On the Hunger Games trilogy

Panem et Circenses

The Myth of the Real in Reality TV
By Carrie Ryan

In the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins takes our obsession with Reality TV and extends it to the most horrifying ends: a society that views kids killing kids as entertainment. It’s easy to find this an uncomfortable premise–to turn our noses up and say that while we may enjoy Survivor or Big Brother every now and again, we’d never let society slip to such levels. However, there’s also a deeper, more difficult message in the Hunger Games series: the extent to which media can be manipulated as a means of controlling the populace and how we as viewers have abdicated any agency in the process.

This then leads to an even more troubling aspect of the trilogy: our complicity in said message. But for the viewers’ participation, the Hunger Games would not exist in the same way that, but for our tuning in, Reality TV wouldn’t exist. By watching, we increase the ratings, and as our interest wanes the shows must become “more” to recapture our attention–more compelling, more extreme, more dangerous. And the only difference between us and the viewers in the Capitol is that we have agency to turn off the television at any time; we just choose not to. As Suzanne Collins shows us, the obsession with ratings, which is driven by our desire for more and more compelling narratives, can turn ugly when such a lens is applied to news reporting–especially that of war–rather than so-called Reality TV.

Ratings, Not Reality

With any television show,  …

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