Philosophy through Film sidebar: The Hunger Games

I’m taking a class this semester called Philosophy through Film, and one of the assignments is to write a journal entry for each movie we watch.  My previous entries are on Being John MalkovichEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,  MementoPulp FictionOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestGroundhog Day,  Crimes and Misdemeanors, and the Matrix. The Hunger Games is not a part of my Philosophy through Film curriculum, but I think it has a lot of philosophically resonant themes, especially re: politics.

My post about Uganda and the Sudan is being delayed until tomorrow, because my mind is slightly buzzing with a different idea and I've put it off till 11:30 trying to switch gears, to no avail.

I wasn't assigned the Hunger Games for my Philosophy through Film class, but I wanted to talk a little bit about it -- specifically, about the two ways I can see interpreting the relationship between the Capitol and the Districts, and the society I live in today -- lower middle class in early 21st century America.

We Are The Capitol

In a recent HanksChannel video (embed below) called The Metaphorical Implications, he argues that modern American society is, to a lesser extent, more like the Capitol than the Districts.  Especially when considering District 12, this is definitely a solid case.  As he said, Katniss Everdeen is not the sort of person with high speed internet.

We Are the Inner Districts

Personally, though, I prefer a slightly variant view.  I think it's not quite dead-on to say that the United States is a proxy for the capitol.  I think it makes more sense to say the 1% -- or, if not the 1%, the Charming Aristocracy -- are the capitol, while middle and lower class America, the 99%, are the inner districts.

We've got a lot more luxury.  We build the more important technologies, and we've got much better odds of winning a lifetime of riches and rewards, if we're "careers," by pursuing the modern American dream of some extraordinary achievement of public notoriety that pays off the rest of your life, the way a lot of us imagine actors and musicians have it.

More directly, games like Survivor provide an opportunity for a collection of 99%ers to compete with each other in an environment for which they are ill-suited, for a chance at a massive reward.  I think it's resonant that the second book makes the point that [SPOILER FOR THE SECOND BOOK] many of the victors are used literally as prostitutes in order to maintain their blessed status.

Obviously, as Hank points out, the allegorical Capitol is not as bad as the one in the book, and I don't think we in America, for the most part, have it as bad as even the innermost districts.


I don't think one of these views is right, and the other is wrong.  I think that looking at them both provides us (especially relatively poor Americans, but relatively rich world citizens) a lot of opportunity for refining our sense of where we fit in among the people of the world, and whether the way we fit in is fair -- and provides some pretty clear answers of the sorts of things we should be less okay with, and whose side we should be on when it comes down to seeking change.