One-to-one time with a teenage son is a rare opportunity, so I jumped at his suggestion that we watch the first ‘Hunger Games’ film on Netflix. I’ve read the book (by Suzanne Collins) so knew the story.
In a nutshell, 24 young people are set against each other in a battle of survival. The Hunger Games are played out in an outdoor, enclosed arena, which covers woodland, rivers and open spaces. The Games are televised for the entertainment of the outside world; the competitors (known as Tributes) can attract sponsors who send in essential equipment and aids, such as medicine. The action centres upon Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take part in the Games in place of her sister. There can only be one winner of the Games. The winner is the one who is left once all the others have been eliminated. By death.
I’m sure the ‘Hunger Games’ intended audience is probably teenagers, (it’s rated 12A in the UK) but I was totally transfixed all the way through. Jennifer Lawrence is a wonderfully expressive Katniss, displaying both immense bravery, empathy and vulnerability. Her reluctance to ‘play the game’ to try to endear her to the audience, adds to her strength of character as a young woman guided by a strong moral compass.
But for me the appeal of the film was not just about what was on the screen, it was the whole examination of modern day life. The viewers are obsessed with physical attractiveness, appearances are carefully controlled by the programme makers who manipulate both the screenings of the Hunger Games as well as the competition arena. Young people trying to eliminate one another, watched by millions who are glued to their screens, choose their favourites, take bets – isn’t that what ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me out of Here!’, ‘Big Brother’ and countless other reality TV shows are all about? Scary as it may seem, a real Hunger Games really doesn’t feel all that far removed from where we are now.