Savage Spectators, Killing Machines, and Other Atrocities

“What did you think of the movie?” my roommates asked as we rode the subway home from seeing The Hunger Games. “I thought it was very dark. I’ll probably blog about it,” I answered.

I had not read the books, but from my roommates, I knew that the story involved children fighting and that the cast included a couple of African-Americans. After seeing the movie, I do not think I will read the books, but I may watch the sequels. My problem is that I am aware of too much history to experience this movie as fantasy.

From the premise alone, I am repulsed by the couple of millennia in which some people, sometimes thousands of people, have chosen, supported, or allowed as entertainment the slaughtering of humans by humans–or of any creature by any other creature. The Reapers’ response to the riots in District 11 hit home: I grew up in a city whose police shooting water at demonstrators during the civil rights movement. The students from District 1 brought to mind the children from Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have been turned into killing machines.

Besides being aware of some recent and ancient forms of brutality, I have also read the fine print in the few episodes of reality TV I have watched: the producers control everything. In the context of The Hunger Games, the producers direct engineers and visual artists to use their imaginations to almost instantaneously create moving three-dimensional matter (with some present-day visual effects reminiscent of Iron Man 2, Avatar, and Minority Report). The result, however, is not merely a heightening of suspense or competitiveness, but wounding and killing people. In the real world, the producers’ motives are usually to increase profits from advertising, but from this movie, the only objective I could decipher was the perpetuation of the psychological oppression of masses of people.

The residents of the districts are not the only ones abused by the producers’ power, however. The spectators are made somewhat oblivious to their role as victimizers by the propagating of the annual blood sport as a symbol of patriotism, complete with pageantry and broadcast coverage. (spoiler alert) The producers also lull the audience with a romantic fairy tale of two winners rather than awakening the scrutiny of a double-suicide and no winner. (end spoiler alert) Perhaps the viewers’ lack of thought causes their less-than-human behavior. I am thankful that my roommates respected my need for time to reflect on the movie before fully responding to their question.

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