What 'Hunger Games' Teaches Us About American Politics

Authors never write anything for pure entertainment purposes. Everything always has a deeper meaning. Hunger Games phenomenon is not excluded from this truth. The author, Suzanne Collins, certainly seems to have something to say about the current political zeitgeist here in America. Let's take a look at the political allegory in the first book:

For those of you who might be worried about a spoiler here, fear not. The purpose of this analysis is not to give away plot summary but to analyze the structure of the hierarchy set up in the novel. The top-down structure sets up the Gamemakers at the top with the Capitol in charge. The mayors of different districts find themselves under them, and everyone else must obey the dictates of those above. In fact, only twelve districts exist in Panem, the future name of North America, because district thirteen rebelled against the Capitol and subsequently found itself crushed, destroyed by the unrelenting monolithic strength of the Capitol's army.

Hunger Games Official Trailer


This sums up the hierarchy of the power in the book: the every day people on the bottom, the mayors/politicians after that, and the Capitol with the Gamemakers on top. More than once, the author makes it clear that the districts that make up Panem are deliberately kept from communicating with each other. Each district with its workers have their own jobs that they perform: coal mining, plastic surgery, diamond mining, are a few of the specialized jobs of some districts. Each year, Panem draws the names of one boy and one girl from each district to fight for the death at the Hunger Games.

At first glance, this fictional story seems absurd, far-fetched, but if we think about what we live through in the political climate of America today, it might not seem so outlandish.

The Gamemakers have all of the power, able to manipulate the mayors (political figures) of each district to do their bidding. Only a handful of Gamemakers exist, but they are powerful, controlling just about everything connected to the Hunger Games themselves.

In the current Republican political primaries, there are only a few contributors backing the candidates. By the way, this is not meant to be a partisan attack on either side of the aisle. The point is that the Gamemakers in the novel are much like the real gamemakers in the political realm in America, pitting (for sport) one candidate against another. And the real sport, the one with real lives in the balance, is each district pitted against another, not just in the Hunger Games, but in everyday life.

Similarly, are classes not pitted against one another? Are ethnicities not pitted against one another? Are religions not pitted against one another? Are sexual orientations not pitted against one another? Are sexual orientations not pitted against one another?

This book does a wonderful job of raising a mirror to the eyes of Americans who live this sort of problem everyday, the few pitting the many against one another so that they cannot view the real problem, the real inequality, the real game that is rigged against them. 

My hat goes off to Suzanne Collins for writing the allegory that sets up the American condition at present, even if she meant to or not.

Photo Credit: michi003

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Danny Keener

My name is Danny Keener, and I am an English teacher at Santa Ana College and Chaffey College. My students ask me all the time if I am a conservative or a liberal. My answer is always the same: I don't think of myself as a conservative; I don't think of myself as a liberal; I simply think of myself as thinking for myself. And I ask them to do the same.

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