In The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross, we are introduced to a dystopian culture that glorifies violence. The movie is focused on a 16 year old girl, Katniss Everdeen, forced to compete in an annual competition known as the Hunger Games. This event is a fight to the death, in which only one tribute is allowed to survive. The worst part? The competitors are between the ages of 12 and 18. Children killing other children is a source of entertainment for the country, Panem’s, Capitol citizens.
This desensitization to violence of the Capitol’s is disgusting and unthinkable to every viewer. But, how far are we from achieving this same type of desensitization? If our culture doesn’t stop its current trajectory, we will be headed in much the same direction as the corrupt Capitol. In this adaptation of The Hunger Games novel, we get a good look at the Capitol’s rabid love of violence. When we come into the story, they are on the 74th annual Hunger Games. There is no confusion as to how the games work. Every citizen knows that 23 children are about to die.
However, while in Panem’s 12 districts this is cause for horror and sorrow, it is a cause for celebration in the Capitol. 24 tributes are brought to the Capitol and are forced to take part in a tribute parade before the Games. The director uses several close up shots to show the excitement and crazed pleasure these Capitol citizens feel during this time. They love the Games, they can’t see how disgusting their behavior truly is. Even the music used in the scene is dramatic and intense, strengthening the feeling that this is something entertaining, not horrifying.
The night before the Games begin, Katniss and her district partner, Peeta Mellark are sitting in their quarters talking. Towards the beginning of their conversation, Katniss hears the crowds of Capitol citizens below, cheering and screaming in anticipation of the soon to begin Games. “Listen to them! ? (61), she exclaims in disgust and distress. She, and the movie audience along with her, cannot believe the excitement they have for the deadly Games. However, do we not do essentially the same thing in shows such as Survivor?
Granted the players in that game do not face death, but they are facing terrible circumstances that strenuously test their endurance level, possibly causing them to have mental health issues later in life, and we pick favorites and cheer them on. As Katniss’s friend Gale Hawthorne states early in the movie about the Hunger Games, ” you root for your favorites, you cry when they get killed, it’s sick ?
Is how we handle similar circumstances really much different than in Panem? In the movie, while the tributes are training for the Games, there is a moment when the youngest tribute, 12 year old Rue, is shown watching the film’s protagonist Katniss and Peeta. Immediately after our glimpse of Rue, we see an odds board, showing that the odds of Rue winning are 60-1. There are betting booths set up all around the cafA© this scene takes place in. The capitol’s citizens have wasted no time in throwing their money to the strongest contenders for the victor’s crown. In the middle of this cafA©, sits Katniss and Peeta’s mentor Haymitch who is watching a small family.
The parents in this family have just given their son a gift of a shiny, plastic sword. In our culture, this seems a harmless gift. He can’t do any damage with the sword. He pretends to chase after his sister, then stab his mother. All the while the family is laughing and Haymitch sits glaring at them. In most circumstances, we would think nothing of giving a young child a fake sword. But in this dystopian future, it’s not a gift to celebrate something the child has done or to teach him to use the sword in combat, but to celebrate the entertaining Games that are about to begin.
Is our society very far from this imagined world? We let our children play with potentially dangerous toys and call them just that. Toys. A toy sword or gun. We teach them that they are things to play with, lessening the terribly dangerous quality that should be emphasized. Even worse than this is the video game culture that is taking prominence in our everyday lives. So many games are completely willing to show excessive amounts of violence and gore. One video game, called Manhunt 2, was actually banned by several companies for its depiction of gore.
What kind of message are we sending our children? Very young kids, not just preteens but all the way through 18 year olds, are being exposed to gratuitous amounts of violence and it’s despicable. And as if these things aren’t enough, we glorify violence even through our television shows. We think nothing of men and women getting shot or dying or even becoming a zombie and literally eating other people. We let children watch shows where these things happen. Tell them not to be afraid or not to imitate some of the more violent displays.
But it’s not just “bad guys ? who are showing our children these types of violence. A good guy is just as likely to shoot a man, though possibly for more “heroic ? reasons than the criminal. How can you tell a child not to imitate their Hollywood hero and truly expect them to listen? In The Hunger Games, we see a dystopian future that is despicable to us. A government that makes children kill each other because “they just want a good show ?
As a culture, we cannot imagine the excitement the Capitol’s citizens feel in this movie. However, they are hardly more desensitized to violence than we are. We watch violence on television as though it’s nothing. It’s not real to us. But, our children go out, having seen the television and video game horrors, and begin experimenting. If their heroes can justify their actions, then so can they. Of course, we still are horrified when these things happen today, in our country, to our own people. But is it really so difficult to imagine a situation where we weren’t?
Killing our enemies from a particularly bad war. Televising it for the world to see. We feel no pain for them, their lost families. We truly believe they deserve their lot. In Panem, this is the way the Capitol thinks as well. The districts rebelled, they lost, now they are punished forevermore with the Hunger Games. We are only a few steps away from the type of desensitization that leads us to take more drastic measures of punishing our enemies. We need to stop ourselves soon, or it will be too late.