This week in my Hunger Games class, we had our first guest speakers. On Tuesday, the topic of discussion was Dystopia and on Wednesday, we discussed Reality TV.
I don’t know anyone that will argue that The Hunger Games is not a dystopia, but what makes it so? On Tuesday, we discussed 8 aspects of a dystopia and how those aspects relate to The Hunger Games.
Dystopia is “a utopia with a fatal flaw.”-Robison Wells
In essence, a dystopia is a society that is created to be perfect for all the inhabitants but has something, sometimes more than one thing, that twists that perfection into something horrible. In the case of The Hunger Games, Panem has the possibility for all people to live happily. There’s enough food, there are jobs for everyone, and there’s plenty of technology to keep people healthy. However, the resources aren’t spread evenly throughout the districts, people are controlled with whips and gallows, and the technology is used to host the Hunger Games every year, sending 24 children (48 on the second Quarter Quell) to die. This takes Reality TV, something many people in our society hold near and dear, and changes it into something terrible and dystopian.
Stability is valued at all costs.
President Snow’s goal throughout the first two books is to keep the chance of rebellion down or to stop the rebellion. He wants to keep the country stable and moving smoothly, whether that means sending children to The Hunger Games, shooting the occasional rebellious citizen, threatening the victor’s families and selling their bodies, or any number of terrible things. Nothing that happens to anyone is as important as keeping Panem under the same stable system that it has been for 75 years. However, it’s The Hunger Games, the very thing used as the main weapon in controlling the districts, that ultimately leads to the destruction of the country.
Whose interests are being served?
In dystopias, the interests served are always those in powerful or privileged positions. For instance, most Capitol people live their lives in bliss, with enough food and concerns that might only be which party to attend or how to do their hair. People in the wealthier districts, such as 1 and 2, have enough to eat and relatively easy lives. The rest of the districts and anyone that might not be entirely for the Capitol, such as the victors, are a threat and therefore, their interests are not being served, which is why Finnick’s body is sold by Snow and many districts don’t have enough food.
They reflect societal problems or tendencies.
Dystopias reflect the concerns of the present whether they’re set in the past or future. For instance, 1984 worried about government surveillance, as do many dystopian books and movies, and Brave New World worried about increasing technological advancements eventually making everything, including reproduction, part of any assembly line.
Dystopian themes in the 21st-century.
The Hunger Games reflects societal problems and tendencies in today’s world, those being:
- The gap between the have and have-nots. The difference between the lives of those in District 12 and those in the Capitol reflect these concerns.
- Environmental destruction. Panem is created as a result of the environment breaking down, with sea levels rising and changes in climate.
- Technology and surveillance. The ability of the Capitol to see almost anything they want to see outside the arena, and to see absolutely everything in the arena, reflect the growing concern of surveillance. The mutts and weapons created reflect the concern about technology.
Control of information.
The Capitol controls the information that gets sent to everyone in Panem, allowing them to twist stories how they wish and keep certain things, such as the initial uprising in District 8, from the rest of the country. That’s why in Mockingjay, one of Beetee’s jobs is to take control of the airwaves in order to show clips created by the rebels, showing Panem that the Capitol doesn’t have complete control and others are taking some power.
Control taken by fear.
This is done in Mockingjay by using Peeta to declare the threat of human extinction as a result of the rebellion, which is why is should stop. It’s done in Catching Fire by putting gallows and a whipping post back in use in District 12 and sending the victors, the strongest of them all, back into the arena. It’s done in The Hunger Games by continuing the tradition of putting children in the arena to fight to the death and controlling everything they can have access to, from food and water to medicine and safety.
Reality TV within the Dystopia.
The Hunger Games as a show within Panem causes the dystopia created to be perpetuated. It teaches districts that they’re supposed to dislike each other due to their children killing each other every year. It gives general opinions of each district, leading Katniss to believe the careers are just mindless killing machines while knowing little about the other districts, and makes everyone extremely surprised when District 12, who hasn’t had a victor in over twenty years, manages to have two.
It also takes that murder of children and changes it into something that’s meant to be celebrated until it can happen again. The tributes are dressed up and interviewed, given a persona that may or may not match their personality. The victors are cleaned up and dressed up again in order to give another interview and watch a recap of the games. Six months later, they have to go on a victory tour, and then they need to come back to mentor for the next Hunger Games. Throughout that time, their lives are followed if they’re interesting, leading to everyone being interested in Katniss and Peeta’s marriage.
It’s a world in which the best entertainment involves death, so why would anyone in the Capitol care if people are starving in the Districts, even if they knew? The rebels from the Capitol are few and far between, so it’s clear that many of them don’t care.