Imagine a time when people all work for the State and have been split into designated districts representing certain industries. Imagine a time when The State controls all we see and do. Imagine a time when hope is dribbled out in small doses so that the masses don’t get too much of it. Imagine a time when food is rationed to the public and extra food submits one to a bigger risk of losing his/her life. This is the time depicted in Lionsgate’s mega box office smash “The Hunger Games”.
The film, which opened to a record breaking 152 million dollar weekend last week, depicts all of this and more. However, this is not how the film was marketed by Lionsgate. The film, based upon a bestselling trilogy, was marketed to teens and young adults in a way you would never know its true theme which is the dangers of a totalitarian (communist/socialist) society. It was marketed as the story of a young women who puts her life on the line to protect her younger sister and is forced to participate in a yearly gladiator style event known as The Hunger Games.
The 54% over 25 audience in the opening weekend shows this film is not just appealing to its core young adult crowd. The box office results show that Lionsgate has a four quadrant hit on its hands and one, which is appealing to a large audience with a mind. In my opinion, that should be a conservative mind, as the film shows all of the dangers inherent in where the current administration is trying to take the country. The same current administration that wants to “fundamentally change America,” and apologize for all of the evils America has pushed upon the world.
In the film, Katniss, exquisitely portrayed by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence, volunteers to participate in the Hunger Games for her district when her younger sister is the unfortunate winner of the lottery which chooses the victims. The Hunger Games is a brutal battle in which one male and one female from each of the 12 districts must compete in a gladiator style of combat until one survives. The kicker which makes this different from most other movies of this genre is that all the participants must be between 12-18 years old. In other words, the movie depicts children killing children: Not something you would anticipate to draw large numbers to the theater. Lionsgate, in its marketing genius, has managed to not only turn this into a box office mega hit, but has also managed to market it so that absolutely none of the politics of the film were known to the general public that hadn’t read the books.
Donald Sutherland in a small but pivotal role, portrays the dictator who resides in the Capital which is District 1. District 1 is depicted in the film as rich and colorful. The outlying districts, which include the home of our heroine, District 12, are almost portrayed in black and white. They are basically the forgotten peasants whose labor is used to support the government and who must beg the government for extra food just to survive. Sutherland in the few short scenes he has shows how absolutism can be an aphrodisiac. He uses his power to dish out small amounts of hope and to squash it if it grows too large. His ideal of the Hunger Games is merely to remind the masses that the State controls all and any defiance of the state will be quashed in the most horrific of ways.
This film is strangely similar to the 1975 camp classic from New World Pictures, “Death Race 2000,” which starred a young Sylvester Stallone and David Carradine at the height of his career. In that film, contestants in a cross-country road race, not only had to finish in first place, but were given points based upon how many people they could kill with their vehicles during the race. Children and Senior Citizens were worth more as kills than a middle-aged adult white male. The society depicted in that film was totalitarian in nature as well and the race was the way in which the masses were kept under control. David Carradine represented the government and was paid by the government to keep winning year after year. In the same manner, “The Hunger Games” shows the participants from District 1 and 2 are trained by the government from birth to represent their districts and to keep the outer districts from being successful. In fact, we are told early in the film that District 12 has never had a winner and Katniss may be its first true chance.
In the 1975 feature, there already is a strong opposition to the State which is sabatoging the race and slowly killing off the competitors before they can get their body counts up. This opposition has the participants fearful and the State worried because if the race can be stopped or one of its participants can be shown to be with the opposition, they will lose control and democracy may again be within the hands of the populace. This is only touched on by “The Hunger Games” as we are in the early stages of revolt against the State. The are small skirmishes in the outlying districts, but nothing is organized. In fact, we are led to believe by the end of the film that Katniss may be the driving force toward freedom’s return in the same way Lech Walesa, through Solidarity, eventually was responsible for the overthrow of the communist state in Poland; an overthrow which eventually led to the fall of the Soviet Union a few short years later.
All in all, “The Hunger Games” shows the danger of freedom being taken away from the people and the underlying current that a small amount of hope can give to the populace that such freedom can be returned. I am fearful that as the Obama Administration continues to slowly nip at our freedoms, a time in which this type of government will not be in the distant future. In fact, as seen by Obama’s comment this week to Dmitri Medvedev on a hot microphone, “I’m one election away from having more ability to negotiate with you on arms issues.” It is quite clear he is also one election away from being able to fundamentally change America so that it comes closer to resembling the State depicted in “The Hunger Games.” And this is something we cannot allow.