I saw The Hunger Games over the weekend. It’s entertaining for sure — so it’s no surprise that it’s already grossed $250 million in 10 days. And that suggests far more people have already seen the movie then will ever read the book.
What’s unfortunate is that as far as I could see, the movie has excised what little the book spoke to post-apocalyptic global warming (see “The Hunger Games: Post-Apocalypse Now For Young Adults“). The one sentence in all three of the books a youI could find that suggested that the suppressed revolution that led to the creation of the annual slaughter-fest known as “the hunger games” was preceded by a climate-driven apocalypse is gone:
[The mayor] tells of the history of Panem. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained. The result was Panem, a shining Capitol ringed by thirteen districts…”
Indeed, much of the hunger is removed from the hunger games. Yes, people are still hungry outside of the Capitol, but the book was very clear that the winner of the hunger games “receives a life of ease back home, and their district will be showered with prizes, largely consisting of food,” all year round.
I didn’t see that in the movie, which makes the motivation of the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, simply her desire to protect her sister (a motivation that was also present in the book). But without making clear that the winner is fighting to feed the whole district, frankly, some aspects of the movie don’t quite work.
Obviously, that’s what the author, Suzanne Collins wanted, since she co-authored the screenplay. The movie is really not terribly post-apocalyptic at all. Indeed, the Capitol — and the outlandish costumes and makeup of the pampered citizens — bears the closest relationship to prerevolutionary France. The only thing missing was “let them eat cake,” and, if you see the movie, then even that line is basically assumed.
No, the movie has nothing to do with global warming, and is far more the 99% vs the 1%, a theme that will certainly become clearer in the subsequent movies as it does in the books.
So anybody out there who wants to assert that popular culture is somehow embracing global warming will have to find a different blockbuster movie. Good luck — see Apocalypse Not: The Oscars, The Media And The Myth of ‘Constant Repetition of Doomsday Messages’ on Climate.
Ted Alvarez at Grist has a fascinating post, “Katniss Evergreen: Do ‘Hunger Games’ fans care about climate?” in which he talks to fans in the movie line. He notes that “Suzanne Collins’ fleet prose is built for action; she largely skips the details of her futuristic world of Panem so that we can get on with the underage stabbin’.” He wonders if one line in the book is “enough for kids to draw connections between the fantasy world du jour and their own? Can Hunger Games make this generation care more about climate than the last?”
Curiously absent from this conversation are the Voices of the Youth themselves. So I decided to head into the belly of the beast: I would go to a midnight premiere in downtown Seattle to talk to the climate disaster survivors of the future. (It would be like war reporting, but with higher-pitched screams.)
Here’s what he learns: