Alexius on Hunger Games

by tigermanifesto

IMAX Poster

Hunger Games for Alexius

According to your scientists, there is a good chance that tigers practice infanticide, i.e. the killing of their own young. Though we are solitary and avoid mass slaughter as practiced by lions, we probably do kill our own once in awhile. Tragic, I know. Let me say, though, that no tiger has close to the corpse tally that a given person is capable of amassing. Later in this semester, I’ll be writing on tigers in films and media, and I’ll bring up whether Shere Khan or Mowgli will be responsible for killing more animals in their lifetime. If Mowgli doesn’t become a vegetarian ascetic, he’ll have quite a bit of blood on his man-paws.

That is all fine and dandy for him, but let’s not apply a double standard here. Humans used to and probably do still practice the killing of their young, and not just fictional humans. (On a tangential topic, why is it that human women are now starting to eat their own placentas? You realize that we other mammals don’t actually enjoy that, right?)

Fictional humans are still often murderous, and at times it seems that if you find yourself in a film you had better be prepared to do serious physical harm to others. This Saturday, The Hunger Games will be showing at Calvin College, and I wanted to take the opportunity to speak on a few aspects of the film you might find of interest.

1. Fictional Futures Always Represent a View of the Present

Suzanne Collins did not, could not, have fabricated the entirety of the world inhabited by her characters. It is probably impossible to imagine something new without using parts that are already known. After all, to imagine something is to know at least a little about it. You may not know right away that your invented space dragon’s name is Julia, but you know what space is, what lizards are, what fire is, what breathing is, probably you know about the colors you imagine your dragon to be. The dragon is a composite that reflects a certain view of how all these things fit together. Same applies to the tyrannical American state in The Hunger Games. 

For those who have seen the film or read the book, what vision of America does this world present and how does that relate to how life the United States really works?

2. The Arena Offers a Perverse Freedom

Normally, you think of the arena as an oppressive space. It makes sense. The tributes are removed from human society and placed in a wild territory, albeit one that has been cultivated and shaped by human forces. However, within the space of the arena the tributes are also immune from the consequences of any of their actions. They are permitted, no, encouraged, to murder, steal, maim, and destroy in this amoral space. The arena is, in other words, a kind of zone of amoral freedom where those who are powerful can use whatever means necessary to attain more power. It’s natural selection but with meddlesome humans pulling the strings.

From tiger to human, would you find the kind of freedom offered by the arena or a place like it to be liberating or oppressive? Do you see yourself as powerful?

3. The Film Was Produced By Millionaires Who Dress Strangely

Tigers, as a rule (with me as a notably dapper exception) do not bother with clothing. We have our fur. However, the people who made this film are probably stylish dressers apt at the art of shopping for outlandish clothing made for outlandish prices by outlandish people. They are, in other words, probably raving hypocrites. Satire that is produced for commercial reasons is an odd experience. This film is a criticism of wealth and power and unadulterated consumption and putting humans into an unnatural element to make money because of entertainment. Guess what making a film in Hollywood is? Using wealth and power and unadulterated consumption and putting humans into an unnatural element to make money providing…you get it. Tigerly, I don’t think this has any bearing on how we judge the film as art. As a cultural object, though, it’s quite telling.

Does this both you? What do you think about messages for films? Was it worse when the Lorax was selling SUVs?