By Shelly Shale
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’ 1st book of her bestseller trilogy for young adults, turned into a movie, has several political and social themes worthy of thinking “deeply” about (for “all” adults).
[Note: This is not a typical movie review describing the movie, plot, characters, and themes, as well as celebritizing each actor by naming every other movie appeared in, etc., and yet have very “little” to say about how the movie might relate to real life. Plenty of regular reviews have already been written—so this review assumes you already are somewhat familiar with the story. Herein we visit a few major “themes” as related to social and political issues in the real life of the audience as drama of human history.]
We will refer to an American writer, namely Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning author of several important books, to help contextual this movie. We start with taking a few comments from a three or four page essay a few years ago entitled “America’s Illiterate” (which can be found on the Internet). It starts out:
We live in two Americas. One…the minority…can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. [Whereas] The …majority… exists in a non-reality-based belief system… Dependent on skillfully manipulated images…It cannot differentiate between lies and truth.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), and her tribe of Appalachian, woodsy, peasants from some working-class mining district (know as District 12), live in a futuristic, post-American, tyrannical country, called Panem. This empire too is divided into two classes of people. One, twelve districts of the masses of the servitude class (hoi polloi) forced to cater to an aristocracy of the wealthy and powerful class (say the 1%) residing separately in a grandiose and luxurious Capital city.
Some of the film’s costumes are deliberately reminiscent of King Louis XVI’ ancien regime social and political system, that is powdered and bewigged courtiers of France during the French Revolution. There too a large peasantry went hungry while the small elite pork-barreled and partied.
Hunger Games, as TV entertainment, held in the capital each year pits one young male and female teenager from each district to fight to the death all the other children—that is “23” dead loosers and “1” winner. So this movie basically glorifies kids killing other kids as brutal reality show. And the matches are not even paired as fair fights because kids as young as 12 years old, and girls too, randomly go against older teenagers and boys as old as 18 (somewhat a contrivance to pity.) But then as we learn quickly in real life that it is not fair.
One dominant theme here is unequivocally the same as the “bread and circus” of historical Rome’s strategy of distraction for its masses of citizenry by providing free grain to the poor in time of need (so they didn’t riot) and plenty of gladiator and chariot entertainment (to preoccupy their time from learning too much about the corruption of their leaders). Some historians have argued that the so-called “republic” was so corrupt—such as the Senate—that it was necessary for Julius Caesar to dismantle their pretense of representation.
And because Rome was an aggressive, warrior state, which colonized neighboring countries, its culture inured its own people to the idea of killing human life, as entertainment—with extravagant orgies of bloody and brutal slaughter—even animals against humans. Herein Hunger Games most clearly follows this same strategy—but more for the motive of “punishment” for past district rebellion, and to keep those masses in their place through intimidation (and some distractive hope but not too much).
Yet, surprisingly, few movie reviews on the Internet, I read (about eight or so from the 1st listings after googling “hunger games movie review”, discussed much these obvious historical references to either revolutionary France or ancient Rome? How could this be when the movie made it so obvious? Some of its characters had names distinctly Roman: Cinna, Caesar, Cato, etc. Is there something wrong with our mainstream media and Internet writers to not have connected the dots? Hell, this movie even had horse-drawn chariots running down the equivalent of a Coliseum? (Mere mentioning the word ‘gladiators’ or ‘Coliseum’ hardly constitutes critical awareness and seems very superficial?
Perhaps movie reviewers are illiterate in respect to history? The only exception noted was a review by Mike Adams at NaturalNew.com (who definitely connected dots in a great and elaborate analysis worth reading.
Importantly is what is not being said. In this futuristic world of high technology the servile masses do not seem to have access to too much information or opinion. There are no scenes of people using any kind of Internet, cell phone, or reading from books and various literatures. Seemingly they only have access to the State’s big screen projection of its version of TV straight from the capital.
Yet the entire country, districts as well as Capital, is “zoned” into a controlled media. And it is much about being amused and distracted. Meanwhile the chosen 24 children, picked by lottery, are for a short while treated like “celebrities” as they are forced to move to the Capital to train, similar to gladiators; so as to eventually fight to the death. Meanwhile, they are also interviewed on the equivalent of TV night talk shows like Leno and Letterman as boob tube by a smarmily charming talk host called Caesar (Stanley Tucci).
The impression you get of the privileged in the Capital is this audience is shallow, naïve, but culturally satisfied with materialist needs and attitudinal presumptions. Like many of us here in the U.S. they too are easily preoccupied with things like designer fashion clothing, being with the “right” people and at the “right” places, and whatever is held up as worthy of an “aristocrat’s” desire. (Whereas our growing homeless population live on the other side of town where there is no money to spend on weekend binges.)
Chris Hedges wrote a book called: The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle ©2009. Here are a few quotes:
The moral nihilism of celebrity culture is played out on reality television shows, most of which encourage a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness, and betrayal.
Life, these shows teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition. Life is about the personal humiliation of those who oppose us. Those who win are the best. Those who lose deserve to be erased.
Compassion, competence, intelligence, and solidarity with others are forms of weakness. And those who do not achieve celebrity status, who do not win the prize money or make millions in Wall Street firms, deserve to lose.
If this movie were compared to our own culture today, a nation that is inured to expecting an ecologically ruinous lifestyle such as excessive packaging, as in every “one” ounce of ketchup is provided in its own petroleum-based packet at fast food burger joints (not to mention Styrofoam cups and half ounce coffee creamer packaging for our throw away society) we might suspect we were looking into a mirror?
In another words here in the United States, at least on historical terms, even the middle class has become rich to a point of being spoiled. A glass full of crude oil is used to make the plastic found in one disposable diaper that is used for a couple of hours and then could take 400 years to decompose in a waste dump—just like the millions and millions of rubber tires we discard each year to equally take hundreds of years to decompose. And yet the majority here as well were previously presumptuous to had assumed they could “afford” the “luxury” of their ignorance. Again referring back to Chris Hedges’ previously mentioned essay as he goes on to say:
It [the other America] is informed by simplistic, childish, narratives and clichés. … American political campaigns…eschew real ideas for a policy of cheap slogans and reassuring personal narratives. Political propaganda now masquerades as ideology… [and] do not require cognitive or self-critical skills. … Political leaders in our post-literate society no longer need to be competent, sincere or honest…they only need to appear to have these qualities…
And yet the problem is not so much some 1%, thought of as the powerful, who vociferously support the creation and drone of so much misinformation and corruption, plenty of our middle class and lower class, who actually “do” have access to enormous amounts of opinion, fact, as well as demagoguery and disinformation—choose not to discover ideas—but rather choose to remain in their current states of ignorance, presumptuous and willingness to suck up sloganeering.
Hunger Games is an ultimate example of showing how well a State’s apparatus can spy on its own people with all form of electronic state-of-the-art gadgetry. But we could be better off reading the likes of James Bamford’s recent articles at Wired Magazine (or Wired.com) in respect to the NSA’s current agenda of spying on Americans (and future plans—see “The NSA Is Building the Countries Biggest Spy Center”).
Criminals in penitentiaries expect their mail to be opened and read, their phone calls to be monitored, and their freedoms, such as to associate with others, to be sharply curtailed. They supposedly lost their liberties as free citizens due to their violations of our laws. But what about electronic surveillance for the rest of us? If your library files can be accessed, as part of the Patriot Act, do you really feel as free to check out any book you want—such as titles about Police States—or that librarians are as willing to order them for your choice? Do you talk as freely on your phone? Do you as readily get on websites that may print conspiracy theories? The fact is most peoples’ freedom to associate or assemble has already been curtailed.
And you can’t exactly just riot because it would be very difficult to beat our over-bloated government’s might as ability to use coercive force—that is a government that has specialized in propping up dictators around the world. The only likely way for change is awareness as in legal, political, maneuvering—but this requires more people shut off their TVs and stop indulging the lame-stream, Murdockian, media shift to STYLE AND GOSSIP sections or side issues of distraction, or even willingness to promote distorted news as propaganda.
Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) plays an alcoholic who needs about six ounces of straight liquor for his morning hair-of-the-dog. He obviously has need for dedation. He is a coach to Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), district 12’s tributes as sacrificial competition with the task of murdering others. Haymitch tells his clients straight out they don’t stand a chance coming out alive. He seems to be a bit of jerk being so cynically blunt.
Quite frankly none of us have much of a chance coming out alive. Because in our current. political world reality it is not two people out of hundreds that are to be sacrificed—rather it is dozens or far more who will be marched into various undeclared wars and /or World War III for the gain of Military Industrial Complex investors (merchants of death) and political notions that have very little to do with justice—such as comparing how Benjamin Netanyahu recently said in a speech to AIPAC convention (according to Larry Derfner, Israeli journalist article David Grossman’s Warning The Nation April, 2 2012): “…never again will the Jewish people entrust their survival to any nation but their own”; whereas, we Americans are expected to die for a Zionist state—because our own leaders have sworn our blood to their Zionist cause (even though Israel does “not” separate Church from State and does not treat all people as equal which technically happens to be our national values). Meanwhile both Tony Blair and George W. Bush have been reported to admit in relative private that our invasion of the Iraq war was for Israel. (And that reality was based on patently, false propaganda.)
Algernon Sidney, 1698 author of Discourses Concerning Government, who, according to republishing editor, Thomas West, along with John Locke was considered by Thomas Jefferson to be one of the “…two leading sources for the American understanding of political liberty and the rights of humanity” but who “…fell from fashion since the nineteenth century” argued specifically against Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarchy: A Defense of the natural Power of the King against the Unnatural Liberty of the People published in 1680.
It is important to realize that Abrahamic religions are a form of Patriarchy—that is a psychological form of authoritarianism. You do not vote in a God and there is no representational government for you. Meanwhile the Old Testament really amounts to war propaganda is which the myth of some God called Yahweh supposedly told Hebrews they could kill off the occupants of Canaan (because God said so and therefore it makes it moral).
We have a right to question this form of brainwash. Somehow the delusion in Israel is one of saving the “people of eternity”. Yet all people currently living come from ancestries as long as any other people, and equally “all” people are subject to annihilation and mortality.
In the movie the Homeland Security of Panem has their people terrorized and entertained by a supposedly Anglo-Saxon President Snow (Donald Sutherland) that somehow seems unconvincing. Whereas our Homeland Security in the U.S. has the legal basis to become a tyranny—not to entertainment—because special interests groups like the Neocon-artists—who have been involved in creating this Police State will not allow for any presidential political candidate viability that does not put Israel’s interest above the interests of the people of the United States.
We Americans have a right to discriminate in our thinking to differentiate the protection of people from oppression and threat and any presumptions or blackmail that demands we support theocracies in any form (even those that claim to be democracies because some of the inhabitants have equal rights). Many Americans as well as many American Jews are tired of this sort of distorting of guilt manipulation of pitting our foreign policy of Christians and Jews against Muslims. We are all equal here in the United States.
It is no wonder why there was little reference drawn to Rome’s Imperial power from movie reviewers. And yet this movie was hyped as some awesome blockbuster?
Again referring to Chris Hedges:
The core values of our open society, the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgment and common sense indicate something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to understand historical facts, to separate truth form lies, to advocate for change and to acknowledge that there are other views, different ways of being, that are morally and socially acceptable, are dying.
Algernon Sidney wrote is one of his Discoursed the following:
Is the corruption of man’s nature so little known, that such as have common sense should expect justice from those, who fear no punishment if they do injustice…
There must therefore be a right of proceeding judicially or extrajudicially against all persons who transgress the laws; or else those laws, and the societies that should subsist by them, cannot stand; and the ends for which governments are constituted, together with the governments themselves, must be overthrown. Extrajudicial proceedings by sedition, tumult, or war, must take place, when the persons concerned are of such power, that they cannot be brought under the judicial. They who deny this, deny all help against an usurping tyrant, …
If it be said that the word sedition implies that which is evil; I answer, that it ought not then to be applied to those who seek nothing but that which is just; and tho the ways of delivering an oppressed people from the violence of a wicked magistrate, who having armed a crew of lewd villains, and fatted them with the blood and confiscations of such as were most ready to oppose him, be extraordinary, the inward righteousness of the act doth fully justify the authors.
Tabloid media, as infotainment, is coming to play near you. Whereas Chris Hedges also correctly warned us:
Hannah Arendt warned marketization of culture leads to its degradation…Culture is being destroyed in order to yield entertainment.
Those who question, those who doubt, those who are critical, those who are able to confront reality and who grasp the hollowness of celebrity culture, are shunned and condemned for their pessimism.
Human beings become a commodity in a celebrity culture. They are objects, like consumer products. They have no intrinsic value. … Those who fail to meet the ideal are belittled and mocked. Friends and allies are to be used and betrayed during the climb to fame, power and wealth.
While one sixth of the world supposedly lives in slums, our foreign policy engages in multiple covert, asymmetric wars, engages in manipulating elections and civil wars abroad, sells military weapons to numerous contingencies, has engaged in torture and rendering prisoners to countries with human rights violations, drone bombs people and civilians, urinates on Holy books, etc. There already is “pan” terrorism in the world—and part of it is due to the huge habit of America appetites for material comfort and cheap energy usage—and that is while that public remains either ignorant to how people feel elsewhere, or heavily recipients of phony news.
Perhaps Haymitch, the counselor, knows something we don’t—and that is how to drink—that is if we can’t deliriously laugh at it all like the unctuous talk show host Caesar who could just as well been Caligula or Commodus.
Needless to say it was an interesting movie.