TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Hunger Games a Worthy Addition to Dystopian Corpus

In The Hunger Games, tyrannical rulers of a future dystopia force children to fight to the death in an annual tournament as a means to suppress and control the population.

Given the story’s gruesome subject matter, what explains the popularity of Suzanne Collins’s book and the new film based on it? In spite of the brutality of the ruling regime, the main characters strive to maintain some semblance of a human existence and stoke a righteous anger against those perpetrating the horrible injustices.

This defiant attitude is perhaps best expressed by Peeta Mellark, one of the children forced to participate in the bloody spectacle. He tells Katniss Everdeen, another participant from Peeta’s district, “[W]hen the time comes, I’m sure I’ll kill just like everybody else. I can’t go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to . . . to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.”

Katniss stages her own quiet rebellion in forming a vital friendship with Rue, another participant in the tournament, and later publicly paying tribute to Rue. It is an intensely moving scene in both the book and the film.

Although Collins’s story offers admirable and courageous central characters, it does not offer a convincing explanation for how the oppressive regime arose or remains in power. Collins shows that the dictatorial government tyrannizes the various districts, forcing most people to work for the benefit of a wealthy and technologically advanced ruling city; and she shows how the tyrants manipulate the population through brutal “reality television” style broadcasts of the yearly carnage. But she does not show how the oppressive regime seized power in the first place, or how it maintains power even though most people despise the authorities, or why the populace has for more than seventy years offered up their children for ritualistic slaughter rather than rebel en masse.

Although Collins’s novel does not offer the philosophic depth of certain other dystopian works (including, most notably, Ayn Rand’s Anthem), it does skillfully portray believable and heroic characters trying to live and defy their oppressors. For that reason, The Hunger Games is a worthy addition to the corpus of dystopian works.

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Image: Wikipedia

Posted in: The Arts

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Mark Stouffer

    I really liked the movie. It takes a bold swipe at a authoritarian regimes. It imagines a future where individuals try to establish their own right to life under a powerful and technologically advanced government that constantly asserts its claim on each person’s life.

  • Anonymous

    There seems to be a similarity between “The Hunger Games” and the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed the movie, despite the inexplainable reversal of a rule change at the end. It was an unimaginative, lazy excuse to give us a sense of justice when the director of the games is punished for this stupid act. I was thinking that Ayn did not make such mistakes in her works. Also, I am reminded that if I wanted to make a movie of a Rand work I would start with the easiest, simplest one: Anthem. It would be a good stepping stone to achieve a difficult task: making a movie that does Rand justice, something that the A.S., part 1 did not do. The greatest book ever written deserved better. 

  • Laurie Perry

    I enjoyed the movie, but I LOVED the book. It’s exciting to see so many younger people discovering the wonders of dystopian lit. I wouldn’t rank HG as among the 13 “best” dystopian novels:

    It’s too early to have perspective, for me. But I AM really looking forward to the other two movies.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if she copied that from the japanese movie Battle Royale.