Everyone’s favourite franchise has made a comeback. Between the creation of a brand new “Rick Roll” through 2014 Josh Hutcherson edits circulating Instagram and TikTok, and the popularity of the brand new film prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the Hunger Games franchise has never been more well off than it is now. While the stories within these books and films offer a nice escape for some, the truth of the matter is that the majority of the consumers find some sort of familiarity within each chapter.
The first Hunger Games book was published by Suzanne Collins in 2008 to an immaculate reception from the general public, reaching critical acclaim within the first few years of its publication. First a paperback trilogy, and then an incredibly popular film series, the Hunger Games franchise has seen a recent spike in public interest since the release of the prequel novel, and now prequel movie, following the life of young Coriolanus Snow. A story of underdogs, power complexes, militarization, genocide, rebellions, coups, found family, consumerism, the perils of reality television, and much more, The Hunger Games is a story that, while relevant at the initial date of its first release, is even more relevant today, given the Euro-western political climate, and the state of the entertainment industry.
Although not presented in the movie, the first few chapters of the prequel present the nation of Panem as it exists in the aftermath of a major war. After the war is over, consumerism immediately resumes its dominance in the Capitol, mirroring the reality of America after World War II. The parallels do not stop here, because throughout the rest of this film, we see Snow’s rise through the ranks of government, as he slowly goes from a Capitol citizen with several underdog companions, to a man consumed by power, greed, and his own well-being. Both the book and the film draw parallels with the United States’ seeming obsession with underdog stories, and the idea of equal opportunity, while also being a powerhouse military and fostering billionaires.
Outside of the Capitol, the 12 districts of the main Hunger Games trilogy exist in a state of poverty, suffering, and constant exploitation. Every one of them, especially District 12, are police states, the flow of their economy affected greatly by the control exerted over them. The black market is prominent in many of the books; the first film showcases the dangers of illegally selling necessary resources like fresh meat. It is likewise one of the only ways to make a living in which one can sustain themself and their family; something the trilogy’s main character Katniss Everdeen knows all too well. Outside of black market sales, not many residents can make enough profit to be comfortable, and given that the majority of people in the district do not participate in the black market, the economy in District 12 does not favour its citizens.
Parallels can be seen in today’s economy, with the vast majority of middle and lower-class citizen’s increasing inability to afford housing. Product prices have skyrocketed, and inflation is only growing, despite the fact that many are increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of billionaires laying off company employees at corporations such as Amazon, Bethesda, Duolingo, and Google. Likewise, with changes in streaming services like higher Netflix costs, more ads on Amazon Prime, and password sharing rules on Disney+, many people have taken to social media to state their unease regarding paying more for streaming services, or to suggest that they may resort to piracy as a result. There seems to be growing unease around the world due to the rising cost of living, often stationary minimum wages, food insecurity, and more.
Of course, The Hunger Games is a story of protest, and given the political climate of its readers, the popularity of these stories today seems only natural. Today, the world is plagued by a great many fights and a great many injustices. From genocides like those occurring in Palestine and the Congo, the fight for trans lives across the globe, to women’s rights and autonomy, protests in France, the Black Lives Matter movement, the war in Ukraine, and many more issues. The world is going through severe injustices, attributed largely to systems of power and privilege for a select few. It is a self-sustaining system, one that does not account for the many people in need of a better life style, one that hinges on equality, equity, and the betterment of humankind. The Hunger Games and its prequel encapsulates the world’s needs at this moment, a moment in which many are looking and hoping for a time when the fight for human rights can end, and everyone can enjoy peace.