When it comes to the Hunger Games, the politics of the story is far more entertaining than the actual films. Seeing how there are four films in this series, this retrospective will focus on the first movie.
2012’s ‘The Hunger Games‘ is easily the dullest film of the entire franchise. The film was targeted towards a younger female audience that I was in no way a part of. What drove me to go back and give the film another shot wasn’t anything the film was presenting but a deeper conversation about the politics of Panem.
Who am I supposed to root for here?
Sure the film is telling me that President Snow is a murderous dictator who rules over the Capitol, an oasis of the rich and most powerful people in the country. Sure the film tells me that a couple of dirt poor kids from District 12 are the symbols of a revolution against the capitol. Sure the idea of “rich people bad, poor people good” is a simple enough one to understand but is that truly the whole story here? Should I be rooting for the resistance, or is this conflict simply two sides of the same evil?
The deeper I looked into the general consensus of the Hunger Games franchise, the more puzzled I was that a significant number of people view President Snow as a “capitalist dictator”. If you search on the internet, you will see an endless people calling The Hunger Games universe “late stage Capitalism”. In the eyes of progressives, Capitalism is the enemy of this story. If we were to take this argument at face value, what does that make the resistance? Are they Socialists? Are the Communists? If so, why would I be rooting for a communist revolution?
Let’s look at the setup for The Hunger Games. The first film explains the country of Panem. Panem is a country of twelve districts run by The Capitol. 74 years ago, there was a failed revolution against the Capitol. As punishment, the government created the Hunger Games as a means of dividing resources and keeping the districts in check. Two random children are selected from each district to fight in a battle royal where only one kid survives. Meanwhile, a silent resistance is growing among the poorer districts but they don’t have the will to fight until they discover a girl from District 12…Katniss Everdeen.
The Capitol controls the means of production in the country, the districts work as a means of creating resources for them. Some districts are better off than others. These are called “career districts” they are loyal to the Capitol and are treated the best in the country. Other districts are far poorer and live under their boot.
Last May, I talked about this in a piece I wrote entitled “Why Poor People Are Nothing More Than Dirty Rotten Commies…In Movies”. In the Hunger Games, our heroes are the poor who hope to obtain power in all aspects of society from the rich. With that power in hand, they will destroy the “evil capitalist system” that has oppressed them for decades, creating a “fair marxist system” to assure that their oppression is never suffered again…this is how many people view the dynamic of this movie.
Is Panem a capitalist society?
Many socialists blame all of the misfortune of their lives on living in a Capitalist country. A country where rich people and poor people are allowed to exist. Rich people are immortal in their eyes because they don’t believe that good people can become rich without hurting the poor like themselves. From this jaded perspective, it is easy to see why so many people see President Snow as a Capitalist as he is the leader of the rich by default. But is that a capitalist system?
Socialist conflate the rich with capitalism, they conflate authoritarianism with fascism.
“When I say ‘capitalism,’ I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism — with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.” – Ayn Rand.
In a capitalist society, the means of production are privately owned rather than owned by a state or government. Capitalism is a system that hinges on the relationship between a buyer and a seller. One person has a product that another person wants and they agree on what is a fair price to pay for said product or services.
In the Hunger Games, the means of production of all aspects of society is controlled by the government aka President Snow means that this is not a capitalist society. If it were, we would be talking about a corporation like Amazon or Google turning the country into slaves under their boot and even in a worst case situation that is not what is happening here.
The government controls everything, the government has the final say in all means of production. The government in Panem is not capitalist, it is communist.
This is where the Karl Marx supporters lose their minds, because in their definition of communism, the means of production is controlled by the people, they believe that there wouldn’t be a state controlling everything because by definition, they control the state. In theory, they would be correct, the people are supposed to control the government so on a face value, when the government controls something, the people control it.
Too bad for communists, this has never worked in any point of human history. In order to obtain the power to control, you need the state. Even the biggest corporations in the world like Amazon, Apple, and Google need the help of the government to stay in control and amass their power over the people.
There is a reason why nearly every dictator admired the work of Karl Marx, while communists see Marxism as a tool of fairness, others see it as a tool of power, that is how people like President Snow come to power after taking control of the nation’s resources.
Fascism is another word that has been bastardized over the years as most people believe that fascism can only be a right wing ideology. History on the other hand has taught us that plenty of communist dictatorships have risen from far left ideologies. For every Hitler the world has countered with a Stalin or a Mao whose body count was much higher.
When you bastardize the history of ideologies you can see why so many believe that Capitalism is the enemy in the Hunger Games and why they believe socialism or communism is the cure.
In a battle between a communist revolution taking on a facsist dictatorship, who exactly do we root for? For people who want stateless Capitalism or the closest thing to it as humanly possible, you have no side to root for. Neither side of this story is fighting for liberty especially if Katniss represents the fight against Capitalism, so unless there is a 3rd party fighting for a 1776 resolution, both sides can get bent.
The further into this series we get, the more both sides expose their true intentions so for Part II of this series, I’ll talk about the politics of the 12 Districts in Hunger Games: Catching Fire.