For the fourth consecutive week, America’s top movie depicts a government-controlled contest in which children kill children. The Hunger Games, based on the dystopian young adult novel by Suzanne Collins, recently broke the $500 million mark in worldwide box office receipts. Why?
What draws moviegoers into theaters is not easy to estimate. But it’s a fact that The Hunger Games appeals to more than the book’s young female demographic base; boys are showing up, too. So are adults. Such universal appeal suggests that audiences may, at least partially, identify with the film in some fundamental way.
Perhaps audiences see beyond the gruesome plot synopsis to embrace The Hunger Games as emblematic of today’s most pressing conflict: the individual versus the state.
It is possible. We are governed by the Obama administration, which incessantly, and all too successfully, seeks to dictate nearly every aspect of American life, including our most fundamental choices in cars, insurance, banks, food, energy and medicine. The movie’s themes seem sampled from the President’s ubiquitous campaign speeches and media appearances: the brotherhood of man—a moral duty to serve the state—the slogan that “we’re all in this together” as an excuse to sacrifice the one for the sake of the many.
There’s also another similarity of this work of art to life. In The Hunger Games, as in Washington, D.C., “the Capitol” is filled with pampered, power-drunk dilettantes.
The movie is set in a future dictatorship where for 74 years (ironically the same number of years Soviet Russia enslaved its starving citizens) the government forces a boy and a girl from 12 districts to fight one another until death on live television. It centers upon the main character’s reverence for life. When she volunteers to participate to save her sister’s life, yet refuses to submit to the regime, she inspires the nation—even a few government workers—to defy the Capitol.
Just by being herself, and by trying to beat the government at its own game, she sows the seeds of rebellion.
The Hunger Games is not explicitly for individual rights or any other political ideal; its power lies in a subtle grasp of what government control does to decent people. Americans subjected to—and forced to pay for—corruption in Congress, the GSA and the Secret Service, and besieged by the TSA and the IRS, may recognize in The Hunger Games a dark world that mirrors our own.
The heroine, Katniss, represents what decent people ought to do back. She knows it is wrong that her life is not her own, so she decides not exactly to play along. Her rebellion begins with a refusal to submit to the government control.
So, there may be a good reason why people are going to see The Hunger Games in record numbers. By drawing her bow, its protagonist aims to live on her terms. Watching the individual target the source of dictatorship – acceptance of the idea that one’s moral duty is service to the state – may resonate with people fed up with three years of being treated like a serf in Obama’s Big Government onslaught.
The Hunger Games is not a movie about kids killing kids. It is a movie about kids being forced by the state to kill kids—and what one child does about it—which makes it a strong warning against the notion of being ruled by the state. Whether that’s why moviegoers are seeing it, that’s why The Hunger Games satisfies. Its timing is perfect.