The Hunger Games novel was about survival and starvation and a corrupt central government…and a love triangle, of course. But while the book delved into all that serious commentary on the world that surrounds us, some movie critics squawked that the film didn’t have much social commentary at all. Maybe they were right, but maybe they weren’t looking closely enough.
Cinema is such a visual medium. Fights and tactics are portrayed so much better on the silver screen than in books, so that’s only natural.
Science fiction may be the best genre for making social commentary. Scifi stories take us out of the topical news and partisan politics of our time and transforms those arguments into something slightly unrecognizable. In its unrecognized form, we as the reader (or viewer) can sometimes open our minds and lower our shields to see issues for how they really are. Name any good science fiction and I’d suggest it offers some reflections on the society its author/director/screenplay writer lived in.
But we all know Hollywood tends to take stories and simplify them into something everyone can understand. Studios go for the least common denominator, knowing if everyone can relate, more people are likely to buy a ticket. In a nation where starvation is something most of us don’t know and survival is a concept only we only know as some vague social concept (surviving childhood, for example), maybe the Hunger Games speaks to us about other truths.
So let me present my alternative theory about The Hunger Games movie…The Hunger Games is about high school.
Panem is the High School You Attended
The Hunger Games Wiki describes District 12 as the “one of the poorest, most ridiculed” districts in the nation of Panem. If you consider Panem to be a symbol of any public high school across the nation, then you start to see that each of the districts represent a high school clique or type of high school student.
- Clearly, District 12 is the kid that gets picked on and ridiculed all the time. It’s seldom District 12 ever gets to fight back. Their school experiences are etched in their memories, so they go on to write a screenplay that makes jocks look like neanderthals. So in the end, they’re real successful and everybody ends up liking them.
- Districts 1, 2, and 4 are the jocks. Their “Career Tributes” are definitely the football team of Panem. They’re bigger, stronger, and their parents probably have some money. Finnick Odair is a perfect example of the jock type.
- District 3 is the geeky kid. Despite coming from a well-to-do background, he’s been terrorized enough to know he better keep a low profile in the halls.
- District 5 is another nerdy kid. These people may be smaller than people from other districts. Their representative, Foxface, is described by Katniss as the smartest. Still, she has no damned common sense (no spoiler).
- District 8 is the tough kid in school. District 8 doesn’t take anything off of anybody and ends up beating the hell out of one of the school bullies, thus giving all the high school proles the warm fuzzies. Of course, they end up suspended, in detention, or otherwise in big trouble for sticking up for themselves.
- District 10 represents the Ag kids that nobody pays attention to.
- District 11 is the kid that has his lunch money stolen.
- District 13 is the mysterious loner with a certain aura of coolness about them. Everybody knows this person is heading for big trouble. In fact, half the people in school already think this person is dead.
- The Capital represents the teachers and administrations…and possibly that small clique of students who walk around the school with impunity because they have the favor of the teaching staff and administrators. These are the kids who get voted onto the cheerleading squad, even though no one likes them. These are the kids who are made class president, again without any constituency. These are the kids voted to the National Honor Society, for God knows what reason.
Anyway, that’s my interpretation. Tell me if I’m wrong on this thing. I can see others might have other explanations, but that’s how I see things. But if The Hunger Games are high school, what does that make Twilight…junior high, maybe?