Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why The Hunger Games Hits Its Mark

Some science fiction fizzles at the box office or fails to capture the public's imagination. In some cases, they simply miss their mark with audiences. Tron didn't find an audience until decades later. Despite spectuacular effects, John Carter failed because viewers did not buy the life-on-Mars premise.

The Hunger Games' novel and movie, a futuristic gladiator fight-to-the-death, hits it mark because readers/viewers want to think about the premise--that injustice surrounds us and pervades our way of life.

While people struggle to survive in District 12, a fence prohibits inhabitants from hunting in gathering the fertile meadow beyond the enclosure. Hunting with a bow and arrow or simply owning a weapon is strictly forbidden. Other districts are wealthy but they offer no help to the coal-mining district.

Even more disturbing are the gladiator-like games that happen randomly. The lottery system in which tributes are chosen for the games may remind readers of two things, the short story "The Lottery," and the system for choosing soldiers for the Vietnam conflict.

The novel is a critique of war and the effects of war. Perhaps even more than this it is a critique of the war machine, the military-industrial complex that profits from the wars.

The soldiers sent to war and the tributes chosen for games have ceded control. They are pawns. Everything that the tributes do is controlled. Balls of fire or other diversions will force them together to fight or force them apart.

Where is the resistance movement you might wonder? The Capitol and the government of Pandem are evil forces and sadly the winners become collaborators with the blood-thirsty Capitol by training the next batch of tributes.

Katniss does engage in small acts of rebellion. She places  flowers around Rue that shows she mourned for her. She refuses to participate in an unexpected rule change that would pit her against Peeta.

The novel/movie hints that the Capitol will make her pay for these rebellious acts and thus sets readers/viewers up for the next installment.