By Sherry Shine
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’ 1 st book of her bestseller trilogy for young adults, turned to movie, has several political and social themes worth thinking somewhat “deeply” about (for “all” adults).
[Note: This is not a typical movie review describing the plot, characters, and themes, as well as ‘celebritizing’ each actor by naming every other movie appeared in, etc.; and yet, have very “little” to say about how the movie might relate to real life. Plenty of regular reviews have already been written—whereas this critique assumes you already are familiar with the story. Herein we visit a few major “themes” as related to real social and political issues in the life of the audience as connected to the drama of human history.]
We will refer to an American writer, namely Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning author of several important books, to help contextual this movie. We start with a few comments from a three page essay he wrote a few years ago entitled “ America’s Illiterate” (which can be found on the Internet). It starts out:
We live in two Americas. One…the minority…can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. [Whereas] The …majority… exists in a non-reality-based belief system… Dependent on skillfully manipulated images… It cannot differentiate between lies and truth.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her tribe of Appalachian, woodsy, peasants from some working-class mining district (know as District 12), live in a futuristic, post-American, tyrannical country, called Panem (kind of like Pan American Airlines). This post-empire too is divided into two classes of people. One class resides in the outlier twelve districts for the masses (hoi polloi) as the servitude forced to cater to the second class of wealthy aristocracy as the powerful (say the 1%), who reside separately in a grandiose and luxurious Capital city (like a hyped-up D.C. Beltway).
We quickly notice some of the film’s costumes are deliberately reminiscent of King Louis XVI’ “ancien regime” social and political system, that is powdered and bewigged courtiers of France during the French Revolution. There too a large peasantry went hungry while the small elite pork-barreled and partied.
Hunger Games, as TV entertainment, held in the capital each year pits one young male and female teenager from each of the 12 district to fight to the death all the other children—that is “23” dead loosers and “1” winner. So this movie basically glorifies kids killing other kids as brutal reality show. And the matches are not even paired as fair fights because kids as young as 12 years old, and girls too, randomly go against older teenagers and boys as old as 18 (somewhat a contrivance to pity.)
But then as we learn quickly in real life it is not fair either. For example we are supposed to learn to pity poor, under-represented, billionaires crying about the socialist masses stealing and re-distributing some of their private property and ruining their liberties. (Don’t you just know all that wealth-accumulations was carried out legally and ethically? How dare the poor complain about corporate communism?)
One dominant theme in this film is unequivocally the same “bread and circus” of historical Rome’s strategy to distract its masses of citizenry by providing free grain to the poor in time of need (so they didn’t riot) and plenty of gladiator and chariot entertainment (to preoccupy their time so they were less inclined to learn too much about the corruption of their leaders).
A few historians of Rome have argued the so-called “republic” was so corrupt—such as their Senate—that it was necessary for Julius Caesar to dismantle their pretense of representation for the masses. But probably they did not get more anyway.
Because Rome was an aggressive, warrior state, which colonized neighboring countries, its culture inured its own people to the idea of killing human life—as entertainment—with extravagant orgies of bloody and brutal slaughter—even animals against humans. Herein Hunger Games most clearly follows this same strategy—but more for the motive of “punishment” of past district rebellion, and to keep those masses in their place through intimidation (and some modicum distractive hope but not too much).
Yet, surprisingly, few reviews on the Internet, that I read (about eight or so from the 1 st listings after googling “hunger games movie review”, discussed much these obvious historical references to either revolutionary France or ancient Rome? How could this be so when the movie made it so obvious? Some of its characters had names distinctly Roman: Cinna, Caesar, Cato, etc. Is there something wrong with our mainstream media and Internet writers to not have connected the dots? Hell, this movie even had horse-drawn chariots running down the equivalent of a Coliseum? (This is to say merely mentioning the word ‘gladiators’ or ‘Coliseum’ hardly constitutes critical awareness on the part of the lame-stream and seems very superficial. Perhaps too many regular movie reviewers are illiterate in respect to history?
The only exception noted was a review by Mike Adams at NaturalNew.com (who definitely connected dots in a great and elaborate analysis that is worth reading).
Importantly is what was not being said. For example, in this futuristic world of high technology the servile masses do not seem to have access to too much information or opinion. There are no scenes of people using any kind of Internet, cell phone, or reading from books and various literatures. They only had access to the State’s big screen projection of its version of TV straight from Central control.
Yet the entire country, districts as well as Capitalists, were “zoned” into their controlled media. Well then there was much to being amused and distracted. Whereas the chosen 24 children, picked by lottery, were for a short while treated like “celebrities” as they were forced to move to the Capital to train, similar to gladiators; so as to eventually fight to the death, after their brief stint as cultural heroes.
These children, turned icons with distinct talents and vulnerabilities, were also interviewed on the equivalent of TV night talk shows like Leno and Letterman, as a smarmily and yet charming talk host called Caesar (Stanley Tucci) made light giddy of their talents and entertainment value.
The impression you readily got of the privileged in this society, as entertained audience, is they are shallow, naïve, and culturally satisfied with their materialist needs met and concomitant corresponding attitudinal presumptions. Like many of us here in the U.S. they too are easily preoccupied with things like designer fashion clothing, being with the “right” people and at the “right” places, and whatever is held up as worthy of an “aristocrat’s” desire. (Whereas our growing homeless population today lives on the other side of town where there is no money to spend on weekend binges and ticket priced audience entertainment.)
Chris Hedges wrote a book called: The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle ©2009. Here are a few quotes:
The moral nihilism of celebrity culture is played out on reality television shows, most of which encourage a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness, and betrayal.
Life, these shows teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition. Life is about the personal humiliation of those who oppose us. Those who win are the best. Those who lose deserve to be erased.
Compassion, competence, intelligence, and solidarity with others are forms of weakness. And those who do not achieve celebrity status, who do not win the prize money or make millions in Wall Street firms, deserve to lose.
If Hunger Games were compared to our own culture today, a nation that is inured to expecting an ecologically ruinous lifestyle such as excessive packaging—such as in every “one” ounce of ketchup provided in its own petroleum-based packet at most fast food joints (not to mention Styrofoam cups and half ounce coffee creamer packaging for our throw away society) we might suspect we were looking into a mirror?
In another words here in the United States, at least on historical terms, even the middle class has become rich to a point of being spoiled—or at least presumptuous. A glass full of crude oil is used to make the plastic found in one disposable diaper that is used for a couple of hours and then could take 400 years to decompose in a waste dump—just like the millions and millions of rubber tires we discard each year to equally take hundreds of years to decompose. And yet the majority here too previously assumed they could “afford” the “luxury” of their ignorance. Again referring back to Chris Hedges’ previously mentioned essay as he goes on to say:
It [the other America] is informed by simplistic, childish, narratives and clichés. … American political campaigns…eschew real ideas for a policy of cheap slogans and reassuring personal narratives. Political propaganda now masquerades as ideology… [and] do not require cognitive or self-critical skills. … Political leaders in our post-literate society no longer need to be competent, sincere or honest…they only need to appear to have these qualities…
And yet the problem is not so much some 1%, thought of as the powerful, who vociferously support the creation and drone of so much misinformation and corruption, because plenty of our middle class and lower class, actually “do” have access to enormous amounts of opinion, fact, as well as demagoguery and disinformation—but choose not to discover ideas—and rather choose to remain in their current states of ignorance, complacence and willingness to suck up sound-bite sloganeering.
Hunger Games is an ultimate example of how well a State’s apparatus can spy on its own people with all form of electronic state-of-the-art gadgetry. And yet we could be better off reading the likes of James Bam ford’s recent articles at Wired Magazine (or Wired.com) in respect to the NSA’s current agenda of spying on Americans (and future plans—see “The NSA Is Building the Countries Biggest Spy Center” and other related articles).
Criminals in penitentiaries expect their mail to be opened and read, their phone calls to be monitored, and their freedoms, such as to associate with others, to be sharply curtailed. They supposedly lost their liberties as free citizens due to their violations of our laws and prosecution (assumed to be fair). Yet what about electronic surveillance for the rest of us? If your library files can be accessed, as part of the Patriot Act, do you really feel as free to check out any book you want—such as titles about Police States—or librarians as willing to order them for your choice? Do you talk as freely on your phone? Do you as readily get on websites that may print conspiracy theories or erotic sensation? The fact is most peoples’ freedoms to associate and assemble have already been curtailed due to intimidation.
And you can’t exactly just riot because it would be very difficult to beat our over-bloated government’s might as ability to use coercive force—that is a government that has specialized in propping up dictators around the world and knows tricks of repression.
The only likely way for change is awareness as in legal, political, maneuvering—but this requires more people shut off their TVs and stop indulging the lame-stream, Murdockian, media shift to STYLE AND SOCIETY GOSSIP sections or side issues of distraction, or even their willingness to promote distorted news as propaganda and deliberately censor what Central demands.
Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) plays an alcoholic who needs about six ounces of straight liquor for his morning hair-of-the-dog. He obviously has need for sedation. He is the coach to Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), district 12’s tributes as sacrificial competition with the task of murdering others. Haymitch tells his clients straight out they don’t stand a chance coming out alive so he seems to be a bit of jerk being so cynically blunt.
Quite frankly none of us have much of a chance coming out alive here in real life given all the issues we face. For example, in our current, political world reality it is not two people out of hundreds who are going to be sacrificed—rather it is dozens, or far more, per home town who will be marched into various undeclared wars and /or World War III for the gain of Military Industrial Complex investors (merchants of death) and political notions that have very little to do with justice (such as comparing how Benjamin Netanyahu recently said in a speech to AIPAC convention (according to Larry Derfner, Israeli journalist article David Grossman’s Warning The Nation April, 2 2012): “…never again will the Jewish people entrust their survival to any nation but their own”); whereas, we Americans are expected to die for a Zionist state—because our own leaders have sworn our blood to their Zionist cause (even though Israel does “not” separate Church from State and does not treat “all” people as equal irrespective of religious ethnicity, which technically happens to be our national values). Meanwhile both Tony Blair and George W. Bush have been reported to admit, in relative private, our invasion of the Iraq war was for Israel (as “official” news-media “reality” was based on patently, false propaganda.)
Re-publishing editor, Thomas West, recently reprinted Algernon Sidney’s 1698 tome as author of Discourses Concerning Government. West writes that Thomas Jefferson considered Algernon Sidney, along with John Locke, to be the “…two leading sources for the American understanding of political liberty and the rights of humanity…” but who “…fell from fashion since the nineteenth century”. Sidney argued specifically against Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarchy: A Defense of the Natural Power of the King Against the Unnatural Liberty of the People published in 1680.
It’s important to realize Abrahamic religions are forms of Patriarchy—that is psychological forms of authoritarianism—as far as authority goes. Hence the philosophy of Leo Strauss and the Neocons evolved to drastically change our government and continue to do so.
So psychologically speaking, you do “not” vote in a God up there in Heaven (and you can’t vote him out). If you don’t see eye-to-eye—too bad—as you will likely be ostracized. Equally there is no legal representation, as some civil liberty you might presume, at your judgment day death trial—such as a right to a lawyer or to know who are your accusers. You just might end up in the eternal terrorism of Hell on trumped up charges (which is what happened to Sidney as he was then killed).
Meanwhile the Old Testament really amounted to war propaganda is which this myth had then the local God called Yahweh supposedly tell Hebrews they could kill off the occupants of Canaan (because God said so and therefore it made it moral). That is supposedly when Moses led the people out of Egypt. And this is the idea of morality (as authority) we are expected to honor today as blind adherents to faith.
Do we have a right to question this form of brainwash (or any brainwash—even if we have literature to read)? Somehow the delusion in Israel is still one of saving the “people of eternity”. Yet truth be known all people currently living equally come from ancestries as long as any other people—even if they don’t have as much “recorded” myth as presumed culture. And equally “all” people living today are subject to annihilation and mortality (even the deluded).
Whereas, in The Hunger Games their Homeland Security of Panem has people terrorized, and entertained, by a supposedly Anglo-Saxon President Snow (Donald Sutherland) that somehow, even as fiction, seems unconvincing. Whereas our Homeland Security in the U.S. has the legal basis to become a tyranny—because special interests groups, such as the Neocon-artists—have been involved in creating this Leo Straussian Police State which currently will not allow for any presidential political candidate viability that does not put Israel’s interest above the interests of our own people. (And if you disagree or complain about this kind of manipulation you are called Anti-Semitic and accused of being insensitive to the Holocaust survivors and various persecution realities).
Still we Americans have a right to discriminate, in our thinking, so as to differentiate our support and our protection, of people from oppression and threat, as opposed to presumptuousness or blackmail demanding we support “one” particular Theocracy (but of course not Muslim Theocracies) even if that one claims to be a Democracy because “some” of its inhabitants are afforded equal rights).
Many Americans, as well as many American Jews, are tired of this sort of distorting of guilt manipulation and pitting our foreign policy of Christians and Jews against Muslims. We are “all” equal here in the United States—at least we claim to be.
It is little wonder why there was small reference drawn to Rome’s Imperial power from many movie reviewers. And yet this movie was hyped as some awesome blockbuster? (Well there we millions of books sold and read.)
Again referring to Chris Hedges:
The core values of our open society, the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgment and common sense indicate something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to understand historical facts, to separate truth form lies, to advocate for change and to acknowledge that there are other views, different ways of being, that are morally and socially acceptable, are dying.
These values were “also” once thought to be patriotic.
Algernon Sidney wrote is one of his Discoursed the following:
Is the corruption of man’s nature so little known, that such as have common sense should expect justice from those, who fear no punishment if they do injustice…
There must therefore be a right of proceeding judicially or extrajudicially against all persons who transgress the laws; or else those laws, and the societies that should subsist by them, cannot stand; and the ends for which governments are constituted, together with the governments themselves, must be overthrown. Extrajudicial proceedings by sedition, tumult, or war, must take place, when the persons concerned are of such power, that they cannot be brought under the judicial. They who deny this, deny all help against an usurping tyrant, …
If it be said that the word sedition implies that which is evil; I answer, that it ought not then to be applied to those who seek nothing but that which is just; and tho the ways of delivering an oppressed people from the violence of a wicked magistrate, who having armed a crew of lewd villains, and fatted them with the blood and confiscations of such as were most ready to oppose him, be extraordinary, the inward righteousness of the act doth fully justify the authors.
Americans frequently say, when the topic of the government spying on its own people, “Well I have nothing to hide…” (FOX News mentality so well ingrained on a easily misled people) is a tremendously naïve attitude to have, as it demonstrates little Realpolitik awareness of history, human nature, or political nature. There is little paranoia or skepticism based on the same naiveté that accepts the idea people ought give up one’s right to own guns (see YouTube video “ Innocents Betrayed: The True Story of Gun Control”).
Tabloid media, as FOX infotainment, is coming to play near you. Whereas Chris Hedges also correctly warned us:
Hannah Arendt warned marketization of culture leads to its degradation…Culture is being destroyed in order to yield entertainment.
Those who question, those who doubt, those who are critical, those who are able to confront reality and who grasp the hollowness of celebrity culture, are shunned and condemned for their pessimism.
Human beings become a commodity in a celebrity culture. They are objects, like consumer products. They have no intrinsic value. … Those who fail to meet the ideal are belittled and mocked. Friends and allies are to be used and betrayed during the climb to fame, power and wealth.
While one sixth of the world supposedly lives in slums, our Capital foreign policy engages in multiple covert, asymmetric wars; manipulating elections and civil wars abroad; sells military weapons to numerous contingencies; has engaged in torture and rendering prisoners to countries with human rights violations; drone bombs people and civilians; whereas our Soldiers urinate on Holy books, etc. There already is “pan” terrorism in the world—and part of it is due to the huge habit of America appetites for material comfort and cheap energy usage—and that is while that public remains either ignorant to as to how other people feel elsewhere, and as heavily recipients of manipulated news and attitude.
While almost nothing was stated in mainstream media (even print newspapers) that legitimate reports showed many tortured prisoners actually died as a result of their torture (see old story at ProjectCensored.org). Meanwhile mainstream news, such as Rupert Murdock’s FOX station talking heads argued endlessly as red-herring to whether water-boarding was even actual torture. Of course many naïve and gullible Americans swallowed bait, hook and leader.
When The People wanted Gulag Gitmo closed the media came up with arguments that said such prisoners (many included elderly and children) were “too” dangerous to have here in the United States—even though we have tons of maximum security facilities with the highest prisoner population in the world—some actually include very dangerous people. When the debated open trials and trials in New York then conspiracies about building a dangerous Mosque at ground zero and the underwear bomber appeared which smothered such notions. (You don’t secretly render prisoners abroad so they can be water-boarded?) But perhaps torture and excess prisons will seem immoral to a people now nurtured on the notion of a God with eternal damnation and torture in Hell? (Listen to this Internet radio interview: http://antiwar.com/radio/2012/05/03/the-other-scott-horton-23/ ).
Perhaps Haymitch, the counselor drunk, knows something we don’t—and that is how to drink—that is if we can’t quite deliriously laugh at it all like the unctuous talk show host Caesar, as he so easily projects a jaunty Miller Time crooning “It’s all good” his audience. Caesar could just as well be Caligula.
But then perhaps the American people will wake up, and Nemesis, as ancient Goddess of moral indignation, will have her revenge? She, as portrayed at times in chariot, came to task when the derangement of the natural equilibrium of things came to be. She is the Goddess of true proportion and hates transgressions that wantonly violate the true order of things.
Needless to say it was an interesting movie.
P.S. What obligation do lawyers and judges in this country have in trying to change what has been going on in the high levels of government/ corruption in this country? How about the logic found on this following webpage: