The Real Side of the Hunger Games


By Guest Contributor

After I saw Mockingjay Part 1, I was a bit of an emotional wreck. Not because I love Peeta and couldn’t stand to see him hurt and turned evil or because Jennifer Lawrence’s acting was so moving, but because a lot of the movie resonated with so much of what is going on in the world today.

The Hunger Games series is more than just a blockbuster movie to consume and forget. Every scene is a powerful statement on the state of our world today. The poverty and dangerous working conditions shown in all the films are facts of life for billions around the world. Katniss loses her father in a mining accident and their family loses their primary source of income, forcing Katniss to illegally hunt for food. Her mother is depressed, but there are no services for her. All Katniss and her sister can do is try to survive. 

In this latest film, life in a collapsed or collapsing state is on display. When Katniss visits the remnants of her home district, she starts climbing a hill and we all know what she will see on the other side. But the field of charred human remains, skeletons twisted and fused together by the heat of the bombs, still shocks us. My first thought was how hauntingly similar that image was to pictures from the Holocaust or from the Rwandan genocide. Mass killing and ethnic cleansing have occurred and are ongoing in many places around the world. 

Later, Katniss visits a hospital where those injured in bombing by the capitol are taking cover. The care center is chaotic and the camera shows with alarming detail and clarity the wounds these victims have suffered. There are no modern medical supplies and Katniss walks by rows of corpses to get to the hospital entrance — they don’t have the staff or supplies to even move the bodies, much less care for all of the patients. Billions of people around the world have inadequate access to healthcare and even those who can reach hospitals often meet long wait lines and die of preventable, curable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis before they can receive treatment. 

In one scene, the citizens of District 13 huddle in an underground bunker, jumping at the sound of every bomb the Capitol drops. How similar is this to stories of Pakistani children cowering in fear of US drone strikes?

The movie even promotes environmental awareness in the scene where Katniss chooses not to shoot a moose because it doesn’t flee from her advance. “They’ve never been hunted before,” Gale says, suggesting that there is something noble and magical about preserving nature.

Mockingjay is not fiction. It shows the reality that people around the world face every day — lives of fear, coercion and abuse by failing states. So while we’re enjoying the incredible cinematography or Jennifer Lawrence’s amazingness (she really is awesome), we also need to realize how the movie reflects the conditions we accept in our world and to be inspired and terrified by the sacrifice the rebels accept in their fight for a free state. That fight is real, and there are real ways we can join the fight to improve lives around the world.

Artwork by RICO

HANNAH BLACKBURN ’17 is from Carrboro, N.C.