Ten years later, and there is still so much to appreciate from the hit teen dystopian drama.
Apocalyptic and dystopian films are and probably will always be a popular trend in Hollywood. With Matt Reeve’s dark and gritty The Batman sweeping the world into a moody appreciation for the newest version of the Caped Crusader, moviegoers will always appreciate a well-made action film that highlights the issues that plague our society.
Back in the 2010s, we saw the rise of the teen drama series with an apocalyptic storyline. The genre peaked with the acclaimed series that highlighted our desires to revolt against oppression and persecution: The Hunger Games. Adapted from the book series of the same name, a government reminded its citizens to not revolt against the Capitol by forcing two children from each district to kill each other in front of the entire country.
While the teen dystopian drama is dead, we can see the best and worst parts of the genre. The Hunger Games stands above the rest of the genre by showcasing the exploitation of media for entertainment, the inequality of a nation, and how the world creates believable characters. Let’s break down the strengths of The Hunger Games and what you can take away from the films.
Exploitation for entertainment
We all know the dangers of the media and how it can desensitize a world from the chaos that is engulfing it, but The Hunger Games takes it a step further with the neverending footage of the games playing, forcing strangers and loved ones to watch children fighting each other. At some point, the violence becomes a routine that one can block out.
For those who are in the arena, they are pitted against each other in a game of survival for the entertainment of the Capitol, who only host the games and do not participate. While there is something to be said about the games themselves, the media plays a major role in how the characters interact with each other and perform for rewards from the viewers.
The games are like reality TV, and the audience watches and roots for the person they like the most. A person’s authenticity is therefore lost as they force a character to play a role that is expected from them to survive. The fabrication of identity isn’t anything new. We see it in everyday life as people are driven to present a false image of themselves to gain wealth and notoriety, and we feed into it unknowingly.
Taking the dangers of media and transforming it into a larger story has been done before, but it is how it works in the narrative that creates a conversation about our relationship with content and authenticity. Ask yourself what bothers you about your relationship with the media, and see how to manifest it into a physical conflict for your characters.
Inequality between characters
The inequality in The Hunger Games is obvious from the first few minutes. The gray and desaturated tone of District 12 conveys the muted lives of the community as they try to do what they can to not starve or freeze to death. In contrast, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is a vibrant character who indulges in excess as she picks tributes at random without remorse.
The inequality between District 12 and the Capitol is unavoidably on display throughout the entire film through small details like Effie critiquing Katniss (Jennifer Lawerance) for her lack of etiquette, something Katniss lacks because it is not necessary for her survival, and having access to unlimited amounts of food.
As you move through the districts, you can see a clear classist system and the privileges that each one has. Districts 1 through 4 have career tributes, kids who train their entire lives to participate in the games. Unlike the other Districts, these celebrate the Hunger Games and pride themselves on winning rather than seeing the faults in the entire premise.
Their level of privilege allows those who don’t have the skills needed to survive to continue with their lives without worry. It is a good peek into class issues within our system, and how those with more privilege will ignore the problems with the system to keep their security.
Taking social issues and highlighting them through distinctly different clothing and means of income can tell an audience a lot about a person’s skills and personality from that specific class, or District. Try to create a visual representation of a social issue, and let it help lend specific traits and personalities to your characters.
Suzanne Collins used the Districts to help build each character and how their traumas influence their actions. From Katniss’ strong survival instincts and protective instincts to Rue’s (Amandla Stenberg) calm and intuitive nature that is in relationship with District 11 (known for their agriculture), the characters’ surroundings influence how they interact with the world around them, which makes them extremely believable.
It might seem extremely obvious that someone’s surroundings influence their personality and actions, but many writers forget about this as the story moves forward. Even if a character is a fish out of the water, their relationship to their home should influence how they adapt to the world around them.
These characters are also not morally justified by good or bad. Grey characters allow room for them to interpret situations differently, responding in a way that would benefit the world according to them. This plays into human desires like power, survival, human connection, and tranquility.
Just because a genre or specific film movement is dormant in modern mainstream Hollywood, it doesn’t mean we can’t look back and learn from them. Films always have something to teach us, and The Hunger Games shows us what to look at when building an immersive world that has something to say about our reality.
In celebration of its 10th anniversary, let us know what your favorite moments from The Hunger Games are in the comments below!