Recently the fourth and final movie in The Hunger Games series had its premiere. The series might be described as a fantasy version of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The main theme in The Hunger Games is the adventure of Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, to unify the districts of Panem in a rebellion against the tyrannical Capitol. The Hunger Games series is based on a book trilogy with the same name written by Suzanne Collins. Both the books and the movies have had a tremendous success.
The tyranny in The Hunger Games is apparent, but could it be that the patterns are the same as in our reality; the only difference is that the suppression and censorship in the Western world are hidden? Is it not interesting that movies with a theme of how to end suppression tend to be enormously successful? The Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit, V for Vendetta, The Matrix, Star Wars, to name a few.
The Plot As Art and As Reality
The Hunger Games is in the movies a kind of sporting event, managed by the state authorities and based on hunting and killing other humans. The annual game is screened for all people in Panem to see. The competitors are selected individuals from the different districts of the nation. In the end there can only be one victorious survivor.
One of the propaganda themes in the Hunger Games is to turn the people against each other in order to divert from the real problems. Another major theme is the story of the main character Katniss and her strong will to survive. The authorities try to turn Katniss into their propaganda symbol for wanting to settle back to her ordinary normal life after her victory. In this way the hero is meant to be a symbol or the ideal of a normal life where no change is needed.
The whole Hunger Games series starts off with a scene where the Hunger Games are presented as a tradition – something that stems from the past and that has grown to become something that knits all the citizens together. This state manufactured tradition keeps the wheel of oppression and empty values turning without any disruptive change.
The authorities don't have to force anyone or even work to keep their structures alive – the traditions of the state are kept close at heart by the people, because these traditions provide a believable comfort and security and because any other option appears to only cause destruction.
This makes it easy to disregard anyone who opposes the existing structures as radicals, and blame them for misunderstandings and violence. And anyone who brings up any alternative to what already exists can be safely rejected.
This is the established tradition: the citizens have a loyalty (or what is called love) for The Capitol and ”in return the Capitol provides order and security”. The citizens can in this perspective think or do nothing but follow the established patterns and be dependent on the state to provide a functioning life. To live is just to follow the prescribed routine.
A real life perspective of the loyalty to be normal is offered by the Italian writer Umberto Eco that was a child during the epoch of the dictatorship and the cult of Benito Mussolini (1883–1945). But as Eco never was loyal to the worship he says, in Umberto Eco on Berlusconi, bestiality and Beyoncé, Gaby Wood, The Telegraph, Nov 30, 2015, that he thought:
“Am I a bad boy, incapable of loving Mussolini? Maybe I have a corrupted mind.”
In the same article that mainly is about Eco's new novel Number Zero (2015), based on the theme that Mussolini survived the war and continued to rule as a hidden dictator, you can read this conversation between Wood and Eco:
Still, you don’t need Mussolini to be alive to feel his influence on politics. Though the conspiracy is implausible, the point, surely, stands?
Eco’s idea about Mussolini’s survival is an elaborate way of saying the spirit of fascism lives on. “Yes, OK,” says Eco. “Good reading. A+.” […] “There you have the curse of Italy: one half fascist and one half suicidal.”
Though it is not only the Italian people that have fallen into the trap of hidden totalitarianism. Italy is just one of the nations in the Western confusion.
Why does it seem so hard to get a real understanding of how art, like the messages in the movie series The Hunger Games, relates to our Western reality? The structures of a hidden suppression, such as in the West, do not only disregard voices, but consist of a total censorship that keeps all opposing thoughts at a comfortable distance.
This suppression is made possible by the Wall. A layer of this Wall, that separates 'how it is' from 'what we want' and what is possible to do, consists of the ideal to regard Art, like these movies, as nothing else than entertainment. In other words the Wall blocks any relation between art and reality, and therefore blocks out a huge part of our understanding. Read more about the hidden censorship in our post: The Guardian Launch a Neo-Stalinist Art Theory, Sep 15, 2014.
The Hunger Games highlights in many perspectives the concrete relation between Art and what we are able to actually understand, but are denied to talk openly about. Consequently the story about The Hunger Games is also a reflection of the total bankruptcy of the West.
We cannot talk about our future. We cannot talk about the real function of Art. We cannot talk about how our world actually is, and so on. If you try, the loyal Apparatchiks will drown every word of yours by shouting: “you are free to talk about everything as we live in a democracy!”.
The ongoing bankruptcy of the West is not about the collapse of the economy; the bankruptcy of the West consists of the intellectual bankruptcy that results in a total demand of silence and apathy.
In other words, the connections needed for real thinking are broken. Consequently, we cannot come to insights about the situation of our world or of alternatives; we are made impotent.
We get stuck without being able to change the lives we all live, but that we never actually chose. Because how can anything be called a choice when there is only one alternative: the already approved. And do you not like the pre-determined course of your life? “Just take your antidepressants and everything will be fine”.
Quote from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1:
Gale: ”But everyone has a choice”
Katniss: ”He doesn't know, no one [...] has seen what
they have done”
It may be easy to say that it is up to the individual to create a life they want, and to not just follow what someone else says. But it is not that simple. They who are loyal to the existing structures and traditions are not evil; they have not chosen to support a system of suppression. They are robbed of their understanding, they are made to be ignorant, and ignorance makes them passive. For how can anyone oppose a wordless tradition of loyalty that is there to protect everyone?
Donald Sutherland plays one of the leading roles in The Hunger Games, as the authoritarian president Coriolanus Snow. Will we ever know if his messages about starting a revolution in the videos below are his personal reflections or part of a marketing plan for the movies, or both? Even movies with a message of protest and change, as the Hunger Games, need to become part of the established tradition in order to be accepted, realized, become popular and bring in money. An example is the marketing of this movie series as a super hero story. That opens up for the audience to be dragged into an adventure where they can sit back and just watch the almost supernatural hero come to change the bad situation.
"Millennials need awakening from slumber. [...] With the exception of Occupy, a minority movement, passivity reigns." […] he is quite serious about the call to arms. "We did it in '68." […] "Hopefully they will see this film and the next film and the next film and then maybe organise. Stand up." […] The Hunger Games, Sutherland suggests, is a coded commentary on inequality, power and hope. "It just puts things out in the light and lets you have a look at it. […] it will make you think a little more pungently about the political environment you live in and not be complacent."
From Donald Sutherland: 'I want Hunger Games to stir up a revolution', Rory Carroll, The Guardian, Nov 19, 2013
Sutherland's perspective and the fact that he mentions protest movements of the sixties is especially interesting when you look into what kind of art and not least literature that had a huge impact on that time. For further reading, see the article about Hobbits and hippies below.
Here are concrete examples of how rebellion as art actually has transformed into real life:
In Thailand, a country governed by a military junta since a coup d'état on May 22, 2014, and where the suppression is open, both The Hunger Games and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four are symbols of protests.
Five Thai students held for 'Hunger Games' salute at PM, BBC, Nov 20, 2014
Hunger Games salute banned by Thai military, The Guardian, June 3, 2014
Don't pack George Orwell, visitors to Thailand told, Travellers heading to Thailand have been urged not to carry a copy of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, Oliver Smith, The Telegraph, Aug 6, 2014
#BBCtrending: Why George Orwell is trending in Egypt, The British author's name is a byword for the struggle against totalitarianism. Now an arrest in Egypt has led activists to embrace George Orwell as a social media trend, Nov 10, 2014
One Example of the Hidden Suppression in Our Western Reality
In Five hours with Edward Snowden, Lena Sundström and Lotta Härdelin, Dagens Nyheter, Nov 6, 2015, gives examples of how the tyranny can look like in our present world. During his years working for the NSA, the National Security Agency of the United States, Edward Snowden has gathered insights about how the American government acts. He talks about how killing is made into a game. Snowden also talks about how, when they talk about security, they don't talk about securing freedom, they don't even talk about safety; they talk about stability, of avoiding change.
Relations Between Art and Reality
This highly interesting article investigates the messages of art from the perspective of other movie heroes. Hobbits and hippies: Tolkien and the counterculture, Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings became required reading for the nascent counterculture, devoured simultaneously by students, artists, writers, rock bands and other agents of cultural change. The slogans ‘Frodo Lives’ and ‘Gandalf for President’ festooned subway stations worldwide as graffiti, Jane Ciabattari, BBC, Nov 20, 2014
Tolkien's myths are a political fantasy, In a world built on myth, we can’t ignore the reactionary politics at the heart of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Damien Walter, The Guardian, Dec 12, 2014
Are you addicted to a fantasy world? The worlds of Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings are the opiates of the masses, Anne Billson, The Telegraph, Dec 13, 2014
As one addict put it, "When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed grey." Time for another fix, perhaps?
Revolution as Art and the Empty Promise of a Real Revolution
The very idea of revolution contains a revolutionary perspective. Many citizens of the West are not satisfied and like to talk about a revolution, but are robbed of a complete understanding of history and future, which keeps them thinking and acting the way they have done for generations and generations. And when there is no revolutionary perspective the idea about change is just an empty promise.
John Lennon said, in 1971, as an answer to the question: “What do you think the effect was of the Beatles on the history of Britain?”:
We’ve grown up a little, all of us, there has been a change and we’re all a bit freer and all that, but it’s the same game. Shit, they’re doing exactly the same thing, selling arms to South Africa, killing blacks on the street.
The dream is over. It’s just the same, only I’m thirty, and a lot of people have got long hair. That’s what it is, man, nothing happened except that we grew up, we did our thing–just like they were telling us. [...] We’re a minority, you know, people like us always were, but maybe we are a slightly larger minority.
From The Rolling Stone Interview: John Lennon, Part II, by Jann S. Wenner, Feb 4, 1971.
The dream is over and it is still the same game because we never came to the root of the reason to why the world is the way it is. Most people are fooled to take for granted that there cannot exist any fundamental questions, such as: Why is imagination made impossible to understand and use? And why is the base of everything loyalty and trust instead of to understand?
As long as most of the people are convinced that the current Western worldview is the only possible reality, we lack all knowledge about how real change can be achieved and the very concept of revolution is only one more profitable decoration that covers the total frustration and despair of the West.
Watch it online:
The Hunger Games (2012)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015)