were already taken beforehand and a dystopian book is not needed to strive for social equality. But the books have managed to raise consciousness among the younger population and led to concrete actions. Collins has succeeded in educating teenagers and adults about what elements lead to war, including how to tackle socioeconomic issues to avoid war.

The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen
Katniss Everdeen, a girl who changes the fate of Panem

III. The Feminist Reflection

Many see in Collins’ work a feminist argument. Katniss, a woman, embodies the fight for change, justice and rebellion. She revolts against the patriarchal society represented by Snow, an over-powerful man. Katniss’ social role, her condition in the district, her role within her family and her symbolic representation of rebellion is undoubtedly tied to her condition as a woman, and to the gender politics of Panem.

Katniss seems to defy the expected role of womanhood and daughtership in her district. She possesses strength, athleticism and prowess at hunting, a traditionally male-oriented activity. After her father’s death, she takes on the role of feeder and money provider, a traditionally male role. Her traits are associated with power and heroism, traits previously associated with men in many literary works of the past. Volunteering for her sister is a way to fulfil her role of protector, again often associated with men in the past. After the reaping, when she warns her mother to take care of Prim and not to cry, her position is somehow more ‘husband‘ like than ‘daughter’ like. We can see that the first part of the first book emphasises on Katniss’s masculinity, on her male-oriented language, activities and ability to kill. By doing so, Collins deconstructs Katniss’s gender identity, and shows how Katniss defies the traditional female role in the district by embracing roles and qualities traditionally defined as more masculine. To see a female hero embody these qualities is a breath of fresh air, and reaffirms the feminist reading of Collins’ work.

At the Capitol, Katniss is brought back to the more traditional representation of women as sexualised objects, almost as a way to lower her, make her less of a danger to the patriarchal tyrannical rule. Her outfits highlight her body in sexualised ways, and there is a huge media focus on her romantic relationships. She is shaped to be seen, to serve the voyeuristic needs of the people living in the Capitol. She is referred to as the ‘girl on fire’. She is given a name and a role by the Capitol’s patriarchal rule and she is brought back to the social role she has to adopt as a woman – seduction and representation. Being cut off from her family and friends, far from the woods, kept in isolation, can be also be viewed as a form of social castration.

Yet Katniss proves to be more as she constantly has to prove her worth to others. To the Gamemakers when she shoots an arrow in an apple to prove her talents. In the arena. Saving Peeta. In TV shows. During the Victor’s Tour and even in the fights during war as the Mockingjay. She shows a woman’s strength and determination. She also uses the Capitol’s own tactics against them with the help of Cinna – her costumes also represent change, danger, power, rebellion. Cinna fits them for her, around her personality, the ‘fire’ she has inside her. Through them she builds an image of confidence, determination and strength which impresses people at the Capitol but also threatens Snow’s authority. Through Cinna’s costumes she embraces her feminine side without subjecting to the female condition in Panem, and without having to let go of her more traditionally ‘male’ traits like courage and physical strength. She truly shapes herself and subverts traditional gender discourses and imagery – which makes her an incredibly powerful feminist figure.

IV. The Racial Reflection

While race is not a major theme in Collins’ trilogy, there is plenty of space for a racial interpretation of The Hunger Games. It is unclear if Panem is a post-racial society, but we know it is built on what used to be North America, a multi-cultural continent. Our present society, and the readers’ society, is not post-racial, and in that sense there are very interesting reflections to be taken from Collins’ text, and the films, if one pays attention to how race and ethnicity is portrayed, and how it ties in with political, cultural, socioeconomic and environmental issues.

Elements in the book point towards some racial and ethnic distinctions among the people of Panem. As Monika Kothari explains:

When writing characters, it’s almost impossible not to take race into consideration. Even if race is not significant in Panem, Collins made conscious decisions to make some characters white (e.g. Peeta), some characters black (e.g. Rue), and some characters ambiguous (e.g. Katniss).

In the book, Katniss and Gale are described as having ‘straight, black hair’, ‘grey eyes’ and ‘olive skin’. Rue and Thresh are described as having ‘dark brown skin and eyes’ and ‘dark hair’. Katniss’ sister Prim and her mother are described as having a ‘merchant look’ with pale skin, blue eyes and blond hair. Peeta is described as having ‘ashy blond hair’ and ‘blue eyes’.

Collins said in an interview that her characters:

…Were not particularly intended to be biracial. It is a time period where hundreds of years have passed from now. There’s been a lot of ethnic mixing. But I think I describe them as having dark hair, grey eyes, and sort of olive skin .…But then there are some characters in the book who are more specifically described.

[About Thresh and Rue, and most of District 11, Collins said] “They’re African-American.”

Therefore race and ethnicity do exist among the people of Panem, although they may no longer be defined in relation to a specific region of the world, since continents like Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America no longer exist in Collins’ dystopian universe. Yet Collins has specifically referred to Thresh and Rue as African-Americans, and has confirmed that the district they live in, District 11, is located in what was before ‘the Deep South’.

District 11 is the agricultural district, with orchard, fields grains and cotton. It’s established as one of the poorer districts, with its residents working hard day and night over the fields. Katniss describes the houses as ‘poor’. Residents cannot eat their crops, reserved for the Capitol, or they will be publicly whipped. There is a large presence of Peacekeepers who keep tight control over the district and over the food supplies, and the whole district is fenced. It seems the residents are the most oppressed, and riots are violently repressed by the police force. When Katniss and Peeta visit the district after their victory, a man stands in solidarity with them by saluting them with the mockingjay hand gesture. This causes the people to uprise in a rebellious spirit, against their oppression. The man is shot dead by a Peacekeeper.

It is significant that District 11 is mostly populated by black people, which we see in the books, the films and in Collin’s interviews when she affirms that Rue, Thresh and most of District 11 are African-Americans. When reading the description of how District 11 operates, and how its residents live under constant repression and violence, it is difficult not to draw parallels to the historical treatment of black people in the United States over the centuries, in our own reality. It is significant that District 11 is located in what used to be known as ‘The Deep South’ – Collins does not only place it there because the weather is better suited to agriculture. By placing it there, she calls upon the historical past of the region and its treatment of black communities. Readers will draw parallels with the times of plantation and slavery, with the people of District 11 being whipped and working day and night over crops, singing along for motivation, to feed the Capitol. Quoting Monika again:

This whole setup has, from my point of view, colonial undertones that parallel historical imperialism, which usually had racial implications of white Europeans occupying and claiming the resources of non-white peoples. Again, this doesn’t explicitly bring race into the equation, and indeed you can ignore the race/ethnicity all together without losing an appreciation for the series, but it’s yet another aspect to think about among the other themes.

It is also significant that in the film, the man who is shot by the Peacekeeper is black – viewers can draw parallels to the current images they see of police brutality on black communities. Do we think that the filmmakers and Collins did this coincidentally? Perhaps, but hard to believe. It is also significant that District 11 is the poorer district, drawing parallels to our current socioeconomic context where non-white people have higher poverty rates, linking race with socioeconomic questions. What this tells us is that Collins’ complex work gives us the scope to think about these issues in our current time, and allows young readers to connect the universe of Panem to history, present, draw parallels, and learn.

We don’t really know if people of different ethnicity and colour are being treated differently within each district. In each district, we see people of all ethnicity and colour operating in the same conditions, including in the Capitol. Whether or not race matters in Panem is maybe a less important question than whether race matters to the audience when determining whether or not it plays a role in Collins’ work, and therefore offers room for further racial reflections on our own society. Just like Collins has invited the reader to understand war in the lenses of our current politics, socioeconomic divides, relationship to culture and the current climate crisis we are facing, (all important issues to think about when thinking about what fuels war) she invites us to look into our history and understand our relationship to racial questions. The fact that the casting of certain roles in the film ‘shocked’ a number of fans, for example Lenny Kravitz to play Cinna, just shows how people have read race within Collins text, even though it may not be a major explicit theme. This tells us even more about the readers and our current context, than the work itself.

V. The Cultural Reflection

Social inequality and political authority are strengthened by the constant presence of the media and television clips, controlled by the state and carefully edited by the Capitol. Each information is filtered and modified to serve the Capitol’s best interest. The Capitol also establishes a voyeuristic need in its people to watch the annual Games, where children get killed in arenas for so called ‘entertainment,’ and families have to watch without a word of protest. Television becomes the centre of Panem’s world and reality. A highly composed, edited and fake reality, which people are forced to believe in and accept. Collins shows the abuses of authoritarian governments which infiltrate people’s privacies and bombards them with propagandist images as a means to brainwash them and tighten their power.

Katniss, Effie and Peeta The Hunger Games
Katniss, Effie and Peeta in Snow’s Mansion on Victor’s Tour, ready for cameras and the Capitol’s guests

Collins directly questions our relationship to the media, and the place of the media within our society. To what extent do we feed on media? How much do we rely on them, believe them? Are we still able of independent thinking and criticism, or do we absorb all kinds of entertainment without a certain healthy and necessary distance? Media and TV seem to have its own control over people, a control that is linked to consumption. Katniss, Peeta and the victors are all turned into products – fashioned, moulded, embellished, costumed, made-up to look as extravagant and sensational as possible to arouse audiences, especially within the Capitol. Their private lives are put on display, their love story commercialised and the Mockingjay becomes a franchise especially in the rebellion’s hands. Jennifer Lawrence, playing Katniss in the films, sees in the trilogy a warning against the obsession with entertainment and reality shows:

“I was watching the Kardashian girl getting divorced, and that’s a tragedy for anyone,” she said. “But they’re using it for entertainment, and we’re watching it. The books hold up a terrible kind of mirror: This is what our society could be like if we became desensitized to trauma and to each other’s pain.”

Katniss has some difficulty dealing with the cameras and is forced to lie about her life and her feelings for the public’s content, but also to save her skin. The more she looks ‘appealing’, ‘sympathetic’, ‘beautiful’, ‘charming’, ‘funny’ and ‘willing’ to participate in the Games, then the more sponsors she will have. She depends on economic strategies and wealthy sponsors attracted by what she has to offer as a product, a brand, a commodity. Here, Collins denounces the extremity of our consumerist society and our star-system, with values based on image, appearance and selling yourself.

VI. The Environmental Reflection

Katniss in the forest The Hunger Games
Katniss in the forest

The environmental message is subtle in Collins’ work, perhaps more present in the books than in the films. Katniss has a love for forests, and she is aware of the destruction of the districts and the amount of wastes provoked by the Capitol. Like people, the environment is just a tool used by the Capitol to create fear and expand its control, like the staged environmental changes in the arenas. Nature is created virtually, animals turned into mutts (in other words, killing machines). They are used and then thrown away, left to damage, waste and pain. Destroyed. Interesting parallels can be drawn with the ecological crisis we are currently living in, the extinction of some species and the destruction of natural habitats.

We already know that nations of the past have been destroyed and that Panem is situated in what was North America before. In the description of the Capitol and the districts, everything is very industrial and modern: skyscrapers in the Capitol, mines and factories in the districts. Yet some natural landscape persists, like the woods that are so dear to Katniss where mockingjays sing to support her. But the woods are forbidden. Nature that is not controlled by the Capitol is forbidden.

What has provoked the end of the planet before Panem, and the creation of the Capitol and 12 Districts? It is never clear, but a lot of hypotheses tend to indicate it would be due to catastrophic climate changes, and Panem was built by its survivors. It’s not a far-fetched idea, and even Collins agrees:

“It’s crucial that young readers are considering scenarios about humanity’s future, because the challenges are about to land in their laps…I hope they question how elements of the books might be relevant to their own lives. About global warming, about our mistreatment of the environment, but also questions like: How do you feel about the fact that some people take their next meal for granted when so many other people are starving in the world?”

And we come back to hunger. What sparked the fire. Collins seems to hint that hunger is the main cause for the previous world’s destruction and the emergence of Panem. As Joe Romm writes in, “feeding some 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of a rapidly worsening climate may well be the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced. The Hunger Games makes that challenge a literal and hyper-violent one.” Hunger would be a direct consequence of the ecological crisis we are currently facing, and we already witness it in parts of our world. And a direct consequence of war. Thus Collins’s concerns are anchored in actuality, in our everyday reality, and her futuristic universe is not so distant. As she imagines what might happen to humanity, we relate it to our current political, socioeconomic, racial, gender, cultural and ecological systems. Collins wanted to warn young people about the ravages of war, but she has extended the reflection far beyond it. As it is impossible to understand war without understanding the impacts of political and power abuse; of social, economic, gender and racial injustices; of voyeuristic controlling media; of the lack of opposition and expression against authority; and of human damages to the natural world.

Works Cited and Further Readings

Bond, Paul ‘The politics of the Hunger Games’, The Hollywood Reporter

Burnett, Bob ‘The politics of the Hunger games’, The Huffington Post

Bury, Liz ‘The Hunger Games fan campaign against real inequality’, The Guardian

Kothari, Monika, responding to Does race or ethnicity play a role in The Hunger Games series? If so, how?

Loobeek, Kristine – The Hunger Games and Feminsim

A Look at District 11 Reveals the Darkest Ideas of ‘The Hunger Games’

Kain, Eric – Five Economic Lessons from The Hunger Games

Karina, Stefanie – If you’re Looking for Great Social Commentary, Looks at The Hunger Games

Schwarzbaum Lisa, ‘The Hunger Games, Action-film feminism is catching fire’, BBC News

Sharp, Gwen – Race, Representation & Reaction to the Hunger Games

Waldman, Katy – Why Mockingjay Is the “End of Men” Movie of the Year

The Hunger Games: Class Inequality

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  1. Adnan Bey

    I love how you portray Katniss as both a feminist and a sexualized pawn of the Capitol. It really adds another dimension to the Capitol’s arrogance and corruption. The politics in this is so vague, you cannot be sure. I remember someone I know criticizing the series for not being clearer and taking a particular stance but I disagreed and now I can see why. Taking one side would’ve meant alienating a large audience and that would not be smart from a writer’s perspective.

    • Thank you and glad you liked it! Yes Katniss is both at the same time which makes her so ambivalent, strong and vulnerable af the same time. And yes, ita definitely smarter for the author not to choose a political side, yet Collins still succeeds in transmitting her ideas and warning the readers against the danger of extreme politics.

  2. Hunger Games isn’t about politics. I enjoyed the books because they were about people caught in a meatgrinder of a situation that’s so institutionalized no one even knows it can be challenged. It’s a multiple character study on many levels, full of reluctant heroes and intransigent villains, with neither side able to control the outcome or their part in it. Maybe that’s the result of my sociology/English background as opposed to law/politics.

    I enjoyed the movie because, having read the books, I could spot the subtle cues the director left to signal character changes the books made clear. It’s possible someone who hasn’t read the stories wouldn’t get them.

  3. My take is that the first book isn’t very overtly political, beyond the obvious “a state that oppresses its people by having teenagers fight to the death as pacifying entertainment is wrong.” The second book ramps up the politics in portraying a lot more of the evil of Capitol, and the third, while the weakest as literature, is the strongest politically and is very strongly against state control. I thought I’d be disappointed when District 13, which at the opening of book 3 looks like the good guys, turns out to be even more regimented and oppressive than the Capitol, if less overtly evil. But by the end of Book 3, it’s clear that Collins is railing against even well-intentioned totalitarian dictators. The closest contemporary government system analogs are that Capitol represents totalitarian fascism, District 13 represents totalitarian socialism, and both are pretty terrible.

  4. C-Baylor

    I saw the first film recently. First, I thought it was a very well-done movie and one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I’ve ever seen — it left the core story and characters intact, with just some trimming for running time and tightness of story. I saw nothing in the film to indicate a political slant somehow different from the novels themselves.

    As for the novels (I’ve read all three) — I didn’t discern a particular left-or-right political slant. The core story is dealing with oppression and the resulting human costs of rebellion. The overarching theme is of freedom and autonomy vs. centralized control and exploitation, but as others have noted, both Left and Right lay claim to that fight — though, IMHO, the Left is far more interested in centralized control of economics and production than the Right is.

  5. Liberal Hollywood always seems to want to turn entertainment into some sort of leftist political message. They tried it with Avatar. Now they’re trying it with Hunger Games.

    Doesn’t work. What the audience saw in Avatar was a science fiction thriller with great computer graphics – nothing more. What the audience sees in Hunger games is a hot young sex object in Jennifer Lawrence playing the role of a super hero. There is no more message here than in a typical Spider Man or Darth Vader movie. It’s just entertainment.

    • You would never hear someone refer to Wolverine or Superman or Spiderman as a sex object — so why the hell does it automatically become so when the protagonist is a woman? This is exactly why we still need feminism… People like you who cannot even see a strong, influential and driven woman without thinking about turning her into an object.

      • DammitJack

        It’s called the male psyche. Unfortunately males tend to mentally undress females. Maybe we are hard-wired that way to ensure procreation?. There wouldn’t be much of a population if both sexes were mainly indifferent to sex. Males can easily be turned on by visual stimuli alone, hence we describe what we see. It’s hard for me to listen to what a woman has to say if she has a nice rack or set of legs etc. Of course I try to switch this thinking off and not let it get in the way of whatever I’m doing, but it’s always there in the back of my mind. If my history professor looked like Jennifer Lawrence and not Susan Boyle, then maybe I wouldn’t learn so much. Being sexually attracted to a woman based on visual cues alone, cant be conducive to equality, I realize this. But that is how I’m wired. If a woman wants to be listened to and respected, then it helps if she’s not attractive. No amount of bra-burning will change this. Women like to be treated as equal, yet they still like it when a guy holds the door open for them..I guess when ancient hard-wiring meets modern idealism, conflict ensues..

        • Francesca Turauskis

          Women like to be treated as people, individuals, and men like to be treated like individuals as well. The fact that you are generalisng all men and all women based on your own expereince is another reason why we still need feminism. Feminism is about equality for all, regardless of sex – it is about being seen as a person before a sex. Some women like to have doors held of them, some don’t. Some men only see boobs, luckily some have ears as well. And that animal instinct stuff is bull. Look at some tribes where women are topless just like the men – the men still manage to go about thier business without jumping on the women, because sexualisation is to do with society, not nature.

    • Your inability to see beyond the entertainment value in either movie is disturbing (and you can only speak for you). It’s disturbing that, even after reading this piece–based on the assumption you didn’t skip the entire article to comment–you’re able to devalue a task very, VERY few Hollywood filmmakers take on, that of discussing larger issues that impact everyone while also entertaining. Perhaps you’re a cynic, but not every human is so vain or ignorant to not pick up at least a fraction of the parallels this to everyday issues. And even if the majority didn’t walk away with anything other than a criticism of an African American played Rue (Amandla was the perfect choice!), clearly it DOES work because many activist organizations have been created, leading more people from various walks of life to learn of existing political, social, cultural, and environmental disparities, and the implications that come with being unaware, unconscious, and purely soulless.

    • Punkocalypse the spark

      You are beyond wrong!

  6. hunger is a powerful motivation in human and animals to strive for survival that bred cunning and innovations, truly it’s not a game…

  7. This is extremly awsome franchise!

    • Extremely awesome but slightly scary at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I love it but the whole teens pitted against each other thing is quite a scary thought to think of.

  8. Morehead

    To those who are confused to exactly what The Hunger Games depicts, let me outline the political spectrum for you.

    Government power
    decreases to the right, increases to the left. It’s as simple as that,
    All other elements of government can be implemented interchangeably to
    some extent, like strength of military, nationalistic emphasis, even
    economic systems. They just tend to be used with the same forms of

    Thus, all forms of government that the government has more
    power in: Utopianism (The Hunger Games), Communism, Fascism, National
    Socialism (Naziism), Oligarchies, Monarchies, etc. are to the
    left. Whereas Republics (rule of the law), Democracies (rule of the
    majority), and governments of that nature are on the right, as the
    government has less power.

    The United States, for example, was supposed
    to be a Capitalistic Republic as formed by the Founding Fathers,
    however, it is now morphing into more of a Socialistic Democracy.

    The Hunger Games depicts a certain form of implementable (because true
    Utopianism is impossible to use as a form of government) “Utopian”
    society, where the all-powerful (hence left-wing) government tries to make the most powerful and influential people happy, while trying to convince the rest that they
    are happy by means of propaganda, government-controlled media and
    restricting them from seeing the wealth of others, so they don’t feel

    So, the theme in the Hunger Games is an authoritative Utopian government, which is far left-wing on the political spectrum.

    • Although this post is very old and no one will probably read my reply, I feel I have to correct this extremely inaccurate post. Government power does not determine right or left. The modern view has authoritarianism vs. libertarianism on the up-down axis and liberal vs. conservative on the left-right axis. There are libertarian liberals and authoritarian conservatives. In fact, historically, conservatives were more inclined to support state power and liberals opposed to it. Monarchy and despotism are classical conservative forms of government, whereas anarchy is historically connected with liberals.

      Fundamentally, conservatism is about maintaining the status quo (or returning to an earlier status quo) and keeping power and control where it is. Respect for authority and obedience to authority figures are a central part of conservative philosophy. American conservatives display a bit of a split personality by claiming to be the anti-government party while maintaining respect for traditional authoritarian institutions such as the police, the military and the church.

      Liberalism is about questioning authority and the traditional approaches. Liberals are willing to experiment and make changes in institutions and social structures with a goal of improving life for ordinary people. As with all experiments, the results is not always success, but the point is to keep an open mind and an optimistic attitude. It was this spirit of liberalism which created the United States.

    • Punkocalypse crisis 101

      First of Naziism is always extreme rightist second THE HUNGER GAMES leans closer to Anarchism due to both Snow and Coin being of a similar mind!

  9. Although The Hunger Games appeals to both liberals and conservatives, I believe the movie gravitates more towards the left due to the government’s portrayal of “protecting” the citizens in hopes of a remeberance of what was.

  10. Yajaira

    Just goes to show that those who are fit, will survive.

  11. Sparrow

    I read all the books, haven’t seen the movies yet, but one thing to note about the series is that the revolutionaries that Katniss joins may be just as suspect as the existing authority. I see Collins’ dystopia more as a critique of our two party system, as a constant back and forth game in which we are all pawns, until we decide that there must be some other way, a kind of third choice.

    • stalkers or NSA?

      Yep, in the movies.
      In the USA, to looks like the relentless rich and their blind sheep are the only survivors.

      Might as well kill me now. I’m not a little lamb.

  12. Cathi Fisk

    I’d never read any of the books but, I did think the political messages in the movie were a little heavy handed.
    Good country folk downtrodden by the “élite” in the cities.

  13. Jemarc Axinto

    Love the article! Your exploration of the “environmental” message as a separate entity was unexpected. I often felt that the message went hand in hand with the political but maybe I was approaching the trilogy all wrong. Great job =].

  14. Jose Koenig

    From what I have learned the author’s intent was to start a dialogue for children about the ambiguities of war. Attaching “Right” and “Left” to the Capitol and District 13 respectively, doesn’t make a perfect fit, but it does show that neither side’s extreme is perfect solution — both will sacrifice children to “win” the war. No one really wins when there is war in the first place.

    I see something much deeper than even the questions of politics and war, but down to the core of human nature in these stories – and the author may not have even intended it to be so, but I can’t help making the connection. For me, what makes a great literature or art is that ability to open any dialogue about any issue. My favorite lesson from college was from an Art History professor discussing Eduard Manet’s painting, “Le dejuener sur l’herbe” (Luncheon on the Grass). The painter’s intent was to illustrate the question of sacred vs. profane love. The divine vs. the earthly, thru the gentleman’s had gesture which points to both the toga-clad goddess in the stream behind them and the naked prostitute right in front of them. After reading the entire Hunger Games trilogy, I see Katniss character faced with this question of divine vs. earthly love and which will help best survive these atrocities of war.

    My interpretation is not perfect, but I can basically see Peeta’s love for Katniss as “divine” – unconditional, always there whether she was aware of it or not; and Gale as the embodiment of human survival instincts – the skills necessary to hunt and kill (food or enemies). Throughout the series, Katniss needs both to survive- as we all basically do. Peeta’s ability to win a crowd with words – seems almost like a “religion”. The Capitol’s use of Peeta as weapon, by altering his mind, twisting his very being – reminds me of the way extremists will misinterpret religious texts to justify their inhumane treatment of fellow humans. Gale’s weapons that are necessary win battles against the enemies are full of flaws, and innocent people are killed in the aftermath, but the job gets done. There are even desparate points where Katniss questions needing either of them. In the end, when her life-threatening struggles are over and she is left with just how to cope with horrible memories and the rest of her life, she is able to finally accept that divine love (Peeta) and even dare to hope by bringing her own children into the world.

    Sure, it’s fun assigning specific political movements in history to various elements of the story. But don’t forget the bigger picture. Politics, war, power, greed – result in human suffering and loss of innocent life. Humanity depends on a combination of basic survival skills and unconditional love for each other.

  15. Its the progressive end game is what it is. Peace keepers, social elitism, class controls, food regulation, regulation on every form of existence, powerful central goverment . And lots and lots of distractions with pop culture.

  16. I think people see in the films exactly they want to see….

    the writers were clever enough not to really identify why the people capital are the ones “in the capital” and the rest aren’t….maybe the book does.

  17. Bridget

    Movie was ok. Pretty predictable. Only slightly a parody of our world, though. We’ve seen it all in other movies. If the books get kids reading and away from video gaming that’s overall a good thing. My children are in their twenties. They don’t pay much attention to the world outside of work, school, and their friends. Sometimes I envy that. Maybe I care too much?

  18. The Hunger Games, was a good film, barely.

    The heroes of the Hunger Games were the marketing department. As much as the ability to act was missing within this film, so was the apparent love for the Governator’s Running Man affect placed in Pigtails and Pull Ups. It isn’t so much the fashion of pushing an ever increasing mature theme upon the young adult reader, or movie goer that is at odds with ethical reality as it is the desensitizing of violence for the target audience. The director did a great job as usual considering the material and talent. Jennifer Lawrence held her own in X-Men First Class, and really who doesn’t like Josh, but they are not in the position yet to carry projects on name alone.

    The addition of Woody in the movie only added to the inability of the leads to control a scene.Politically speaking if either party connects with the film via self interest of a wagging finger, it only goes to show nothing truly ignorant happens until after the sale.

  19. I taught the book to high school students and we discussed it pretty closely. Nobody, myself included, thought it had much to do with current politics.

    The book, far more than the movie, focuses very closely on the ways power can be abused. It’s about the use of surveillance, technology, mass entertainment and the media to advance the interests of a tiny minority, but this follows a failed revolution, and the government is overtly totalitarian. For the power elite, the danger is that Katniss will undermine an effective divide and conquer strategy.

    Honestly, health insurance, religion, taxation, ethnic minorities, economic redistribution — these hot button topics from real life American debate — seem pretty far removed from the storyline.

    • Corey Fultz

      I think taxation and income inequality are pretty central themes to the books. The Districts are all economically enslaved to the Capital… and there’s a very clear delineation between living conditions, which I think is a direct knock on income inequality.

      The Districts don’t even have hospitals, really, which is just ridiculous… but is reminiscent of today’s world, if you see the Capital as the US and the Districts as the developing world.

    • Punkocalypse Love VS. Chaos

      I wholly disagree if anything it addresses all of that!

  20. I understood the central problem behind this movie, and all the dystopian young adult novels in existence. It is bread and circuses…hot teen girls having sex (in a chaste way, of course) and facing danger that they never really have to confront directly. And like most movies about Evil Empires (the Star Wars films included), there is no explanation as to why so many people support the Dark Side or Darkseid, the empire or its supreme leader, because that might muddy the simplistic melodrama of it all.

    • Punkocalypse resistance is necessary

      Oh please to define the story as nothing more than sexualized encouragement and to go as far as saying danger they never have to confront directly are you serious, they have no choice but to confront nothing but danger!

  21. Anyone who was paying any attention could see that Katniss regularly exhibits both conservative and liberal tendencies (she has an affinity for hunting, she abhors the torture perpetrated by the Capitol, she is self-sufficient and responsible, but she still sacrifices for Prim, Rue, and Peeta), perhaps it is not as simple as you all are arguing. As I see it, there are two major motivators in The Hunger Games.

    The first is clearly an exploration of gender, and what that means. Katniss assumes the fatherly role by providing and protecting for her family. She is juxtaposed with an emotional, and mostly weak, character in Peeta. In almost every way Peeta falls into the damsel-in-distress character seen in every fantasy movie ever. Katniss literally has to help him walk, all while doing everything else and making sure both of them survive.

    There’s also an important component played by the cameras of Panem, which observe voyeuristically Katniss’ every move. This is a take on the female condition and how every detail and every move is judged and criticized. Think of a woman picking her clothes, doing her nails, her make-up, her shoes, etc. It’s all picked over by a ruthless and unforgiving society (think her costume, the interview, the star-crossed lovers, etc). Only in this case Katniss plays them like a fiddle, not the other way around.

    The second is Katniss’ role as a hero of the ‘great recession.’ She represents a person who has taken on an utterly utilitarian world view, seeing the use of everything and wasting few words. But on the other hand she is completely committed to her family and will do anything for them. Desperation has forced her to become a survivor, but in the midst of awful hunger and poverty she still clings to the things that make us human. This is in staunch contrast to the people of the Capitol who represent the exact opposite, a pampered and leisurely society that has no conception of desperation. The Capitol is not described in any detail about its procedures or political alignment, because it is irrelevant to the story. Katniss is the story, the Capitol is just what motivates her, hence why the book is written and told from her perspective. The book and the movie explore the human condition in these two very different worlds.

    In the end, this is not some cheap political diatribe. The Capitol is not a description of the privileged 1st world and the districts are the developing world. It is not an overbearing, yet somehow socialist, dictatorship trying to symbolize the evils of liberalism. It’s not Nazism, it’s not Communism, it isn’t conservatism, and it isn’t liberalism. So seriously, give it a rest.

    • Punkocalypse no gods no masters

      You see different truths than I my truth in the movie is complete abolishment of government because after killing Coin she is punished and doesn’t care because she made her impact survived and is done with all of it!

  22. Very interesting. I went to a book fair at a 6th grade public school last year, and was surprised to see a 4-6th grade book about Eva Braun available ( it was in the “inspiring women” section). Never have I seen a time when BOTH parties more project totalitarian propensities onto the “other”. Each call the other “fascist” all the time. This movie appears to unwittingly express that same theme: no idea who the real enemy is. Since “franchises” are developed for global , and not just domestic, distribution we can assume our cultural value system is shifting to the globe, not just the West. If American Lefties think the TeaParty is too conservative, wait til they get a load of China, India, Russia, Africa, and all of the Arab states. Maybe all of USA faction wars will soon inherit a little bit of hell when the entire globe weighs in.

  23. Ouellette

    It’s just a movie. Maybe there’s a reason the author kept politics out of her books….

    • Bhavana

      The author kept politics out of her books? Seriously? She’s said in multiple interviews her entire INTENT for writing these novels was to energize today’s youth and teach them about war theory. Have you even read the third book, to think there’s no politics involved?

  24. Porfirio

    Early in the 1st book there is the discussion of the electrified fence surrounding each District. The electrified fence was supposedly there to keep the people from harm from the outside. However the people in the book looked at the fence as a joke meaning they could starve to death in safety.

    In the US we have a powerful military to defend our country but we have trouble getting health care and other help to the people who need it.

    One of the last lines in the movie A Few Good Men is spoken by one of the Marines that were on trial. He says that they forgot who they were supposed to protect, meaning that they were supposed to protect the weak.

  25. LovieWeddle

    The Hunger Games is for children.

    Seriously, it’s a little disappointing that adults no longer even engage in nostalgia, but greedily snatch up children’s books and entertainment for themselves as soon as any of it appears.

    It makes adults dumb themselves down and tell themselves it’s okay to adopt immature values and melodramatic life narratives, and it causes creators of children’s entertainment to make their creations inappropriately “mature” (read “gory” or “sexy”, not emotionally mature) in a way that doesn’t do children any favors.

    But hell, it’s candy for dinner seven days a week, and many adults nowadays view self-restraint as an admission of personal failure in fame and fortune, so there’s little chance it’ll change.

    • I think another possible interesting reading of the political implications of the work would be to run it through Foucault, and look at how power is exercised in this world through the panoptic effects of the media. It seemed to me that the critique of the media was maybe the most contemporary and pointed.

    • stalkers or NSA?

      I don’t think this is children’s entertainment. If my kids were watching these movies, there would be an outcry about it not doing them any favors. Damned if you do, greedy if you don’t. Totally objective and unbiased…not.

      Show me a parent that serves candy for breakfast, let alone 7 days a week… I’ll wait.
      Melodramatic? Yes, that and unfair misrepresentation of facts (read “lies”)
      which I’m sure isn’t outlined in whatever “value system” you pretend to advocate.

      On another note: Personal failure in fame and fortune is not that bad when you consider the dictatorship that some people are living under the foot of-unless you are the foot?

      Silent, fearful, and afraid to stand up for yourself and your family is no way to live. I’ll take broke and unknown over continued victimization ANY DAY.

      If my stance is unusual to you, you probably shouldn’t be speaking for “most people.” There are influential, wealthy, self-aware people that recognize the problem…and the problem is not resistance. It is the response.

    • Punkocalypse got freedom?

      This movie transcends age as far as young adult VS adult of all the movies that inspire well nothing but product placement and worse that the state of things is as it should be completely ignores the story!

  26. I have not read the book, but enjoyed the first move a lot more than I expected when it popped up free on Netflix streaming. It struck me as be mainly a commentary on exploitation reality TV and selling violence as entertainment, and does not care whether the authoritarian government is the end result of a “Left” or “Right” political movement.

  27. Maybe the books and the movies are just entertainment and not intended to have a political message for one side or the other.

  28. The “Hunger Games” trilogy was derived from a great Japanese novel of the late 1990s, “Battle Royale”, a novel with the same premise, but with more overt radical politics.

    • I much preferred Battle Royale actually. Deliciously satirical and combining that classic Japanese teen emotion with graphic but cartoonish violence. The film seemed like quite a profound statement on being a teenager to me.

      Hunger games is what Stephen King described aptly as Tweenager porn.

      • Punkocalypse peace sells and no one is buying

        Battle Royale= mostly violence as entertainment
        Hunger Games= the entire concept about it all government environment the people violence as both entertainment as well quelling resistance which it ends up failing at that overt commercialisation causes problems in-between the side with me or die control that media sees the consumer as product the government sees the people as tools for control and/or obstacles to be eradicated
        The only real rebel was Katniss she encouraged even when playing along with their garbage agenda resistance to stop feeling like useless slaves and smash the sadistic master and at the end to discuss and think critically about what can and has happened to hopefully at least for a while come up with a peaceful solution meanwhile Katniss leaves all of it goes back to Peta and raises a family and mentally dealing with the aftermath in an honest but non-aggressive way!

  29. Tia Galvan

    Reading all these comments. One thing comes into mind: One of the signs of good literature is that it allows a variety of equally valid interpretations.

  30. The Hunger Games succeeds as literature because it doesn’t try to hit readers over the head with some clumsy political ideology.

    Truly crappy literature (e.g. Atlas Shrugged) happens when you do that.

    • I’m willing to bet anything you’ve never even read Atlas Shrugged. Or, if you have, I guarantee you didn’t understand it.

      (Yes, I know my reply is nearly 2 years too late).

  31. I never read the books, but I did watch the movies. When I did, I pretty much didn’t think twice about the subliminal political messages and I just took it as a work of fiction that works within its own world of reasoning. But I did watch the movies again searching for political undertones. I didn’t have to search…they were thrown in my face by a heavy hand.

  32. Alexandra

    What a load of rubbish. The Hunger Games is the only teenage novel written in the Twenty-first century that is politically minded! I think you should be more open minded and read more, I can list plenty of teenage works that engage with political concepts. Get off your high horse!

    • Punkocalypse understanding and cooperation is better than power!

      I agree DIVERGENT, MAZE RUNNER, THE 5TH WAVE deal with similar concepts as a whole mostly DIVERGENT & MAZERUNNER from different specific problems THE 5TH WAVE Military corruption and forcing the only survivors to take out each other when they were the ones that put them in the situation in the first place by simply saying their aliens now go do our job for us!

  33. I aboslutely adore the Hunger Games and appreciate the films and novels as great art. However, I do agree with a lot of what you’re saying. It’s very clever! I’m currenlty in a film adaptations class in college and we just analyzed the Hunger Games and came up with many of the same conclusions that you did.

  34. I have watched the Hunger Games series a dozen times and never really have seen the environmental aspect of it. Now reflecting back on it, I can definitely see the prevalence of the desperate need of control even in “their” environment.
    The moment I watched the Hunger Games I could imagine this becoming reality in the United States or even the world. The world is becoming corrupt in the image that each country is perfect in their own way. Money and control will never disappear, the need of it will only grow. Being a college student myself, I can see the need to be successful to be able to live well and provide the best future for your children. These issue in the world that the Hunger Games represents are very well incorporated into a way that adolescents can imagine this in our World right now. It makes it understandable.
    Social media is a growing thing that we are never going to be able to avoid. I have seen places like China and Saudi Arabia that will ban YouTube and certain media from their people to avoid them from learning about other cultures and potentially causing a rebellion for change. The World is crazy and complex but Hunger Games gives us a creepy realization of what could happen to us in the future.

  35. I’m not sure how anyone can read the series and NOT see politics and much of our current state in them. While they are an awesome dystopia, there is so much more to them.

    I had not thought of Katniss in quite the light you discuss her as but I do agree she is both a feminist ideal- both sexes are in the games with equal opportunities which was something I thought was well done but also under the patriarchal rule of the Capital. Very nice.

  36. Ben Hufbauer

    I think Rachel Elfassy Bitoun has done a strong reading of the politics of The Hunger Games. Although it can be read as a critique of both left and right, overall Katniss is a feminist heroine who is fighting political oppression and media exploitation. The extremes of wealth and poverty in the series mirror our own, and part of what distracts us from that, as well as the environmental challenges we face, is the endless parade of “reality” tv.

  37. Brianna

    Wow, this article was fabulous. I’m very intrigued by your writing and it’s very informational. I think your information is very highly correct.

  38. Loved the article! I think it’s also interesting how the media reacted to the Hunger Games much as the media in the books reacted: by turning it from books of substance to a mere love triangle. Much of the publicity is about Team Gale or Team Peeta. Interesting look into our society…

    • Punkocalypse Rise above!

      Exactly because media sees people as product so in a silly effort to stop critical thinking and make direct action sound silly and bring it back to more easily exploitable aspects!

  39. Morgan R. Muller

    Awesome article, very well written!

  40. Katie Brown

    Part of what I love about the series is how it subverts the typical hero journey. Katniss is for a large part of the series a passive and unknowing participant in the rebellion. In the first book, Katniss is only concerned with saving herself and her family. In the second book, Katniss wants only to save Peeta in the Quarter Quell–she unknowingly becomes the symbol of rebellion. She had no idea about the rebellion working beyond the scenes (Haymitch–her mentor, and other victors already know about the plan). And in third book, Katniss is a manipulated figure head of the rebellion. She largely only agrees because she is trying to save Peeta. Collins emphasizes this passivity by having Katniss knocked out or unconscious during key moments. Katniss is not an extraordinary hero (though she is extraordinary), she is an accidental rebellion leader–driven there by circumstance and necessity.

  41. The internet revolution replaced publishing so now we have to have a revolution led by a girl whose birthing hips would be zero use against a group of teenage boys with 89% more testosterone and 22lbs more muscle mass. Katpiss is the swansong of a dying industry dominated by women.

  42. The great thing about the Hunger Games is that it shows how ambiguous war can be. To me, it’s not really a message about what the world could be, but rather what it is right now. It shows how war is not about good and evil, black and white. It’s a story about how everyone can do terrible things in order to save the people they love.

    Katniss is not infallible. She is not pure. She is willing to kill in order to save the people she loves. She drops a nest of tracker-jackers on the Career Camp. She kills the people she needs to kill to get what she wants. She is not the hero. She is a person.

    In times of war, there is no such thing as the “good side” and the Hunger Games exemplifies this. In many ways, Coin is far worst than Snow, especially in the third novel. Anyone who has seen the first portion of Mockingjay can see the Communist undertones of District 13. From the clothing, to Coin’s salute. Coin herself is reminiscent of Hitler in the times of Nazi Germany. I would argue that Coin herself is allegorical of any Communist leader. Yet, we see her as the “good guy” because she is fighting to bring down the tyrannical reign that Panem is currently in. They are trading a dictator for another dictator and we are left wondering which alternative is better.

    Katniss answers this. She understands by the ending of the third novel that there is no “good” alternative, but there may be a more peaceful one.

    • Nicely put. I liked the similie of Coin to Hitler, I’ve never thought of it that way but I definetly see it now. In the film of Mockingjay Part 1, you can almost feel sorry for President Coin in the knowledge that Katniss shoots her, yet seeing her admire Katniss strength and abilities and knowing her loss of her very own husband and daughter… But theses WERE film adaptions, not written in the stories, so it added depth to her character. So when a fear of losing power takes over Coin and she inhumanly, manipulativly, and shadily tries to rid Katniss for good, you understand why Katniss shoots her.

    • ReadersDelight

      Snow reminds me of King Saud of Saudi Arabia, who kills everyone who expresses dissenting opinion.
      Coin reminds me of Joseph Stalin, leader of communist soviet union, who killed everyone who expressed dissenting opinion.

  43. Great in-depth review. Thank you. I find some some real-life Hunger Games echoes returning from the recent report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission regarding aboriginal children sent to residential schools in Canada. Shattering, manipulative experiences showing some of the most cruel aspects of our western society.

  44. When I saw the movie and read the book, the first thing that came to my mind was political corruption. Yes, the book contains themes that have been overused in book media, such as a conflicting love triangle, but it takes a backseat to the corruption of political systems. Collins chose to express the upset of this country by providing a warning to a near future if we continue on this destructive path. Very insightful paper!

  45. Wow, thank you for writing this article. When all of the political, moral, enviornmental, cultural, social and conflictuous elements are drawn out and explained, I was able to better apreciate Suzzane Collins as a writer and observer, and connect (enthusiastically) the world of the Hunger Games to my life and the world around me, inspiring me to write myself and not get caught up in our “Capitol” like nation, but think and act radically and not submerge to the ignorant and selfish society surrounded by entertainment and self-indulgence

  46. Together? Together. One of the most romantic scenes in cinema (Romeo and Juliet in a nutshell) but also looking toward the people’s revolution against getting ripped off!!

  47. I love the hunger games

  48. it has a positive message

  49. Rosie Powell

    I have one problem with your article:

    [“The Hunger Games is far more political than any teenage drama written in the 21st century. Katniss Everdeen is not just saving her folks but she must free a whole nation from tyrannical oppression and poverty.”]

    This story is NOT about Katniss freeing a nation from oppression and poverty. This story is about a young woman’s attempt to survive and help her loved ones survive. And in the end, she paid an emotional price for her efforts.

  50. openeyedamerican

    Go to the author Suzanne Collins website, and you will learn the main message of her Hunger Games trilogy is anti-war. Her father was a victim of the Vietnam war (ie, an American soldier). She purposely has the background of a jungle, and also what looks like Iraq. Her message is very political, and really depicts America today, played out in a SciFi genre, as a “dystopian tomorrow”.

    So lost is her message onto many adults too deeply conditioned with “Patriotic” sickness reflected within her message. Yet her target market, teens, get it. Their open minds, innocent souls see exactly the metaphors of our sociopaths in our capital claiming America’s war games have ever been about “protecting our way of life”. Even the oil rising about the kids reflect what our wars really are much about……oil.

    All the direct metaphors are there……how the soldiers are called “tributes” or “careers”. How they are victims yet called “victors”, how we condition the populaces brains through robotic displays of the anthem, and decorate our victims as “heroes”, with glittery glory and “honor”. How our corrupt Capital and all its associated business cronies—-in particular 12 industrial scumfucks making missiles, bombs, our arsenal of “freedom” for our war economy keeps putting innocent yet misguided young girls and boys in our fighting arena. Even the people walking like sheep-zombies to the reaping, bowing like good “Patriots” and “sacrificing” their daughters and sons for “our country” is displayed all as metaphors. Right down to the beasts thrown into the arena by the Capitol which are a direct metaphor to those pesky “terrorist” created by continued bombing of 3rd worlds for oil while our government sleeps with NATO “peacekeepers” and arms rebels and the world to the teeth for “power”.

    Katniss is head US soldier, and she takes the lead as the “rebel” to fight against our corrupt capital. And its all played out like a violent video game to depict how our culture throws disgusting games like “Call of duty” on shelves desensitizing kids to violence, played out like a ridiculous “reality TV” show and mocks our war owned and controlled mainstream media, reflects how our government has tortured the “whistleblowers” for trying to expose their tyrannical madness.

    This is all too much for some people to fathom, yet those of us who see the message, have more inner peace than those playing the games while sailing “serenely” on with the hands over their hearts while the anthem about bombs plays out, and the military fly over our sports arenas. We have a sick war economy, and it has to stop. Now. Its what causes “terrorism”, its a fallout.

    • Punkocalypse I alone am my own master

      Wow I see yr point you and like 4 other comments I have read really get it it’s a powerful film from a powerful book!

  51. oi katniss is a beast

  52. Thanks for the explanation it really helped

  53. Viktor Nikiforov

    There was a typo boi. It was the 74th Hunger Games, not the 2nd.

  54. Barbara

    Thank you for your writing. I was wondering about a historical or established political method the story might be
    pulling from (with the districts being job oriented, not racial).

    I think it could be based on Apartheid methods but not sure? The Roman Empire influence is there too, with the arena games.

    Any thoughts???


    Barb 🙂

    • ReadersDelight

      Romans invented the ruling technique “divide and conquer”, which eases conquering a population by dividing them into groups that ideally fight against each other.
      Nowadays, a parallel can be drawn to Globalization, which results in distinct societies specializing in producing specific goods because they achieve lowest wage cost for those. Arabic nations specialize in oil. Russia in natural gas. South America in coffee and tropical vegetables. Africa in minerals and ore. East Asia in industrial factory products. USA in Dollars, government bonds and stocks. A similiar specialization is occurring within large countries as well. USA has corn belt, wheat belt, soy belt, cotton belt, bible belt, rust belt, silicon valley, etc.

  55. ReadersDelight

    Thank you for the excellent review! There is only one mistake:
    “She creates an imaginary futuristic city, Panem.” Panem is the name of the successor state to USA.

    The environmental aspect of the dystopia is indeed mentioned only marginally, but it is present:
    Global warming caused oceans to rise and consume vast agricultural and populated areas. Droughts and fires destroyed even more agricultural land. The result was the worst hunger crisis in human history. People began to wage war over the shrinking food and land resources. Panem was created following the downfall of government in USA. Later, the districts rebelled against the Capitol’s rule. The rebellion escalated to nuclear war. Hunger and war nearly killed off entire humankind. Peeta says the latter in Mockingjay part 1. Another character mentions that the revolutionary war after the 75th Games threatens to kill off humans because the total number of humans is so low. Propaganda director Cressida defends Katniss in Mockingjay part 2 by saying that Katniss assassinating Snow would end the war before the human loss would become too high to bear.

  56. Love the article and the comment section. Thanks to everyone for contributing.

  57. There is a definite allegorical nature here, seeing as a lot of characters have the names of classical Roman politicians.

  58. Starting to wonder if franchises like the Hunger Games have a covert agenda. This article states that the messages are apolitical, able to interpreted through the lens of the viewer, but hopefully cause reflection which offers hope, the antidote to tyranny. But perhaps the covert function of illustrating “fear and destruction” in such a “fascinating” is to normalize the inequity and help perpetuate the same oppressive attributes which the story asks the audience to causes to reflect upon.

  59. this is so good i may or may not have spammed my friend talking about this

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