Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s artifact is The Hunger Games, starring Hollywood savior Jennifer Lawrence,
or “J.Lo” for short. The Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian society called Panem. Acting as obvious corollaries to the twelve countries of 21st century Earth. In order to keep these districts at bay, the Panamanian
government makes children fight to the death in something called a Battle Royale, which,
when translated from the original Japanese, means “Hunger Games.” Our protagonist is Katniss Everdeen of District
12, three districts better than the shantytowns of District 9. Katniss volunteers in place
of her good-for-nothing sister and meets a small boy named Peeta. They are escorted to
the Capitol by a talking bag of potpourri and a former Hunger Games winner named Hey-Arnold,
who help them get sponsorship deals with big companies like Nike and FarmersOnly.com. Once the Games get underway, everyone settles
in and starts killing each other as promised. Katniss decides she doesn’t want to get killed,
so she hides in a tree. Unfortunately, someone else already thought of that. Unfortunately,
it’s a nice girl named Rue, who teams up with Katniss to unleash a bunch of scary bugs.
But that’s the thing about friendship: almost immediately one of the friends dies. Just for kicks, the boys in the control room
change the rules so two people can win if they’re from the same district, so Katniss
and Peeta come up with a plan to let everyone else get eaten by wolf-monkeys. But — psych!
— the rules get changed again, there can only be one winner. Katniss and Peeta threaten
to pull a Romeo and Juilliard, so the bad guys give up, and the game ends in the most
satisfying way possible: a tie. It’s the same reason Americans loved soccer so much. One of the most filling motifs in The Hunger
Games is bread. Their nation is called “Panem,” which is the Latin word for bread. Similarly,
Earth had a restaurant called Panera Bread, so that seems like it relates somehow. Peeta
is the son of a baker man, yes he is, and his name is a homophone of “pita” — no homo
— which is what humans called pancakes. Bread serves as a metaphor for the contrast
between the elite and the subjugated. Katniss and her ilk see bread as a rare source of nourishment, the only thing standing between
them and starvation. Conversely, the settings associated with the Capitol are laden with
cakes, cupcakes, and various other sugary carbs. The government exists in a constant
state of extravagance, excess, and indulgence. It’s like, hello, whatever happened to cheat
days? No, I’m asking you, Karen. What happened to them? As evidenced by their lack of menu options,
the citizens are powerless. The tributes are seen as subhuman, rated on a numeric scale
that determines their value, which, cosmically speaking, is basically negligible. They are
implanted with trackers in their arms, much in the same way Americans did to their dogs
to keep them from running off to join the circus. It is Katniss who finally pulls a power switcheroo.
The Capitol is able to exert control over the districts by depriving them of base-level
subsistence and refusing to give out the WiFi password. However, the Capitol’s need for
spectacle and excess allows Katniss to exert control over THEM. By faking the romance with
Peeta and threatening to commit double suicide, she seduces her overlords with the sensationalist
entertainment they so desperately crave. The Hunger Games represent the media landscape
of 21st century America, where reality TV was king and clickbait was the lovable court
jester. Not even traditional news coverage was safe, often being subjected to the same
exaggeration that caused reality television to sap all meaning from the word “reality”. And television. In the world of the Capitol, how things APPEAR
matters more than how they ARE, so Katniss is forced act inauthentically in order to
survive. Her “producers” give her excessive makeup, new clothes, and a spicy rebrand.
But ultimately, it is Katniss’ most authentic moments — burying Rue in flowers, refusing
to fight Peeta, becoming a mass murderer — that inspire others to strive for independence
and take back their reality. We would all do well to follow Katniss’ lead,
unless the situation is REALLY dire, in which case why bother. Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid.