The Right strikes back! A philosopher reviews the Hunger Games films

Summary: Many modern films have CGI action obscuring the deeper issues they raise. So we turn to a philosopher, Kelley Ross, for this series of film reviews. Here he reviews The Hunger Games, showing its role in the ideological battles of our time. At the end are other reviews of these films.

“Books such as The Giver, Divergent and the Hunger Games trilogy are, whether intentionally or not, substantial attacks on many of the foundational projects and aims of the left: big government, the welfare state, progress, social planning and equality. They support one of the key ideologies that the left has been battling against for a century: the idea that human nature, rather than nurture, determines how we act and live. These books propose a laissez-faire existence, with heroic individuals who are guided by the innate forces of human nature against evil social planners.”

— “{Young Adult} dystopias teach children to submit to the free market, not fight authority” by Ewan Morrison in The Guardian — “The Hunger Games, The Giver and Divergent all depict rebellions against the state, and promote a tacit right-wing libertarianism.”

The Hunger Games
Available at Amazon.

 

Review of “The Hunger Games”

Staring Jennifer Lawrence.
Directed by Gary Ross.
Written by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins .
Released in 2012.

Review by Kelley L. Ross,
Posted at Friesian.

Re-posted with his generous permission.

 

The Hunger Games is a series of books and now movies that began with a 2008 novel by Suzanne Collins. It is set in a fictional and perhaps post-apocalyptic version of North America in which a malevolent “Capitol” has enslaved 12 subordinate “Districts” to supply its excessive desires for luxury and entertainment. As with the sacrifices to the Minotaur, every year each District sends a boy and a girl to the “Hunger Games,” where they hunt and kill each other until only one is left. This is supposed to engender pride in each District as its representatives fight for their lives, but it really is a way of punishing and humiliating the Districts after they lost an earlier rebellion against the Capitol.

Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movies) is a young woman from the mining town of District 12. As the story begins, she volunteers to replace her younger sister as the offering to the Hunger Games. She survives the Games, with her friend, Peeta Mellark, but in a way that angers the government of the Capitol, especially President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland), who plots to force them back into the Games in the second book (Catching Fire), so that they can be killed, but from which she is actually rescued by the forces of the rebellion that has been organized from the secret and hidden District 13.

In the third book, Mockingjay, the rebellion succeeds, the Capitol is overthrown, and Katniss is actually given the privilege of personally executing President Snow with her trademark bow. However, Katniss has come to believe that Alma Coin (played by Julianne Moore), President of District 13 and leader of the rebellion, has been using her for 13’s own purposes and has actually arranged the death of her sister in the final battle for the Capitol. Katniss shoots and kills Coin instead of Snow.

Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence, playing herself.

This extraordinary turn of the story is bound to be disturbing to many at the time of an increasingly unpopular American President, whose values and policies have deeply wounded the Nation — and whose ideology exalts and privileges the Washington elite exactly as with the Capitol of the story. While there was a movie made in 2006, Death of a President, about the imagined (and doubtlessly wished for) assassination of George W. Bush in 2007, the Democrats of the Ruling Class in the press, academia, and politics thought of this as little more than good fun. Of course right thinking persons want a Republican war mongering, Big Oil lackey President killed!

Now, however, when many would like to make the mere criticism of Barack Obama a political crime (it’s all racism!), the very idea that a faithless President might be assassinated would probably move the Ruling Class to call for mass arrests. I seriously wonder if the producers of the fourth movie of The Hunger Games, due out in 2015, will actually allow audiences to see Katniss kill her own President. They might worry it would give someone the wrong idea.

Since Katniss was a War hero, built up and sanctified by President Coin herself, it was not clear what was to be done with her after the assassination. Before long, she goes home, there to face the other difficulties in her life. Suzanne Collins herself is from a military family, and she portrays Katniss as suffering from a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is stunned by her experiences, shattered that her sister, for whom she did everything, was killed anyway, and left with very little will to live.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Josh Hutcherson playing Beta Orbiter. It’s a fantasy, so he gets the girl.

She is also deeply conflicted about the men in her life. Her true love at the beginning of the books, hunting companion Gale Hawthorne, is someone she has drifted away from. While she really doesn’t love Peeta Mellark in the same way, she feels obligated to him and bound to him, both because of their shared experiences and because he was not rescued at the end of book two, as was Katniss, but was tortured, brain-washed, and deeply damaged psychologically by the Capitol.

They allowed him to be rescued in the third book because he had been conditioned to assassinate Katniss, which he almost did. Pulling him out of this terrible state took a great deal of time; and in the end his own love for Katniss slowly prevailed, not just against her original preferences, but in the face of her own passivity, depression, and reluctance to get on with life. This is not exactly a happy ending, and the realism of Katniss’s difficulties adds considerable depth to the story.

Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence in red.

Meanwhile, we cannot help but notice that the Ruling Class in and around Washington, D.C. operates much like the arrogant, vicious, and privileged class in the Capitol city of The Hunger Games. Curiously, this comparison sometimes escapes people closely associated with the movie. In an interview at the time of the release of the first movie, Donald Sutherland commented that the story was very topical because of the recent Occupy Wall Street protests. Of course, the communists, anarchists, and lunatics of Occupy Wall Street were not protesting the Capitol and its minions, but private business and finance. Mr. Sutherland, despite being a fine, attractive, and engaging actor, nevertheless did not seem to be aware of that difference.

I wonder if he had even read the books at that point and knew that, as President Snow, he was himself going to be killed as the result of the rebellion and the overthrow of the Capitol (killed in the confusion after Katniss kills the other President). He does not get to play a good guy, and the evil of his character does not consist in his being a businessman or financier. There is no Wall Street evident in the books or movies; and the economy of the country, such as it is, is run by the State entirely for the benefit of the Capitol. This is itself the Statism desired by Occupy Wall Street and the Ruling Class both.

How Donald Sutherland could get all of this backwards is remarkable, but it seems to have become characteristic of the delusion and self-deception of the Left. When you just tell lies all the time, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz [], you may actually start to believe them. The Hunger Games is thus a curious phenomenon. The enemy is centralized Government, as many Americans have come to believe of our own country, and yet the Ruling Class partisans of such government would rather not see or understand that this is precisely the message of the books.

The other three Hunger Games films.

Catching Fire poster
Available at Amazon.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part 1
Available at Amazon.
Mockingjay, part 2
Available at Amazon.

Kelley L. Rross

.
About the author

Dr. Kelley Ross retired in 2009 after 22 years as an instructor at the Department of Philosophy of Los Angeles Valley College. See his LinkedIn profile. He joined the Libertarian Party in 1992 and has run several times for the California State Assembly and Congress.

Heis the editor of The Proceedings of the Friesian School website, which has a wide range of fascinating material about philosophy, literature, film, and art.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  See all film reviews, all posts about our history, and especially these other posts about The Hunger Games…

  1. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” asks if you want a Revolution, 27 July 2014
  2. An insightful review of “Catching Fire” (if only our spirits were so ignitable), 2 November 2014
  3. How does The Hunger Games compare to other classic stories of children fighting children?, 19 November 2014
  4. “Mockingjay” shows us a path to reform for America. A great movie, but bad advice.
  5. “Mockingjay” shows us a Revolution in Gender Roles. What’s the next revolution?

The Hunger Games books

The Hunger Games
Available at Amazon.
Catching Fire
Available at Amazon.
Mockingjay
Available at Amazon.
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7 thoughts on “The Right strikes back! A philosopher reviews the Hunger Games films

  1. I wrote about these films in my own blog, some time ago, my views haven’t changed.

    The whole thrust of this set of books/films is an old, old story of downtrodden masses finding their strength, inspired by some heroic figure or event. I haven’t read the books, but from the first two movies there is a clear intention to satirize 21st century life in the USA: our current way of life, feelings of disenfranchisement, analgesics such as reality TV, sports-madness, a tiny minority of the population holding all the wealth and all power over a majority kept in check by hunger and fear.

    One oddity I noticed in scanning a couple of comment threads following reviews of the movies: some right wingers seemed to think (as the person quoted in your post) that the film is highlighting how bad life can be under a centralised state power; while lefties (including me) saw it more as condemnation of what happens when 1% of the population holds the wealth of a vast nation, has bought the nation’s powers of government for itself, and is drunk on its own (assumed) unassailability.

    My take-away catchphrase from the “Catching Fire” movie was a line spoken by Haymitch. It’d be wise for all of us in the 21st century to keep it in mind too:

    “Always remember who the real enemy is.”

    It is not Left vs. Right anymore, it really is (and always has been)Top vs. Bottom

    Like

    1. Annie,

      Thanks for the meta-review! Please post a link to your review.

      Your summary is the same as mine about US politics. The goal of the 1% is too keep us divided, and hence weak. That is the lesson of campaign 2016. The hatred between populists and progressives is the 1%’s great asset, since only allied — as during the New Deal — can they win.

      Like

  2. It is an effective method to keep possible competitors down, enforce groupthink, and infuse a sense of righteous superiority among puppets and fellow travelers in academia, think tanks, foundations, NGOs, environmental groups, labour unions, and quasi-violent activist groups such as BLM.

    It is certainly not the left vs. the right. Rather it is the left vs. everyone else, with the left being used as mindless cannon fodder and thug enforcers by the 1% elites.

    Like

    1. I instinctively distrust — indeed despise — virtually all collectives for their inherent corruption and hypocrisy. The left simply happens to be in ascendancy within most such collectives-of-mass-manipulation at this time.

      Like

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