I don’t know about you, but I think it’s extremely odd that the Hunger Games has been developed into such a large movie franchise, which basically depicts the violent events of a book that so condemns commercialized violence as a form of entertainment.
I love re-reading the Hunger Games books every year and trying to see how many historical events are reflected in the plot of the books, especially the latter two. If you read deeply enough into them, you can find hints about the revolts in Russia, fascism, totalitarianism, the European wars of the sixteenth century, the Civil War, and antebellum America. Did Suzanne Collins really intend to put all of those historical hints into her books? Probably not. But they’re there anyway, and they add so much depth I can’t imagine the books without them.
Yet somehow the Hunger Games franchise fails to depict this finesse beyond the Peeta-Gale-Katniss love triangle that pops up only in Catching Fire and ignores the intense anti-violence, anti-totalitarian messages underneath.
The other day, I mentioned offhandedly to someone how funny it was that the movies defeated the purpose of the books. (I mean, the movies essentially glorify the violence the book argues to condemn.) They responded with a confused look and a, “no,” as if I had never read the books. And that’s not the first time this has happened. Many a time before, I’ve been told, “Oh, don’t worry, the violence in the movies isn’t bad at all!”
The violence in the movies isn’t bad at all? That’s basically saying, “Oh, don’t worry, you can watch sixteen-year-old children kill each other without feeling like throwing up!”
To achieve the purpose of the books, the movies have to be gruesome, bloody, violent. Terrifying to watch and horrific to indulge in, yet with just enough street appeal to make it big in the box office.
Yet I see people saying, “May the odds be ever in your favor!” chirpily to each other as they walk down the hallways of my high school. Our homecoming dance was Hunger Games themed. People dress up like Katniss, posting pictures on Instagram with captions reading, “Am I Katniss yet?”
Oh, my friends. BELIEVE ME. You do not want to be Katniss Everdeen. What we see from the movie posters and advertisements is District 13 propaganda. Katniss firing a bow. Katniss with mockingjay wings. Katniss sitting on a throne with a bow and a sheath of arrows. Katniss strong. But the point of Katniss is not to be strong.
“I’m Team Gale!” or “I’m Team Peeta!”
Why does this even matter? Katniss is scared and mentally disturbed. She probably has PTSD. She’s unstable at this point. She’s looking for a friend. That’s not Team Peeta or Team Gale. That’s Team Coin, Team District 13 Propaganda. Focusing on Team Peeta or Team Gale is to focus on the importance of one side’s propaganda over the other, without any acknowledgement that the girl and boys in the media are just children. We should be Team Get Those Children Out Of There.
The Hunger Games franchise should not have been made for our entertainment. It should not have resulted in a line of Katniss Everdeen make-up so that you can impress the people of the Capitol, and it should not have made us revere media that depicts the killing of children without really understanding what that media is trying to say. The movies should have been terrifying and violence-full, with psychiatric wards and people who are broken. The whole franchise should have terrified us. Because The Hunger Games books were not just an entertaining story. They were a violent, addictive warning.
In the real world, we liberals who populate the blogosphere argue for gun control, we Americans argue against more wars, we as the world argue against the violence of ISIS. But even still our eyes are glued to our fictional, violence-glorifying TV screens as we watch Game of Thrones and Mockingjay Part 2 and cheer when our protagonist makes a kill.
We want peace in the real world and revel in the violence of the fictional one. And maybe we’ve got to realize that at some point, we can’t have both.