A New Look on The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is a trilogy that takes place in Panem, which is a country with 12 districts that are controlled by the Capitol.  Panem used to have a 13th district, but the Capitol destroyed it after the people in the 13th district rebelled.  As a result, every year one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are chosen to compete in the Hunger Games.  These participants are known as tributes, and they must kill one another in an outdoor arena until only one winner is left standing.

Before taking this class, I wouldn’t have paid attention to the fact that these tributes are basically each district’s sacrifice in order to maintain “peace” for Panem.  But now, that’s the first thing that comes to mind.  Some tributes, known as Careers, will voluntarily offer themselves for the games because they were trained for them from an early age.  But do they consider themselves as some sort of martyrs?  Or is this some sort of twisted suicide? I know there is a lot of fame and benefits that come from winning the games, but these children are basically offering themselves up as a sort of sacrifice.  But for what? Panem doesn’t need to use children to keep peace, but the president thought that it would be the most effective way.  This is even shown in reality because we are more outraged or sympathetic or empathetic when children are killed, sacrificed, hurt, or abused than adults.  If our children’s lives were at stake, I can see people either causing an uprising or complying to the whoever is in power.  Children evoke stronger emotions and opinions than any other age group.  I would assume it’s because they are seen as powerless and naive, but there’s nothing powerless or naive about the tributes.

The tributes make me wonder why some of them are excited about the games while others fear them.  I understand the fear more than being excited.  I don’t think I could ever be excited about sacrificing my own life for a competition that falsely promotes peace and forces me to kill others if I want to stay alive.  I really enjoyed the trilogy (both the books, and so far the movies!), but I definitely see them in a different perspective now.

One response to “A New Look on The Hunger Games

  1. It seems like Jane is raising the issue of the logic of sacrifice. I’m not sure where this has been theorized in anthropological literature, but we can certainly look to the van Gennep/Turner analysis of ritual to get a piece of the framework to do an analysis of “The Hunger Games” in an anthropological spirit. Clearly, the young people selected for the games exit their current social position for a period of preparation (education) to enter the new social position of a game competitor. And, if I remember the film (I saw the first half of it on trans-Atlantic flight–so, free drinks), the entire country enters a period of carnival during the games–the games themselves an epitome of anti-structure in which one is expected to kill rather than help one’s country(wo)men. We might also think of Durkheim’s analysis of totems in “The Elementary forms of the Religious Life”. The totem is the center of ritual attention and is ultimately equated with society itself. If we read hunger games’ participants as national sacrifices, they may play a totem like role in the ritual of the games. I also remember, however, feeling annoyed with the film during my flight thinking that it didn’t really make sense how these “sacrifices” were supposed to translate into national unity. Ultimately, I asked for another scotch and watched Wallace and Gromit instead. But, properly fleshed out, it might serve as a nice example of the logics of ritual and sacrifice.

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