On the Hunger Games trilogy

The Games as Exploitation, Exploitation as Entertainment

By V. Arrow

It feels like we’re in a Roman theater watching gladiators duke it out.”

Alex Guarnaschelli, The Next Iron Chef

People have always found entertainment in stories of others faced with danger or trauma. This is true whether those stories are framed as fiction, as with Shakespeare’s tragedies; as reality, as with the violent footage in grisly newscasts; or as “reality,” as with doctored and fictionalized personal melodramas of glitzy celebutantes. Whether we’re watching Kim Kardashian’s divorce proceedings on modern scripted reality television, atrocities of war on sensationalized news programs, or athletes beating each other senseless on Ultimate Fighting, real turmoil and real violence have become as much a part of our modern entertainment culture as the real turmoil and violence of the Hunger Games is a part of Panem’s. This universal acceptance–even hankering–for violent entertainment is a part of the rhetoric of entertainment in the Western world, as Guarnaschelli’s quote at the start of this chapter shows. Referencing gladiatorial games to describe a cooking show feels not only natural but apropos and expected; we have no problem seeing the contestants in The Next Iron Chef, whom we are ostensibly rooting for, as fierce competitors in a battle to the death.

This reverence for battle violence is what a reference to the Hunger Games would convey equally in Panem’s theoretical future, when knowledge of the Roman theaters would be even more ancient history. Of course, the Games themselves (even in their name, as “games”) are a pointed allusion to the gladiatorial games  …

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