Monday, 13 May 2013

The ‘reality’ of The Hunger Games

Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. Credit: Murray Close.
Suzanne Collins, author of 'The Hunger Games' trilogy says she first came up with the idea for the stories when she was channel hopping between the news and reality TV. There was something terrifying in turning the violence and horror we see every day on the news into a reality TV show. Sparked by this idea, the annual hunger games began.

As 'The Hunger Games' begins, viewers see many of district twelve preparing for the reaping ceremony - the ceremony where one boy and girl will be chosen at random from each of the twelve districts to take part in the games. Even though they are sending two of their own to probable death, each citizen must dress up for the occasion, with the girls doing their hair in some special way. If they are not seen to be making an effort, they are likely to be punished.

The entire ceremony is also, of course, televised and broadcast across the nation of Panem. This is not an event you can simply call in sick for. Everyone must attend. Those in charge want the parents, siblings, friends and relatives of those selected to witness not just their selection at the reaping but everything that follows - right up to their death. They want everyone to see their power and what they can make Panem's children do. It is essential to their control.

The violence found in 'The Hunger Games' has, of course, been done before. Children killing children can be found in many stories - from 'Lord of the Flies' to 'Battle Royale'. However, we currently live in a world of reality TV - from Chelsea to the Geordie Shore via Laguna Beach. People film everything on their camera phones nowadays and some even film people being attacked or abused so that others can watch for their 'enjoyment'.

Collins managed to tap into this social phenomenon by incorporating this reality TV element into her stories and it was this focus that made 'The Hunger Games' that much more menacing - and oddly captivating. This is what allows for the film to be both inherently violent and not remotely gratuitous. None of the violence is glamorised. If anything, the focus is more heavily weighed on just how horrific it all is. Viewers of the film watch not just what happens within the games but everything that happens outside them too. As Panem's citizens are forced to watch their loved ones fight, kill or be killed, so is the viewer.