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Political Themes Abound in ‘The Hunger Games’

By    |   Friday, 23 March 2012 01:51 PM

The newly released “The Hunger Games” film, which is based on a best-selling young adult book series, is being effectively marketed to a younger demographic. The movie has already grossed $19.7 million in midnight screenings, the highest midnight take for a non-sequel in history, according to studio estimates.

The film, however, has the added bonus of garnering extra attention thanks to some subtle political themes that are attracting fans from both sides of the aisle.

Conservatives are seeing in the movie an object lesson on the dangers of excessive governmental power, while liberals are focusing on the film’s environmental overtones and the issue of income disparity.

“The Hunger Games” takes place in the future, and the United States as we know it today is no more. A new nation called “Panem” has replaced it.

Panem’s despotic government has divided the country into 12 “districts” that take orders from an authoritarian “president” who rules from the “Capitol.” The newfound country conducts an annual “reaping” in which two young people, one male and one female, are selected via a lottery from each of the 12 districts. Those chosen are forced to engage in a fight to the death, which is broadcast to the public via a live telecast.

The Orwellian messages of the inherent dangers of an oversized government have not been lost on conservatives. Writing for the Fox News website, James Pinkerton notes the following: “The costumes and sets, in particular, send a powerful message: The elites inhabiting the Capitol are portrayed as human monsters, fabulously rich, hideously overdressed, ridiculously made up, totally amoral, all delighting in the televised death of unwilling innocents.”

“What’s truly startling about the movie, then, is its implicit politics: Ordinary folks are good, government is bad — really bad. There are no evil corporations in this movie; the bad guys are bureaucrats and TV hosts,” Pinkerton adds.

“The fact that the film targets an all-powerful government enslaving its citizens gives it even extra heft for right-of-center audiences,” conservative film critic Christian Toto writes for Breitbart.com.

Forbes columnist John Tamny, a self-described libertarian, points out that the book from which the movie has been adapted “reveals the oppressive cruelty that is big government.”

The film’s subtext is appealing to liberals as well. Suzanne Collins, author of “The Hunger Games” book and executive producer of the movie, sounded some left-of-center ideas in an interview with the New York Times.

She expressed hope that her young readers would ask questions “about global warming, about our mistreatment of the environment, but also questions like: How do you feel about the fact that some people take their next meal for granted when so many other people are starving in the world?” Her quote was included in the production notes that were circulated to the press by the studio.

The film also contains some Occupy Wall Street themes in the manner in which the rich and poor are depicted. NPR’s Bob Mondello sees the abuse of power in the movie as coming from “the 1-percenters” who “can't help rubbing their dominance in, and Collins' central notion — reportedly inspired by channel-surfing between reality shows and news reports of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — is that to be sure the losers never forget how completely they've been subjugated, the Capitol stages a televised ritual each year: kids fighting kids to the death.”

Joe Romm of ThinkProgress.org writes, “Feeding some 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of a rapidly worsening climate may well be the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced,” adding that “The Hunger Games makes that challenge a literal and hyper-violent one.”

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Friday, 23 March 2012 01:51 PM
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