The Hunger Games trilogy – Vivienne Muller


Just hunting through for work on The Hunger Games… found this article by Vivienne Muller:

ABSTRACT: “The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins deals with a dystopian future society in which a punitive ruling elite provide ‘entertainment’ for the masses in the form of mediatised ‘games’ featuring young people who must fight to kill one another until there is only one winner. The purpose of these games is to remind the populace of the power of the government and its ability to dispose of any who dare to defy it. In acknowledging violent ‘games’ as virtual entertainments which can be used to political effect, Collins suggests that they possess a disturbing capacity to undermine ethical perspective on the human, the humane and the real. Drawing on Baudrillard’s ideas about simulation and simulacra as well as Elaine Scarry’s and Susan Sontag’s concerns for media representations of the body in pain, this paper discusses the ways in which the texts highlight the dangers of virtual modes while also risking perpetuating their entertainment value.” (p.51) Ref: Vivienne Muller (2012) Virtually real: Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy International Research in Children’s Literature 5(1): 51-63

… a couple of interesting and/or nicely worded statements from Muller’s article…:

Describing the trilogy itself, Muller explains: “The trilogy heavily references the disturbing entertainment of Roman gladiatorial games as well as the immersive nature of computer/video games, the seductive allure of reality television and the distancing effect of mediatised images of war and violence to warn of the sinister uses to which these can be harnessed.” (p.51)

“The trilogy focuses in large part on the ease with which the real can be transformed into the virtual space through technical and aesthetic manipulation of viewers and participants.” (p.55)

The Hunger Games trilogy also conjures the spectre of the TV talent show which in high measure lays claim to the performative, the competitive and the entertaining. This is strongly enunciated in the hunger games in books one and two and it ghosts the action in book three, despite the latter’s move into a more [-p.57] sombre and reflective mode.” (pp.56-57)

“In Mockingjay, the hunger games have been replaced by outright war between the Capitol (led by President Snow) and the Districts (led by President Alma Coin of District 13). The way war is waged in mediated and mediatised format as were the hunger games in the first two books identifies their participation in the same virtual space. Both sides in the war make extensive use of video footage for propaganda purposes – trying to stay ahead of the game to leverage psychological as well as material victories.
The constant morphing of the real into the virtual calls for some kind of perspective that distinguishes between them.” (emphases in blue bold mine, p.59)

I expect Muller’s article would probably aid discussion about the dilemmas inherent in the ethics of representation; in watching violence (especially at a distance and through mediatised formats); in witnessing/engaging with others’ suffering, etc. Introducing her paper, Muller writes: “…this paper will discuss the ways in which the texts seek to highlight the dangers of virtual entertainment mode and their capacity to mask ‘real’ suffering, torture, violence, and death. This reading of the series allows it to be a clever engagement with the idea that exposure to virtual entertainment media forms frustrates attempts at critical distance from them to the point where it is difficult to identify and engage productively with the actual to which they refer. In considering this, the paper will also question whether the trilogy’s repetitive and elaborate use of the virtual entertainment modality risks compromising the ethical freight carried in the texts by young female protagonist, Katniss Everdeen.” (emphases in blue bold mine, p.52)

Note also that Muller references the following interview, which sounds interesting: Blasingame, James. ‘An Interview with Suzanne Collins’. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 52.8 (May 2009): 726.
Collins is also apparently quoted in: Ketteler, Judy. ‘The labyrinth re-visited; a Greek myth is transported to the future’. The Costo Connection 25.7 (2010): 55.

If you liked the Hunger Games


Because “The Hunger Games has been on the Lawrence Public Library’s top 10 list for months,” staff there have come up with a flowchart of books that might interest readers… They explain: “Now that you’ve fallen in love with the trilogy, you may be wondering what to read next. The staff of the Teen Zone has compiled a list to help you find your next favorite book, whether you loved The Hunger Games for the action and adventure, the love triangle, or the dystopian elements.

Love as a political act in the Hunger Games


In a book of essays that looks at some of the themes in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, the editor, Leah Wilson, writes: “You could call the Hunger Games a series that is – like its heroine – on fire. But its poopularity, in itself, is nothing new. We live in an era of blockbuster young adult book series: Harry Potter, Twilight, now the Hunger Games. It’s more unusual these days for there not to be a YA series sweeping the nation.

All of these series have certain things in common: compelling characters; complex worlds you want to spend time exploring; a focus on family and community. But the Hunger Games is, by far, the darkest of the three. In Twilight, love conquers all; Bella ends the series bound eternally to Edward and mother to Renesmee, without having to give up her human family or Jacob in the process. In Harry Potter, though there is loss, the world is returned to familiar stability after Voldemort’s defeat, and before we leave them, we see all of the main characters happily married, raising the next generation of witches and wizards. In the Hunger Games, while Katniss may conclude the series similarly married and a mother, the ending is much more bittersweet. her sister and Gale are both lost to her in different but equally insurmountable ways. The world is better than it was, but there are hints that this improvement is only temporary – that the kind of inhumanity we saw in the districts under Capitol rule is the true status quo, and that the current peace is ephemeral, precious, something toward which Panem will always have to struggle.” (Wilson, p.vii)

“The Hunger Games,” Wilson continues, ” is more than Gale versus Peeta; there’s so much more at stake in this series than love (and so much more at stake in loving, here, as well). The series takes on themes of power and propaganda, trauma and recovery, war and compassion. It’s about not just learning one’s power, but learning the limits of one’s power as well.” (Wilson, viii)

The abstract for Mary Borsellino’s chapter reads: “We see some really memorable weapons in the Hunger Games series. The wolf mutts with the eyes of the dead tributes in The Hunger Games stand out, as does Katniss’ bow. There are Gale’s snares, as effective at trapping people as animals, and of course the multitude of horrors contained in the Capitol’s pods in Mockingjay. For Mary Borsellino, though, none of these even comes close to the most powerful weapon in the series: love.” (Borsellino, p.29)

Bree Despain writes: “Being a tyrant is easy, really. All you have to do is take away people’s freedom. Many people in today’s society take certain liberties for granted: freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, free commerce, free press, and more simple freedoms such as travel and easy communication – all things that make a coommunity strong and viable. But what if in one swift movement all of these liberties were taken away? That’s what the Capitol does to the districts of Panem. After the first unsuccessful rebellion of the districts against the Capitol seventy-five years ago, the Capitol retaliated by taking every measure it could to destroy the feeling of community within the districts and between the districts, controlling and isolating people in order to keep them from rebelling again.

The most literal meaning of community is ‘to give among each other.’ Essentially, to share something amongst a group – whether that’s information (communication), goods, common goals, or a sense of family. If you destroy the ability, or simply the desire, to give or to share amongst a group of people, you will destroy the heart of the community. And if you destroy the heart of community and replace it with fear, then you will control the people.” (Despain, p196)

“Katniss doesn’t intentionally stir up dissent, and she certainly isn’t the cause. The people of Panem were unhappy long before katniss appeared on their television screens. So what is it about our heroine that makes her such a threat? Bree Despain suggests that the answer lies in Katniss’ greatest skill – not her dexterity with a bow, but her knack for creating community wherever she goes.” (Despain, p.195)

Refs: Leah Wilson (2010) ‘Introduction’ pp.vii-ix AND Mary Borsellino (2010) ‘Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist; Love as a political act in the Hunger Games’ pp.29-40 AND Bree Despain (2010) ‘Community in the face of tyranny; How a boy with a loaf of bread and a girl with a bow toppled an entire nation’ pp. 195-210 in Ed. Leah Wilson The Girl who was on fire:Your favourite authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy. Smart Pop: Dallas, Texas