So I know the series is commonly described as being a satire of our media saturated culture blah blah blah, but I really think that is a superficial observation - I think there's a deeper, more potent, Marxist political critique being made. In fact I think it's a satire on the entire American dream.

Full disclosure: Just saw Catching Fire, haven't read any of the books, so I am not sure if this was intended by the author, but it seemed pretty evident to me from the movie so I started thinking about the ramifications about 30 minutes in. DEEP THOUGHTS.

The Districts are obviously being exploited for their resources by the Capitol, your basic capital (GET IT)/labor, 1%/99% relationship. The Capitol, in order to maintain the status quo, uses the Hunger Games as a diversion to keep the Districts infighting rather than gang up and topple THE SYSTEM, MAN. I drew a parallel between this and Nixon's "divide and conquer" Souther Strategy: throw up some bullshit non-issue social thing like abortion or immigration, and you take the focus away from the power disparity inherent in late-stage capitalism as practiced in the US.

Some Districts are wealthier and maintain a closer relationship with the Capitol; they have the career tributes. When Katniss wins from District 12, her family is given an "upscale" lifestyle, but the cinematographer wisely shoots the Victor's Village as a depressing ersatz version of the Capitol, more lavish than the rest of District 12 but with a drab color palette that serves to undermine how unfulfilling the "victory" is. You are a "victor", but since your victory comes by playing the rules of the system, you don't really "win". Again, the promise of "winning" (i.e., social mobility) is dangled in front of the poor, ostensibly as proof of a meritocracy (represented by the Games themselves).

The flaws in the meritocracy and the conservative/libertarian "bootstraps" mentality are highlighted in the unfairness of the Games - random children being selected from the poorer districts, while the wealthier districts have volunteers - and the arena itself is constantly manipulated by the denizens of the Capitol to provide additional obstacles for the tributes. Even the mentality of the wealthier districts serves as a bit of an Inner Circle jab - it's like the people who aren't poor, but think they are in the 1% because they have some creature comforts; they *think* they are in the powerful class, but they will never become citizens of the Capitol - they will never make the rules. (False Consciousness, to continue the Marxism analogy)

Of course Katniss is held up as an example of how one can come from crushing poverty and by sheer courage of convictions overcome the inequality inherent in the system and that if she can do it, anyone can! (A favorite tactic of the GOP, using the extraordinary as an excuse to divert attention away from the ordinary) I was impressed by the way the movie touched on the "but at what cost" aspect of this - Katniss basically develops fucking PTSD after killing people in order to "win" the system, and expresses reservations about what is required to actually beat the system - shown via discussions between her and Haymitch on one hand and President Snow on the other.


I'm surprised the slogan Katniss sees graffiti'd on a wall in one of the Districts - "the odds are never in our favor" - hasn't been adopted by those of a more progressive bent. I think that in itself is a pretty damning statement against the exploitative relationship of capital/labor, and of the American mythos that encourages workers to cuddle up to capitol with promises of a cushier form of indentured servitude. It's actually an almost shockingly pro-revolutionary statement, and I wonder if many of those who read the books (again I am not one of them, but from what I hear any inferred pro-revolutionary message is somewhat tempered by the actions of the third book) took that away from the series.

I liked the movie a lot, much better than the first one. I haven't thought of a big blockbuster movie that inspired that much Marxist analysis (or let's face it, any sort of analysis) in me since Robocop (which is about alienation of labor and the Hegelian dialectic if you must know). I also enjoyed it though! The special effects were way better; I thought the seductive allure of the Capitol heightened the Marxist connotations in my mind. Hell I'd rather live in the Capitol - they wear Alexander McQueen like, on the regular! - and that served to contrast the bloodshed cost or the futile hope of ever really attaining Capitol citizenship. It's like c'mon America, you're not going to be the 1%. Let's stop entertaining that fantasy and make things fucking *livable* in District 12 at the expense of the Capitol having another 83-course meal.

Also this might be an unpopular opinion but I do think Jennifer Lawrence overacts a bit. You can definitely see the wheels turning with every "anguished wail/cracked voice" emotional moment and she mugs sometimes.