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Is "The Hunger Games" Anti-Capitalist Cinema for the 99%? Or Anti-Gov't Agit-Prop?

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik March 16, 2012 at 9:58AM

While I'm loathe to promote a pop cultural event such as "The Hunger Games," it'll be interesting to see where the culture wars take positions on the new teen fantasy franchise, which according to early reviews, is going to be seen by lots and lots and lots of people. I'm not familiar with the books, and my only interest in the film is its politics, not its entertainment value, but the very premise suggests an attack on much of what our infantile culture worships: reality TV, celebrity, fame and material wealth. And sure, this baby is all about making money for studio Lionsgate and the other investors in the film, but I do believe it is possible--though rare--for a corporate film to have its capitalistic cake and choke on it, too. See "V For Vendetta" or "FIght Club."
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While I'm loathe to promote a pop cultural event such as "The Hunger Games," it'll be interesting to see where the culture wars take positions on the new teen fantasy franchise, which according to early reviews, is going to be seen by lots and lots and lots of people. I'm not familiar with the books, and my only interest in the film is its politics, not its entertainment value, but the very premise suggests an attack on much of what our infantile culture worships: reality TV, celebrity, fame and material wealth. And sure, this baby is all about making money for studio Lionsgate and the other investors in the film, but I do believe it is possible--though rare--for a corporate film to have its capitalistic cake and choke on it, too. See "V For Vendetta" or "FIght Club."

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Early reviews suggest that the film is inherently political--another example, perhaps, of mainstream cinema with themes that might resonate with the Occupy Wall Street movement. One blogger sees "several inherent criticisms of the world we live in; most clearly, of capitalism, and using people in other countries to do labour for us to support our lifestyle, and of the media, using violence as entertainment."

As a contributor to the liberal website Daily Kos notes, the books include the explicit "theme of class warfare and imperialism.... Throw in media control, massive government spying, police state, and the exploitation of the periphery districts by the Capitol district and the themes of this modern novel should provide more than enough material for a discussion of the problems of modern society."

I could also see this content interpreted as anti-government. You can easily hear the argument that the evil central Capitol and its nefarious President are indicative of the problems we face when the government gets too much power.

Now I'm sure all this stuff is pretty watered down--the movie is, after all, made by the team behind "Seabiscuit." As Variety's Justin Chang writes, "Any real sense of risk has been carefully ironed out: The PG-13 rating that ensures the film's suitability for its target audience also blunts the impact of the teen-on-teen bloodshed."

Chang isn't all that confident in the film's ability to make a statement, either. "The questions raised here, regarding the morality of violence as entertainment and the brutality of pitting children against each other, have been addressed before, and to more potent effect, in films like 'Series 7: The Contenders' and the shockingly violent Japanese actioner 'Battle Royale.'"

But just wait until the Fox News team gets a hold of it. It will surely be politicized to no end.

This article is related to: Corporate Evils, Occupy Wall Street