The Hunger Games clearly has a social message... but what about the politics?
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is one of those rare blockbusters, guaranteed to win not only the box office, but also a place in the collective consciousness for some time. The series of books and films has a lot of things going for it – a massive budget, strong performances all round and particularly that of everyone’s favorite 23-year-old Oscar winner and a built in starting audience of devoted readers of Susanne Collins’ book trilogy.
At this point it's safe to say that the series has taken the world by storm.
It’s all based on a strong story, however and one that has, over the course of history, rung true time and time again – the Districts versus the Capitol, the rebels versus the evil Dictator, Katniss versus President Snow and so on and so on. As metaphorical devices go, it’s a simple, but effective one, which has hit close to home for many present day Americans as well, seemingly reflecting a clear cut social divide. Except… who’s who in this comparison?
Part of the appeal is the political commentary, but what is it really saying?
One could argue that the plot of the separatist districts, rebelling against the Capitol echoes the American Civil War, which would make District 12… the Confederacy? It could be seen that way, although the parallel would make a lot of Hunger Games fans very uncomfortable. But then, looking at the people of the Capitol in their extravagance, completely removed from reality in their glass houses (these folks stuff gorge themselves, then consume a drink to make them sick and start all over again, note the not-so-subtle Roman analogy), it isn’t too hard to see an echo of the unequal wealth distribution debate, the 99% and the 1% reflected in the Districts and the Capitol respectively.
The books and the films (oddly enough) go much deeper than this, but you can see where this is going. Could part of the reason for the trilogy’s success be its universal appeal? There is an unfortunate shortage of statistics on the political affiliation of Hunger Games viewers, but hey, it’s as good a theory as any. Meanwhile, besides being a one-size-fits-all political analogy, The Hunger Games also serves as some helpful escapism, featuring action-packed scenes, shiny costumes and doomed romance. And people wonder why the franchise is such a success.