The Hunger Games movie, based on Suzanna Collin’s first part of the trilogy, is the most popular film in theatres. When analyzed, there are many scenes that teach lessons about capitalism and the power we workers have.
The movie is set in Panem, what was once North America. Due to the failed revolution, the Capitol uses the annual Hunger Games to maintain fascist control of the masses. A boy and a girl of ages 12-18 are chosen from each of the 12 districts to participate in a nationally televised event in which they fight to the death until one is crowned victor.
The plot focuses on the life of working-class 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in 12, the coal district. (For a detailed synopsis, see CHALLENGE, 3/28/12.) Almost everyone is utterly dispossessed. What was a crucial part of the protagonist’s actions was reduced to a mere scene: Katniss’s father’s death. He was blown up in a coalmine accident.
Already, there is resentment of the Peacemakers (cops). Gale, Katniss’s friend, fantasizes revenge for murdering children in the rulers’ games. He also imagines escaping with their families, but without considering the rest of the people that are suffering just like they are. Katniss prematurely brushes off Gale’s ideas as unrealistic.
When Prim “wins” the lottery for the Hunger Games, Katniss cries out “I volunteer as tribute!” The anger is evident in this district. When they were asked to clap, instead they salute a kiss towards Katniss with three fingers held up. This is both a sign of resistance against the Gamemakers and solidarity with Katniss.
Prim gives Katniss a mockingjay pin to protect her. This becomes a symbol for Katniss’s struggle, and for rebellion. Katniss and Peeta are rushed to the Capitol, where the ruling class lives in the most grotesquely posh atmosphere imaginable. The children are awestruck by the abundance of food in the Capitol, while back home their people starve to death.
Their mentor is Haymitch, a past victor who is drunk most of the time as a way to drown his sorrows and rage against the system. The Capitol is the only place in Panem that anticipates the games with excitement. All the districts except for 1 and 2 (which are wealthy and train their children for the games) suffer as they are forced to watch their children being killed violently.
The night before the Games, Peeta says to Katniss “I don’t want be just another piece in their games.” Katniss doesn’t fully grasp the meaning of this until later in the Game.
While the book was only from Katniss’s perspective, the movie gives a wider view and draws on events from the second book. The control room where the Gamemakers plan for the tributes’ clashes is shown.
There is an interesting scene where President Snow explains to the Gamemaker the reason for the Games. He explains he could easily pick 24 children and shoot them. The Games give people hope. He says, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is fine, a lot is dangerous.” He goes on to make a reference to Katniss’s behavior, “a spark is fine as long as it is contained, so contain it.”
The rulers can gear a spark towards their own fascist gains. Here, we get inside the mind of a capitalist dictator. He understands how to control workers using “bread and games” as well as “hope and fear.” He also acknowledges that the Capitol is dependent on the districts, the reason to further tighten the chokehold.
The film doesn’t build much on human connections. Katniss struggles with her individualism. She makes an alliance with a 12-year-old girl from agricultural District 11, Rue, who is one of the only four black characters in the entire film. Rue’s death was the most heart-breaking. Katniss humanizes the otherwise savage deaths in the Games by covering Rue’s body in flowers and singing to her. She gives the salute of solidarity.
In response, workers in District 11 revolt. They destroy the rulers’ source of profit: sacks of crops and machinery. This act of unity was a direct threat to the Capitol and the fascist peacekeepers rush to contain it. We see how unity of the working class can have an impact on the ruling class and can encourage the rest of the working class to fight back.
The rulers react by giving the workers “something to root for” — to channel their rage towards the victory of “the star-crossed lovers.” The Gamemakers change the rules so that two tributes can win as long as they’re from the same district. So with Peeta’s wits such as his expertise in camouflage and Katniss´ ability to hunt, they make a strong team.
The final act of defiance happens when the Gamemakers decide they can only have one winner. This shows how the bosses’ laws are used to control workers. They are about to commit suicide when the Gamemaker called out “Stop! I present to you the winners of this year’s Hunger Games.”
Haymitch explains that Katniss’s act of rebellion has dire consequences. The head Gamemaker is killed for not “containing the flame.” The film ends ominously. President Snow crowns the victors and remarks about Katniss’s mockingjay pin — a foreshadowing of both attacks and fight-backs to come.
The film makes an effort to cut out some of the explicit gore in the book: Peeta’s leg wasn’t bitten off, the mutts’ eyes didn’t resemble the eyes of the dead tributes, Katniss’s left ear wasn’t deafened by an explosion. Another interesting divergence from the book was that a child from the wealthy district realizes that the “only thing he learned was to bring pride to his district, which doesn’t matter anyway.”
In this society, children experience violence and many are out fighting wars before they reach puberty. Although the violence is taken to the highest level, it is not far from the truth. Many working-class children live through daily violence in order to survive. Many already live under fascism worldwide. In fact, the writer herself was inspired to write the trilogy after the mass murders in Afghanistan.
Though this film has working-class values, it is nevertheless a ruling-class movie for profit. The Hunger Games is expected to make more than $300 million mainly from the pockets of working-class families. We should always be cautious of the bosses’ media. When this film is taken in context of the anti-communist trilogy, the children are used as pawns in the rebellion (see upcoming issue).
PL’ers and friends should point out that only a united working class can defeat the system. We need a violent revolution. The system depends on the workers. We have the power to bring it to a halt and destroy it. Defy the Gamemakers, the masters of war. We are the spark that is being contained. Become the fire that will build a communist society where we are no longer oppressed and no longer part of their games.