Hunger Games. I read the book before it came out in the theatre. The fiction that I enjoy reading about most is survival or adventure novels. So, naturally, the strong yet vulnerable Katniss won me over as I travelled with her in spirit on a disturbing, fast-paced journey from poverty, to the elaborate setting of the Capitol, to the sick “game” where children compete against one another to survive. I recall my pulse racing several times throughout the book as well as the movie.
But this post is not about the author of Hunger Games or how much I enjoyed the book or the film. It is about how Hunger Games symbolizes the West. Namely, the North American society.
Hunger Games is set in a futuristic setting. It is in the young adult dystopian genre. Yet, in many ways, I think that a large part of the world must view we North Americans as The Capitol.
It struck me a few weeks ago when my sister Jessica and I were talking in the kitchen. It was about Black Friday. The event made me angry this year. But, a year ago, I would’ve been one of the many priviledged twenty-to-thirty-somethings ready to fill my closet with pretty new skirts and shoes and tops.
I said to Jessica in the kicthen that day, “What an interesting culture we are. We’re like ladies and lords in a kingdom. We pretend that other issues around the world aren’t happening. We change the channel if there is a World Wildlife Fund ad or an ad about starving children. It is so horrible.”
Jessica nodded. “Yes. And many of them think of the people in third world countries like peasants.”
So. Is North America, when comparing it to developing nations, all that different from the Capitol? Take away that entitlement most of us have, and look at the real picture. We are, in essence, The Capitol. Oh, yes we are.
Though the story is set in an apocalyptic future, it has an uncanny resemblance to this world. Today. Now.
How North America is Like the Capitol
1) The very superficial Capitol is much like Hollywood. While there is nothing wrong with looking presentable and caring about style, we have to admit that we have gone overboard. Objectification of women, the pressure to maintain or obtain a certain body, the need to keep up with the latest trends, etc. abounds.
2) Most people today care more about their own comforts and whims. They don’t care that children across the ocean (Or in their own community) are dying of starvation, that women in third world countries often die giving birth, that young people are trafficked or forced to work in barbaric conditions, that people everywhere are dying of hunger and thirst. Let alone the environment these entitled North Americans are destroying so they can have their fast cars and new toys.
3) Hunger is stil the top issue in many countries – not only the developing ones. People die of starvation and dehydration everyday. The rich and middle class people often turn a blind eye to those in their own community that need help.
4) North Americans often enjoy vulgar things. Emphasis on vulgar. The love of violence. Boxing, UFC and the cheering that comes in the wake of blood being spilled. The fighters are paid to do it and it’s their profession of choice, but it reminds me so much of the gladiator days. Would people be all that horrified if things were to go that way again?
Violence in pornography, violence against women in some music videos and lyrics, graphic torture and gore in film and video games. It may not cause people to act on these things, but no matter what your stance is on violence in the media, it de-sensitizes people to it. It may give certain people internal permission to try the things they fantasize about, or it prepares them to be more accepting when violence does occur. Say what you will, but this generation generally thrives on violence. What merit does it serve humanity?
5) People get swept up by the media here much like the Capitol does in Hunger Games. They are sitting there, oogling the reality TV show, sensationalized for their viewing pleasure. It is edited to make them feel for the living, breathing human beings that they are silently condoning the barbaric circumstances on. People today become immersed in meaningless TV shows and reality TV. They might know that their govenments are corrupt and that the world is being ruined, but their thoughts are too consumed in superificial things to care.
One thing that really hit home with me is that many North Americans are constantly watching atrocities from their home TVs without lifting a finger to do anything. Reminds me of the rich people in Hunger Games watching the real life survivial game without having one thought of trying to stop it.
6) These “wars” disguised as man hunts these days. Some of the American soldiers are justifying killing civillians or torturing prisoners, for instance. War on terrorism? Really? Reminds me of The Capitol.
7) Katniss and her family could represent a family in an impoverished third world town. They might see pictures of the Western society in magazines should they be “fortunate” as to stumble upon one. They know how lavish we can and do often live, and how some of us view them as filth. Their hope is for a better future, but without some means of getting on their own feet, they are subject to poverty, starvation, having 10 to 12 kids, disease, war, etc.
8) Some North Americans feel that AIDS and hunger is nature’s way of taking care of the overpopulation in Africa and India. These people have to fight everyday to live. Not just against the hunger and disease, but against other people. Violence among different circles in Africa, for example, can be ferocious. But relief or help is rarely offered by the financially stable people. They (North Americans) know it happens and most turn a blind eye. Just like those Capitol people – they view the poorer district people as nothing better than lice.
We watch Hunger Games and think “How sick! Teenagers pitted against one another for a game of life and death. Only one survivor? How wrong. How sad.”
The same situation is happening across the ocean where many, many youth and young adults fight for their lives every single day. The strongest, or craftiest, survive. All of this happens while rich people enjoy their frivalous lives of dinners and movies and bars and clubs and hockey games and home decor and living out their “American dream”.
Nothing wrong with enjoying life. It’s why we’re here. The issue is that North Americans seem to believe that world revolves around them and that life should be all about them. “Too bad for those unlucky enough to not be born here”, most think.
Hunger Games is showing us at the roots of its tale that we are living in a world that is not much different from the novel’s brutal reality. The fact of the matter is, the developed world lives at the expense of the undeveloped world.
Suzanne Collins, the Hunger Games’ author, says that she got some of the ideas for the book while watching War on Iraq footage and from her father fighting in Vietnam. Both impacted her greatly.
“I don’t write about adolescence,” says Collins. “I write about war. For adolescents.”