March 19, 2012 - The movie The Hunger Games, a story about adolescents in a post-apocalyptic survival contest, opens in theaters March 23 and offers "a perfect tale of apprehension for our time" of financial upheaval and a bleak job market, says a Baylor University culture critic and author.
The film, based on a bestselling science fiction book trilogy, "allows its readers and viewers to consciously or unconsciously wrestle with some of our biggest issues" among them "dog-eat-dog capitalism where you have to roll over your rivals or starve," said Greg Garrett, Ph.D., a professor of English in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences and author of One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter and The Gospel According to Hollywood.
Garrett noted that the author, Suzanne Collins, says the idea for the series came from channel-surfing, in which images of the Iraq War and American reality television blended. Written in first person, the trilogy is the story of Katniss, 16, who lives in a future world where the countries of North American once existed. The Capitol holds absolute power over the rest of the nation, and The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of 12 districts are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive.
"In cultural criticism, we ask what needs are served by popular culture — especially best-selling books and top-grossing movies — and I think The Hunger Games addresses the anxiety caused by the biggest recession in generations and a job market in which the guaranteed way of life Americans have always expected — a job out of college, some financial security, maybe a house — is falling farther out of reach," Garrett said.
"Many of the book's core audience may have older siblings who have had to move back home, so they may be aware that their future prospects aren't rosy," he said. "We also live in a political climate where some of the loudest voices are speaking about self-sufficiency and individual achievement rather than the common good."
Garrett said the concept is not new, citing The Running Man science fiction book and film as well as the Japanese novel and film Battle Royale.
The Hunger Games contains "some implicit political criticism, although maybe not as much as in Battle Royale, where the Japanese kids forced to fight each other realize that their culture values conformity and authority so much that it will do whatever the government says — even feeding their children into a system where they have to fight or die," he said."But certainly The Hunger Games is aware of the problem of war and wrestles with what it does to a culture —and also with what kind of culture would embrace this kind of deadly entertainment."
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