The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 opened in theaters around the world over the weekend and earned a hefty $275 million. In a year where domestic box office has been down overall, the film also earned more money in its opening weekend than any other film in 2014. The popularity of the Hunger Games series can’t be disputed, and has prompted a handful of similar franchises like the Divergent series and this year’s The Maze Runner and The Giver.
With plucky rebellion against dystopian tyrannies all the rage, an opportunity exists to draw some comparisons between these popular fictions and the real world. Indeed, the film has become a touchstone for protestors in Thailand. Fox News reports:
“The Mockingjay movie reflects what’s happening in our society. … When people have been suppressed for some time, they would want to resist and fight for their rights,” Nachacha Kongudom, 21, one of [three students detained at a screening], told AP. “Going to the cinema is the basic rights of the people. I’m here today to call for and to protect my rights.”
On Wednesday, five university students were arrested in northeastern Thailand after giving the three-fingered salute [from the film] during a speech by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup [against the elected government] as army commander.
It’s easy to see parallels between the Hunger Games stories and reality when you live under a military dictatorship. Panem, the fictional nation where these tales are set, operates as a fascist state where the individual languishes under subjugation. Dissent is brutally put down, and the enslaved populace is forced to offer up their children in tribute to a capitol which pits them against each other in a vicious death match.
Life in the United States is far from that portrayed in Panem. However, when the root issues at stake in the Hunger Games saga are identified, it becomes clear that Americans have much worth rebelling against.
At the core of nearly every policy pursued by the current administration has been a profound subjugation of the individual to the will of the state. Young people stand particularly victimized, forced to sacrifice their present and future happiness to fund promises made to the sick or the old, promises which actually benefit those in power. How does the individual mandate in Obamacare differ fundamentally from the slave labor in Panem? Sure, instead of the lash, we have the IRS. But the effect proves the same, individuals forced to feed the state.
In these years between elections, the opportunity exists to define the stakes in such terms. Young people may be socially liberal, a fact not likely to change. But they retain a sense of individual liberty which fiction like The Hunger Games stokes into conviction. Let’s build on those themes to present a vision for the nation where the pursuit of happiness becomes sacrosanct again.