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Societal Commentary.
The writing quality of the books leaves much to be desired—it seems to be designed for middle-schoolers.

According to my friend, the story line was predictable from the very beginning.

However, I went to see the movie and was pleasantly surprised. The Hunger Games is one series where just watching the movies would almost be better than reading the books. While the author may not have intended it, the underlying theme that came across to me was a critique against our current society. Especially in the movie. Watching the relationship between Peeta and Katniss develop was painful because you realized how fake it was. It made me wonder about the other 'reality' TV shows we watch on a regular basis. The whole inanity of it all was much more apparent in the movie than the book and I enjoyed it for that.

While there's definitely things to be critical about, I enjoyed the commentary, whether or not it was intended to be such.
It was intended as such. The name of the place they live is 'Panem' as in 'Panem Et Circuenses' -Bread and Circuses, the phrase used to describe utilising carrots and entertainment to subdue a populace and make them compliant. Saying that there are strengths to the film in that respect, the character of Caesar comes across stronger, and whilst a lot more of the book is devoted to the complexities of before the arena, the film is better at reminding the viewer of the contrast between the experience of the children and what the rest of the world sees

And actually the film, although pretty good, is still slightly watered down from the book. It plays Gale/Peta/Katniss as more of a live triangle, whereas in the book, whereas in the book the relationships were a lot more cynical and complicated. The actress who played Katniss said that one of the things she liked was that Katniss was someone who had bigger priorities than who she goes home with.
comment #14488 Tomwithnonumbers 29th May 12
I meant love triangle. I miss editing :( And I would move the 'saying that' to the last line to make it flow better too.

The books were very introspective, with a lot of thoughts and wondering about motivations, it was surprising just how much the film managed to capture. Particularly Hamish, when he put his hand over his drink, you could really see all the depth of his character, constantly drunk because he had to go year after year watching people die and now he realised hes got a chance to change things.

I think it's a little unfair to call the book predictable. There's not really a lot to predict. Everything that happens, they tell you repeatedly at the start, even at the beginning, everyone says Katniss is going to win. It's much more about getting there, and what cost winning will have. To win 20+ other people had to die, how can you just win and forget all that? Of course that's more about the next two books
comment #14489 Tomwithnonumbers 29th May 12
To win 20+ other people had to die, how can you just win and forget all that?

When you're never forced to kill anyone who isn't portrayed as an asshole.
comment #14490 Medder 29th May 12
That's what we think, but that isn't what happens and that isn't what happens in the book either. Even if the films they were pretty darn clear that in the end Caesar wasn't some mother, but another kid put through the wringer of a horrible world and his death is deliberately played in both as horrific rather than uplifting.

In fact in the book they go even further, and establish some of Katniss' brokenness because she takes some time before finishing Caesar, something Peta wouldn't have done.

I'm not going to spoil it for you, but the end of the third book is far more appropriate and brutal than most fiction would ever dare. What happens is what would happen in the real world.
comment #14492 Tomwithnonumbers 29th May 12
Just to be clear, this isn't me theorising, or criticizing The Hunger Games, at the end of 1 and the start of 2 it basically states 'this experience has permanently traumatised them' and from then on The Hunger Games is basically an increasingly uncomfortable study of PTSD
comment #14493 Tomwithnonumbers 29th May 12
With regards to the first book, Medder is right. Anyone who Katniss or Peeta kill is either disproportionately dehumanized (how dare those kids train to not get killed and be able to come home to and provide for their families?) or given no personality whatsoever (poor Foxface. Wait, who?) If the later books start taking risks you'd never tell by the way the first one goes.
comment #14494 Wackd 29th May 12
The books never cheer their deaths though and its not presented as a good thing. I mean as far as risks go, our loving protagonist was prepared to kill the love interest in the last moments.

I guess it is fair that they never made Katniss' kills particularly torturous, but then she wouldn't kill those people. She had opportunity to take out Rue or Peta or the little kid from the electronics district and she could even have inconvenienced Foxface or taken a stab at the red-haired girl at the beginning. In the end despite her being a morally blank pragmatist she was never going to attempt to kill anyone in an ambiguous situation. She's like Hamish, her instinct was to run away but lash out when attacked. Okay she's not condemed, but she's not praised either. We know that Rue and Peta are meant to represent the right way of doing things whereas Hamish and Katniss are just people more willing to survive than to be good. Their virtue is that they recognise it in others and strive to protect them.

And to be fair, remember Cato volunteered, and not to directly save someone else. Even then the books still make it clear that in the end he's not a villain, but the situation that forced him into that was the real enemy. I will admit the thing the film did stronger is put much more emphasis on that.

And Foxface was given a lot of attention, if not personality and she wasn't actually killed by either of them, just caught in an unfortunate accident.

Film wise, the person who tried to kill Rue is the one character they pay no attention to and give no wait to their death. Same in the books and that's a criticism fair to pick up. But again it's the situation where Katniss never premeditates, she never makes the conscious decision to bring about people's end and that's not virtue, it's just not evil either
comment #14495 Tomwithnonumbers 29th May 12
Many works of fiction put protagonists in a situation where they have to make a difficult choice. Not many of them actually follow through on it. It's a cop-out that lets protagonists who don't deserve to succeed do so anyways. I wonder what would have happened if the little girl who helped Katniss escape that tree survived until the end. The only character who she killed that was portrayed with any kind of sympathy was the last guy, which isn't still isn't enough to make up for the rest of the assholes in the film.

There's also some other random things I didn't get from the movie, such as, why did the trainers early in the movie tell the kids that they'd have to worry about surviving the elements rather than being killed by the other contestants when almost every single death was caused by violence. And the rule about two contestants being able to win if they're from the same district sounds like something the film made up at the last minute, and completely contradicts the way everyone has been acting throughout the entire film. I don't know whether or not the rule existed in the book though.
comment #14497 Medder 29th May 12
I always wondered about that with Rue. It wouldn't become an issue though, because Katniss wouldn't kill her and the gamemakers would just send threats at them till they die. They'd probably try to manipulate the situation so that Katniss had reason to kill her anyway. Remember Katniss' first instinct was to run away but they forced her back. They might even have just sent down some distractions that would force the two to seperate so Rue could get killed off. It wouldn't make a particularly dramatic finale to have Katniss vs Rue.

The surviving the elements thing was true, although Foxface did die from a wilderness thing. The bit where they blew up the supplies was to weaken Cato. I don't think it's a complete flaw though because statistics fluctuate. Normally the people who are good at the game tend to come from the districts where they have very little contact with the wilderness, so survival becomes a big part for them, but this time we had Foxface, Rue's brother and Katniss all as strong contenders. And there were people we didn't see how they died, and it did last quite a few days with some time skips.

They didn't really have the time in the film, but a lot of the challenges Katniss faced were survival oriented. She nearly died of dehydration, a lot of time was spent foraging (without Rue she might have found that more difficult) etc

The thing about the two-from-the-same-district surviving, was that there was a lot going in on the background and a lot of thoughts the film was trying to consolidate. It didn't do a bad job but it was disadvantaged. What it didn't show you was the Peta and Haymish (and Haymish has a deeper role than appears) from the very start were manipulating the public to this extent. I think maybe more so that Katniss would trust Peta and let him help her. During the build up to the games he manipulated the PR so the public fell in love with the idea of the Peta/Katniss romance and Haymish manipulated Katniss so that she'd play along. It put a lot of pressure on the gamemakers because suddenly the public didn't want to see their story interupted and wanted their ending, and of course the games are designed to placate them. So the gamemakers consented to the rule half way through when it became clear the public saw these games as a love story and intended to use it to create an interesting finale.

And it almost worked. When the announcement was revealed Katniss assumed Peta would try to kill her and was about to shoot him. But Peta tried to kill himself so Katniss could make it and she came up with the idea of becoming bigger than the games, ignoring them and saying to the people that it wasn't worth killing each other and destroying the romance that the public believed existed. The Gamemaker panicked and let them live and paid the price for his poor decision making.
comment #14501 Tomwithnonumbers 29th May 12
"it seems to be designed for middle-schoolers"

Um, yeah.

comment #14615 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"It wouldn't make a particularly dramatic finale to have Katniss vs Rue"

I was about to say it would, but you're right, it wouldn't. Because Rue is not so much a real character as a cheap Tear Jearking device. Her purpose is to stand in for Katniss' sister, who isn't much of a character either, be a woobie for a while, then die without the author dirtying her hands with having Katniss decide whether to kill her.
comment #14617 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"The books never cheer their deaths though and its not presented as a good thing."

They don't do a Mexican hat dance on their graves, but, yes, it is a good thing. because you are not supposed to want Katniss or Peeta to die, and this is the only way to avert that.

"our loving protagonist was prepared to kill the love interest in the last moments"

Yeah, but come on. We all knew they wouldn't die, and not just if you started reading or watched the movie after sequels had been written. It was just another umpteenth echo of Romeo and Juliet, except without the stakes.
comment #14618 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"And Foxface was given a lot of attention"

Yeah, her face was described as being like a fox, and...I forget.
comment #14619 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"the rule about two contestants being able to win if they're from the same district sounds like something the film made up at the last minute, and completely contradicts the way everyone has been acting throughout the entire film. I don't know whether or not the rule existed in the book though"

I don't remember the precise details, but it was a trick. Whoever's running things made that up at as the game was going in order to make the kids have sex with eachother, or whatever, to raise the stakes for when they eventually were going to have to kill eachother.

comment #14620 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"Watching the relationship between Peeta and Katniss develop was painful because you realized how fake it was...The whole inanity of it all was much more apparent in the movie than the book and I enjoyed it for that"

It certainly felt more artificial, as on screen you can be explicit about the tit-for-tat of kissing for supplies, whereas you can't hear what Katniss is thinking. But in the reality of the book, it is not fake so much as something that starts out as real on the boy's part (that's what the flashback to him tossing the bread is all about), turns into a show when he startegizes with his handler, then slowly turns real on the girl's side. I didn't find it inane. In fact, it's one of the few aspects of the story with any depth. Without it, all you have is physical struggle and immediate emotions born of desperation.

"It made me wonder about the other 'reality' TV shows we watch on a regular basis."

As in are they fake or not? Well, duh. Those people know they're on tv. If you've ever wondered what sort of person would want to subject themselves to that, it's the sort of person who will fake almost anything for a little fame. Sometimes the romances are real, or lead to reality, since reality show contestants are known occasionally to marry and procreate. But you never can tell, even with them.

By the way, if The Hunger Games is a comment on reality tv then that is among the least that it is. Because it's not very apt commentary, as most contestants are forced into it. Also, they freaking kill kids! However dumb, junky, manipulative, and mind-numbing is reality tv, it doesn't yet murder children.
comment #14621 tublecane 5th Jun 12
I feel I know people like Rue and Prim, I'd say my sisters are very similar and I can resonate with Katniss' situation. Besides you're forgetting it's reality TV, the people aren't here to see genuine human conflict, but to see a fake representation of it that allows them to devalue the people they're watching as people. Rue vs Katniss would be about the worst finale for them ever. Especially since Katniss would refuse to kill her and then they'd just have to send something like the dogs at them and wait for one of them to die.

And I feel you're still missing the point with those deaths, because they are and they're meant to be exactly the sort of thing you wanted her to go through with Rue. The film and the books have the tone of the holocaust film and in the end it leaves Katniss so scarred it's suggested she is never able to live a normal life, or even a normal day, despite everything, for ever after because of that. That's not a cheap 'and she got over it because they were evil' story.

I think maybe you misread what I wrote about Katniss being prepared to kill Peta? Because you said 'Yeah, but come on. We all knew they wouldn't die,' but that wasn't the point and it wasn't played as the point, and it didn't ever involve Katniss dieing or fear of Katniss dying. Are you thinking about them threatening to take the poison? Because I was talking about the bit where the make the announcement that the rules are off and Katniss draws her bow to kill Peeta. The point wasn't whether Peeta would die because it happened too fast for us to even think of that, it was described as a momentary thought. The point is our loving protagonist was cold blooded enough that she was willing, just for a second, to kill the person who loves her to survive.

I feel we might not be talking usefully here. I'm not sure that I'm putting across anything more useful than 'Well, I really like the Hunger Games', I'm just dressing it up with lots of words and faux-points. It feels more counter, counter-counter than a meaningful conversation. What do you think?

Also I can't speak for him, but I was wondering if he meant by 'wonder about the other 'reality' TV shows we watch on a regular basis' about the way we get enjoyment from the dehumanising and general awkward situations these people get put into. I suspect he didn't because of the ' ' but I think it's a more challenging point to think about. Definitely the way it simplifies human emotion and struggles, but then on the other hand, they're all volunteers, so whilst it may be voyeuristic on our part, it's not evil or wrong because they could choose not to do it, or choose to leave. Maybe its wrong the way they are represented ungenuinely to us, but that's not something the Hunger Games addresses.
comment #14625 Tomwithnonumbers 5th Jun 12
"Besides you're forgetting it's reality TV, the people aren't here to see genuine human conflict, but to see a fake representation of it that allows them to devalue the people they're watching as people."

I was thinking more of the dramatic potential of Rue vs. Katniss for the reader/viewer of Hunger Games, not the fictional reality tv audience within Hunger Games. No, they don't want to see genuine human conflict. They know it's a set-up, and so forth. They want to see blood and things go boom. But so do we know American Idol and Survivor, for instance, are fake, and we want to see at least artificial human conflict. There's a reason the games aren't played by dogs or robots.

If the love story was good for ratings and they were able to get across that Peeta and Katniss were star-crossed lovers, how hard would it be to pound into the audience's head that Rue was a substitute for the little sister Katniss volunteered to spare? I seem to recall her bravery in sacrificing for the family being one of her selling points before the killing started.

"Rue vs Katniss would be about the worst finale for them ever"

I could see it being less interesting than Katniss vs. Peeta, since Rue is apparently easily overmatched. But as far as genuine human conflict and feelings and such are concerned, isn't the loss of True Love much more tragic than an older sister figure beating up on a younger sister figure?
comment #14632 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"Especially since Katniss would refuse to kill her and then they'd just have to send something like the dogs at them and wait for one of them to die"

That's exactly what happened anyway.
comment #14633 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"Are you thinking about them threatening to take the poison?"

Yes, I was. Sorry. I don't even remember the other thing.

"The point is our loving protagonist was cold blooded enough that she was willing, just for a second, to kill the person who loves her to survive"

Does she know he loves her at that point? More importantly, does she kinda sorta love him at that point? That makes a difference.

"It feels more counter, counter-counter than a meaningful conversation. What do you think?"

I think counter-counter can easily be a meaningful conversation.

"I'm not sure that I'm putting across anything more useful than 'Well, I really like the Hunger Games', I'm just dressing it up with lots of words and faux-points."

It's not always about justifying the book/movie as a whole. I liked The Hunger Games, for what it's worth. I just disagree on particular points with other people, as is inevitable.
comment #14635 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"but then on the other hand, they're all volunteers, so whilst it may be voyeuristic on our part, it's not evil or wrong because they could choose not to do it, or choose to leave"

More than that, our tv shows don't kill people (on purpose), and especially don't kill children. Books like The Hunger Games, if they are social commentaries, are so in a reductio ad absurdum manner. And that's okay so far as it goes, but we are not ancient Rome and reality tv does not force people into gladiatorial combat. That's what I meant by the bread and circuses manipulation being inapt commentary and among the least of what there is to learn from The Hunger Games.
comment #14637 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"The film and the books have the tone of the holocaust film"

I don't agree, unless you're talking about The Pianist, Defiance, or something that shows the Jews fighting back. Not that she so openly fights back in the first book, but it is ultimately about how she struggled and not only survived but turned the tables.
comment #14638 tublecane 5th Jun 12
"they are and they're meant to be exactly the sort of thing you wanted her to go through with Rue"

Not that I wanted to see her kill Rue, but gven how they set up the rules of the game I think it was a copout for Rue to do nothing but help Katniss win and die in such a way as to spare her from making the tough choice she is later forced to make with Peeta. It's like she's Baggar Vance, just there to help out the main character without getting personally involved. That is, if Matt Damon had to watch Baggar Vance die from a gunshot wound, or something.

But whatever pain Katniss experienced it was not enough for Rue to earn her Tear Jearker moment. It was a copout.
comment #14639 tublecane 5th Jun 12
Okay if you're happy enough with this, I'm happy to continue :D

The part about Katniss trying to kill Peeta was in the books not the film. I thought it was a fair enough omission because it would be very difficult to show it without being confusing, but I still think she could have twitched towards her bow or something. She already knew she had something towards Peeta although it's fair to say that over the course of all the books she doesn't fall in love with him as such. (Incidentally, what have you read/watched, and how far do you want to avoid spoilers?) The thing is she's such a defensive spiky person she still can't completely trust Peeta even after all he's given up for her and so her first thought on the announcement was that he was going to try to kill her and she should kill him first.

I guess I understand what you mean with Rue and I guess I did feel a twinge of it. It made things easier for Katniss, but the thing is, to have that finale I think you would actually have to go against Katniss' character. From what I feel in the books, she wouldn't even be conflicted about it. There is no world where she would try to attack Rue and no world where Rue would try to attack her. She's a survivalist but she's not intellectual about this and survivalist is a very reactive thing. She's not someone who would plan to kill someone else (well not the people in the arena) but she's not someone who would try to save other people, or try to not shoot people shooting at her. She might well kill Peeta because there's some conflict there and she doesn't trust anyone who isn't a sister substitute and in her head, if it's her surviving or Peeta surviving she'd choose herself.

What I'm saying is if they left it between Katniss and Rue she would sit there until they physically actually killed one of them, which wouldn't be a good audience finale. She'd even defend Rue against threats. Whereas with Peeta, she doesn't trust Peeta, she doesn't feel she has to protect Peeta, she's actually got some conflict there, whereas she wouldn't have it with Rue because it's clear what she would decide.

I just can't see how it would be interesting. On paper the idea of Katniss choosing whether to kill the one person here she loves or not is interesting, but in truth it's not because it's very clear what decision she'd make.

I don't know how they could have stopped it from feeling like a cop-out though, maybe if the gamemakers deliberately sent something down to kill Rue? But I think that would detract from the brutality in the arena and make it feel like the gamemakers are more obvious bad guys.

As far as social commentaries go though, I think the Hunger Games is, but less so than in reality TV. Because the truth is this good happen and in many ways does happen. It's shown time and time again that the danger of humans is that they will go along with things. German people aren't inherently evil, they don't have an evil gene, their society wasn't really more twisted or anything like that than ours, it's just the dangerous power of humanity that if we don't watch ourselves we will accept awful awful things happening. From our perspective, both of us are typing on a computer now, that could realistically feed a family of people who are genuinely starving to death at this moment. That family exists but although I'm sure we both give to charity, do we give enough, are we dedicating our lives to saving those people?

This was the thing that genuinely impressed me about the Hunger Games, stuff like 1984, that will never happen, that's not how people work, and the Hunger Games will never happen, but whereas 1984 was essentially based off a ludicrous intellectual argument and some cold war hyperbole, the essential motivation of the Hunger Games is that good people will sit back and let bad things happen and those bad things can happen just from instigation of a few bad men at the top.

Battle Royale is more enjoyable, it's been designed to be enjoyed more whereas enjoyment doesn't seem to be the primary emotional factor of the Hunger Games, but what impressed me about the Hunger Games in comparison was, Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies had this 'look what happens when civilisation decays' mentality whereas with the Hunger Games nothing has to decay, the people in the arena were just people doing what people does. The danger of civilisation isn't when it decays, but when it becomes comfortable.

Broadly speaking, there was that case in New York, where a women was mugged (and killed?) in an alleyway in front of a big block of flats with lights on, windows open and people at home and she was screaming and not one person responded or came to help her. Were they evil people? No, it's just the nature of humanity, that the more people are present the less responsibility each individual feels they have to deal with a problem, and if enough people are around, they'll deceive themselves into thinking that it's someone else problem, or it doesn't exist, or they don't have to deal with it.

comment #14654 Tomwithnonumbers 6th Jun 12
What I'm saying is if they left it between Katniss and Rue she would sit there until they physically actually killed one of them, which wouldn't be a good audience finale. She'd even defend Rue against threats.

Imagine what would happen if gladiators could just decide not to fight each other and the empire couldn't do anything about it. "Remind me why we're trying to kill each other."
comment #14657 Medder 6th Jun 12
"What I'm saying is if they left it between Katniss and Rue she would sit there until they physically actually killed one of them, which wouldn't be a good audience finale. She'd even defend Rue against threats...I just can't see how it would be interesting."

This is true, and it's why originally in response to you saying "It wouldn't make a particularly dramatic finale to have Katniss vs Rue" I said, "I was about to say it would, but you're right, it wouldn't. Because Rue is not so much a real character as a cheap Tear Jearking device." Unlike Peeta, Rue doesn't exist in herself but only serves to develop Katniss' character, propel her forward in the plot, and jerk a few tears.

You can say it's obvious Katniss never would have killed Rue, but that's obvious to you, not the gamerunners. We have been biased by glimpsing into her thoughts and experience, and know of her conflict over Peeta and purity of heart toward Rue. Even so, the Katniss/Peeta showdown ends just as you describe a Rue showdown ending, with Katniss refusing to act. That would have been a ratings disaster without the unforeseen Take A Third Option of mutual suicide.

If the gamerunners didn't see that coming, they might not have seen what you assume would happen between Katniss and Rue, either. What's more, they deliberately pushed Katniss and Peeta closer to eachother by switching the rules and such, which they must have known would make them less likely to want to kill eachother. Seems to em they're willing to risk reluctance to foster drama.

I can't think what, but surely they have similar tircks for splitting up pairs under their sleeves. Just a thought.

"On paper the idea of Katniss choosing whether to kill the one person here she loves or not is interesting, but in truth it's not because it's very clear what decision she'd make."

Yes, that's because Rue is written poorly, or at least less well than Katniss' relationship with Peeta. For what it's worth, had an act turn or the climax hung on whether or not Katniss would kill Rue, that would have introduced true drama into the relationship and almost certainly Rue would have been written to be more of her own person.
comment #14663 tublecane 6th Jun 12
"Imagine what would happen if gladiators could just decide not to fight each other and the empire couldn't do anything about it."

That basically happened, and their solution was to send mutant wolves and fireballs and crap.
comment #14664 tublecane 6th Jun 12
"I don't know how they could have stopped it from feeling like a cop-out though"

As I implied above, by making Rue an actual character. Alter her relationship with Katniss either by fostering the sort of conflict she has with Peeta, or make her less of a crutch for Katniss to lean on and more independent.
comment #14665 tublecane 6th Jun 12
"whereas 1984 was essentially based off a ludicrous intellectual argument and some cold war hyperbole"

It's not that it was based on hyperbole. Orwell, being a true socialist, was not as you might suspect fooled by Joe Mc Carthy, or anything like that. Which is not to say because he was a socialist whatever he said about his own ilk was true. We're never so cruel as we are to those close to us. It's just to say when you say it's "cold war hyperbole," you hint that it was written by a raving rightwinger, or something.

Things weren't as bad in the Soviet Union as in Oceania, but it was bad, and it was bad in like manner. 1984 was hypoerbolic, but that's the genre. Dystopias are utopias turned upside down, and since utopias are perfect dystopias are perfectly evil. They are basically one long reductio ad absurdum of statism, rationalism, scientism, and collectivism, each with a particular interest: We in mathematics; Brave New World in eugenics, mass production, and popular entertainment; 1984 on naked power. That being said, 1984 is of the famous dystopias the most realistic, as it is the only one based at least partly on a real-life society: i.e. Stalinist Russia.

Smartly, Orwell excluded the common folk, or "proles" from the system, and focused on how the state treated the upper class of political insiders. He didn't pretend the Soviets, even in allegorical fashion, had total control of the whole society. What he did do was boil their system down to the single-minded pursuit of power, which in art is an acceptable simplification. For the point was to teach us about power, if it also was to portray actually existing communism.

It was exagerrated, it being science fiction and involving nuclear war and non-existent technology. Also, it being a dystopia and that being what dystopias do. Though the real Soviet Russia wasn't a dystopia, it was among as close as humankind has come. So I don't consider it unfair comment. It's infinitely better grounded, for instance, than if I were to write a novel called 2013 about how Obama wants to eat our brains, or whatever.
comment #14666 tublecane 6th Jun 12
"This was the thing that genuinely impressed me about the Hunger Games...the essential motivation of the Hunger Games is that good people will sit back and let bad things happen and those bad things can happen just from instigation of a few bad men at the top."

Having read only the first book and not knowing exactly how the Hunger Games Evil Empire came into being, nor precisely how extensive is its power, nor how fully it is supported by the populace, I'll have to take your word for it. That few bad men at the top thing is the same as in 1984, by the way. Like I said, the majority of society is excluded from both participating in power and the sort of control exerted on the intellectuals that comprise the inner and outer party membership. Big Brother only bothers watching over the aristocracy, and among them only a few have any say in what happens.

That being said, there's a reason the Hunger Games Empire is less totalitarian: Hunger Games is not a dystopia. 1984 is, and that makes all the difference. You can prefer the former, but I wouldn't because 1984 is less realistic. In the first place it more accurately describes civilizations that have actually existed than you may think. More importantly, it's far more ambitious philosophically, in how it explores politics by idealizing power, typifying the dissenter, portraying that favorite modernist topic of alienation.

Hunger Games has hardly any time for such abstractions. It is a teen romance and action adventure. Not that it isn't defter, more realistic, or better plotted and with sharper character details than other books of its ilk. But I couldn't imagine, for instance, it elevating into what is to this day useful political commentary—if you're bent that way, that is toward seeing geopolitics as a masquerade and world powers as essentially indistinguishable—what is the simple plot device used to push Winston toward rebellion which is Goldstein's book ("Theory and Practice of Oligarchic Collectivism," perhaps based on Trotsky's "The Revolution Betrayed").
comment #14667 tublecane 6th Jun 12
"what is the simple plot device"

Oh, I should add it's not just that, either. It is part of the larger ambiguity over whether Goldstein is real or not, and is used to show how the establishment co-opts troublemakers.
comment #14668 tublecane 6th Jun 12
"whereas with the Hunger Games nothing has to decay, the people in the arena were just people doing what people does. The danger of civilisation isn't when it decays, but when it becomes comfortable."

I can't understand this perspective. We're talking about the U.S. having fought another civil war, a tyrannical government errected in its wake, various sections of the country oppressed and forced into dire poverty to provide comfortable lives to the new aristocracy, etc. I've heard it well described as "post-apocalyptic." Is that not degeneration? Is that not decay into a world if not as feral as Lord of the Flies at least unmeasurably more brutal and uncomfortable than our own?

I'm sure there are somewhere in this country people living at or near the subsistence level of Katniss and family. But nothing would describe the world of Hunger Games better than "decay" from current conditions.
comment #14669 tublecane 6th Jun 12
"Were they evil people? No, it's just the nature of humanity, that the more people are present the less responsibility each individual feels they have to deal with a problem, and if enough people are around, they'll deceive themselves into thinking that it's someone else problem, or it doesn't exist, or they don't have to deal with it."

It's not that, so much. Go back a century and you have common folks in Northfield, MN opening fire on bank robber Jesse James and company. People now have generally less experience with danger and violence and are more afraid of criminals. It isn't always so shameful as you example, but we are systematically docile.

That being said, as regards the larger issue it's neither here nor there. Witnesses in that case were an unwilling audience, and had no complicity either in consuming it as reality tv or in it being done by their government.
comment #14670 tublecane 6th Jun 12
I didn't convey my 1984 opinion well, my problem isn't in the way the society functions, I recognise that as not being too far from impossible, it's the motivation of those on top and there purpose in torturing people that was silly. No-one sits down and says 'I have looked and history and decided to be evil' and that whole business of a revolving elite, not bogged down by hereditary, was just not a real motivation. Meglomaniacs more than most people can't plan coldly and accurately ahead nor think of themselves as disappearing as was valid here. His ruling class were an almost selfless elite of saintlike forward thinkers, except that there plan was to get rid of revolutions from society rather than actually do good to people.

On that front, the method of control is much more believable in A Brave New World, because that's what people would fall into. But the motivation in a Brave New World, whilst more cohesive than in 1984 because the self-sacrificing people were idealistic and working towards peoples benefits. Although again, people never organise and plan as cohesively as that.

The Hunger Games is the reverse, it's got by far the most ridiculous settings, and in truth something like the Hunger Games would never happen. But it's human emotion is much more accurate and is shown in most societies at all sorts of levels. Because you have the guys at the top who are out for power and control and to keep [i]themselves[/i] at the top (unlike 1984's future progeny thing) the people who go along with it go along with it because people are often very passive, especially when Snow isn't unwilling to use force and fear along with his entertainment and the people in the districts are passive because it's shown with enough force and oppression you can make people behave like that.

I mean there are more things and more things that will happen, the second and third books explore some of the more positive aspects of it and the wider situation. The writer had got to the end of the Hunger Games and realised that what Katniss did wasn't enough and in the society she was in, she wouldn't be allowed to get away with what she's done, so wrote in the more omnious ending to the first and wrote another two books to finish it completely.

And what I meant by decay isn't that society hasn't decayed, it clearly has. But Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale were 'look what will happen to people when the bonds of society are lifted' whereas the situation in the Hunger Games wasn't so much about that. It's connects much more into a society like Nazi Germany where nice ordinary people let a whole people group get exterminated by inaction.

As far as Rue goes, sometimes people are young and innocent, I think it was important to have Rue, if for nothing else that the story needed some symbol of idealised behaviour, since the protagonist doesn't display it
comment #14705 Tomwithnonumbers 7th Jun 12
"I recognise that as not being too far from impossible, it's the motivation of those on top and there purpose in torturing people that was silly. No-one sits down and says 'I have looked and history and decided to be evil'"

Taking into account the genre and understanding its great strengths and tragic limitations might might help you here. Distopias are meant to be funhouse mirror reflections of utopias. As such, the designers and leaders of their societies as much as those of the supposedly perfect ones think themselves to be doing good. Except in the dystopian case they are actually evil.

I suppose the problem is that while you can see someone believing in the precepts of the mass production of goods and people in Brave New World, you can't see anyone but the consciously evil buying into the naked power motivating the leaders in 1984. I can, seeming as how we have counless examples from Stalin to Hitler and so on of people committed monumental evil without waking up one morning and deciding to be evil. No, in their minds they were the good guys, fighting for the race or class that deserved to be on top by right.

But here we reach the tragic limitations I was talking about. Truth is stranger than fiction, and the above are special cases. It's tougher to buy a fictional world based on obviously evil people and buy that they think they're doing good. You may exagerrate the difference between 1984 and Brave New World, in that I think the latter is if not just as evil nevertheless pretty inarguably evil.

There's a trade-off involved in writing dystopias. Their great strength is that they allow us to zero in on particular ideas. By stretching out power or mass production to the size of an entire civilization—actually, three civilizations which span almost the entire globe, only one of which is investigated in great detail but which we can assume is nearly identical to the others—we can learn possibly more than we ever wanted to know about it.

Like I said, this is a reductio ad absurdum. Which is unfair, since no real society is so evil as that. But there's an implicit compromise in sitting fown to read this genre. You accept its implausibility and trade for it the thrill of seeing an idea stretched to its absolute limit. That one dystopia is more or less plausible than another—in your case Brave New World more than 1984—is not to me the point. No dystopia is plausible, and I don't go to them for plausibility.

Which might make it seem like the genre is idle, with no substantive relation to real life. And it is, partly, in that we don't have to worry about real 1984s popping up. But we do have to worry about utopianism, as it can lead not to directly but possibly eventually to quasi-dystopian societies like the Soviet Union.

So it's more of an intellectual exercise than an art reflecting nature sort of thing. It's a battle of the books. Dystopias reflect utopias like a funhouse mirror, as I said. So if Orwell sees utopias as motivated at their most basic level by power does it matter so much that the real life Russia on which his book is partly based could never be so single-mindedly evil? I don't think so. That's not what the genre's about, really. It's not to say that power is so important to man, but that power is one of the ideas that obsesses man and here's what that would look like if it stretched to its limit.
comment #14715 tublecane 7th Jun 12
"I think it was important to have Rue, if for nothing else that the story needed some symbol of idealised behaviour, since the protagonist doesn't display it"

That would be a good thing, except I don't think that's what she provided. Not to say she didn't act ideally, but she wasn't so much a symbol as a device for developing Katniss' character, moving the plot along, and providing a Tear Jerker moment.
comment #14716 tublecane 7th Jun 12
"there plan was to get rid of revolutions from society rather than actually do good to people"

If I could put our disagreement as succinctly as possible, I'd say they thought that by doing so they would be doing good for society. Whether anyone could plausibly think such a thing is beside the point. 1984 is about what if power and power alone became the motivating idea behind an entire civilization? What if power for its own sake was ever pursued even to the exclusion of those who happened to be in power at the time? It's an interesting question.

I would add also, that if you look at the book from the perspective not of the master plan of its society but of its characters, how they act, what they think, their relation to one another, the plot, how it resolves itself, etc. that it is a fairly realistic novel. That is, once you accept that it takes place within a highly unrealistic context.

More realistic, anyway, in this sense than Brave New World, one of whose main characters, the Savage, is to me a cardboard man.

comment #14717 tublecane 7th Jun 12
I can believe into people craving naked power. What annoyed my about 1984 is they didn't, it wasn't self seeking, in fact it was very self-sacrificing, they didn't seek power for themselves. It always bugged me. Even the the reason why they tortured him, it just didn't feel like it had any basis in humanity because it was too good, too caring, too motivated. People are lazy, evil, greedy not like they are in 1984.

I'm not even saying that Brave New World isn't evil, I'm saying that the people being self-sacrificing are being self-sacrificing for a believable reason.

Of the three I feel Brave New World describes the most dangerous threat to humanity as a whole, 1984 has the most accurate depiction of the mechanics of a threat and Hunger Games had the most believable motivation of the people involved. But Hunger Games doesn't really compare to the other two, because it's not so much a warning, as just a thing. This is what humans are like. The other two have a lot more and deeper implications for society and they things we can do more about.

I think Rue did have that to some extent, I saw it again with my family and they were getting down about how immoral people are, why don't they not fight etc and for them Rue and Katniss' protection of Rue was a reminder that there are good things in the world and although we're imperfect and can get lost, we can always try to protect those things. (We ended up having a surprisingly deep conversation about it :D )
comment #14718 Tomwithnonumbers 7th Jun 12
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