The Politics of 'The Hunger Games'
Liberals and conservatives are embracing the film for very different reasons.
With 26 million books in The Hunger Games trilogy sold thus far, one hardly needs to look further for reasons why the first film installment is bound to open huge Friday (on Thursday, Fandango was selling 10 tickets per second). Nevertheless, here’s another one: politics.
In an extremely partisan atmosphere seven months before a presidential election, Hunger Games has the great advantage of being a movie with subtle political overtones that appeal to conservatives, and others that appeal to liberals. Evidence that both ends of the political spectrum have embraced the story of a dystopian future where reality TV pits children against each other in a competition to the death, in fact, is all over the Internet.
Occupy-Wall-Street liberals are loving the way the film portrays an extraordinary gap between the rich and poor as simply an innate evil. It's a black-and-white view in which there’s no allowance that the rich might have earned their wealth -- they're portrayed simply as lazy and overly indulged oppressors. The poor are shown as the industrious ones.
The left is also gravitating to a global-warming theme that technically isn’t even in the film. They’re just assuming that destructive activity by humans created a catastrophic change in climate that destroyed North America and gave rise to Panem, the fictional country where Hunger Games is set.
It’s not a stretch to glean such a message, either, since Suzanne Collins, the author of the book and an executive producer on the film indicated as much in an interview with the New York Times.
"It’s crucial that young readers are considering scenarios about humanity's future, because the challenges are about to land in their laps," Collins said. "I hope they question how elements of the books might be relevant to their own lives. 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?”
This quote from Collins is even included in the production notes that Lionsgate has distributed to film reviewers, indicating that marketers aren’t shy about broaching the touchy topic of partisan politics. In the case of global warming, polls have indicated that roughly 85 percent of Democrats view it as a major, manmade problem while only 15 percent of Republicans agree.
Joe Romm at ThinkProgress.org (one of the liberal groups trying to get Rush Limbaugh booted off the air), seized on both themes that Collins touches on in the production notes.
"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," he wrote. "The Hunger Games makes that challenge a literal and hyper-violent one."
Liberal feminists are also thrilled that the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is every bit as physically lethal as her male counterparts – actually, more so.
There’s plenty in Hunger Games for right-wingers, too. The most obvious message being that government overreach can lead to tyranny.
Conservative film reviewer Christian Toto begins his online review on Breitbart.com like so: "The Hunger Games is infinitely better than any of the Twilight films. Let’s take a deep breath and say, 'Thank you.'"
Then he delves into the political messages.
"The fact that the film targets an all-powerful government enslaving its citizens gives it even extra heft for right-of-center audiences," he writes.
Part of the movie’s mission, Toto writes, is “not to whack us with an ideological cudgel. In The Hunger Games, story comes first, even if it’s hard not to notice a nanny state which thinks its citizens should bow down and thank them for their very survival.”
Writing for the Frederick Douglass Foundation, Mack Rights argues that there’s not only a powerful conservative message in Hunger Games but a Christian one, as well, since the story takes place after "liberals have succeeded in erasing God and Christ from the culture completely by successfully creating their own utopia – which is really a dystopian nightmare for anyone not in the liberal ruling class."
And writing for Forbes, self-described Libertarian John Tamny says, “On its face, the book reveals the oppressive cruelty that is big government,” then he attempts to dismantle what the left believes about food shortages and overpopulation. “While the global political class and their enablers in the media to this day try to explain away droughts and the resulting famines from an 'Act of God' point of view, the simple truth is that economically free countries don’t suffer them.”