The Hunger Games & Revolution

By Jason Boog Comment

The Hunger Games will open in theaters around the country today and the movie will undoubtedly send readers scrambling for the sequel–a timely book that could help the younger generation think about these revolutionary times.

The Hunger Games focuses on the personal struggle teenage girl named Katniss Everdeen. In Suzanne Collins‘ sequel, Catching Fire, that personal struggle expands in a country-wide revolution. Even though Catching Fire was first published in 2009, certain scenes feel ripped from our current headlines.

Yesterday actor Penn Badgley compared The Hunger Games plot to the Occupy Wall Street movement: “It’s the one percent [killing the kids] … I think you’d have to be blind to not see that … If this doesn’t end in revolution, it’s irresponsible, because of everything it’s bringing up.”

We’ve collected a few timely excerpts from Catching Fire below, but they contain mild spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the books.

Revolutionary Lessons from Catching Fire

1. One person’s sacrifice can spark a revolution. In Catching Fire, the oppressive politician President Snow warns Katniss: “if a girl from District Twelve of all places can defy the Capitol and walk away unharmed, what is to stop them from doing the same? … What is to prevent, say, an uprising?”

Collins’ world is patrolled by Peacekeepers, a military police force that keeps the population under control through brutal displays of power. In Catching Fire, the citizens begin to fight back after years of muted submission.

In December 2010, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest the economic and political oppression he suffered on a daily basis. His dramatic death inspired popular revolutions around the region that lead to the ongoing reforms and conflicts of the Arab Spring.

These are not perfect parallels, but these momentous events loom behind the story in 2012.

2. Privileged people can pretend the revolution doesn’t exist. In Catching Fire, the heroes visit the wealthy Capitol, discovering that news of a popular revolution has been suppressed.  “We make endless appearances to adoring crowds. There is no danger of an uprising here among the privileged, among those whose names are never placed in the reaping balls, whose children never die for the supposed crimes committed generations ago.”

While we focused on popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Libya last year, popular attention has shifted away from these countries. But the life and death struggles of these activists have not ended, and these countries are still fighting to keep the revolutionary spirit alive.

In the United States, the Occupy Wall Street movement has struggled to regain popular attention after a few months of media exposure. Even as hundreds of activists try to spread the word, the story has been pushed to the fringes of the national news cycle.

3. Years of suppressed anger emerge in violent and confused ways.

In The Hunger Games, Collins mastered the art of telling a suspenseful story of a small group of people trapped in a deadly situation. In Catching Fire, she focuses on describing a kind of violence that cannot be contained.

An excerpt: “Below them, there’s a mob scene. The square’s packed with screaming people, their faces hidden with rags and homemade masks, throwing bricks. Buildings burn. Peacekeepers shoot into the crowd, killing at random. I’ve never seen anything like it, but I can only be witnessing one thing. This is what President Snow calls an uprising.”

Collins’ readers have read headlines about confrontations between the police and Occupy Wall Street activists around the country. Pepper spray attacks at UC Davis and New York City generated international support for the movement.

As we head into an uncertain election year, these protests will probably multiply. Do you think these political passages will inspire the younger generation? Or will we all just move on to the next Hollywood blockbuster?