With Katniss Everdeen set to take a “Victory Tour” for her winning of The Hunger Games in the upcoming “Catching Fire” movie, I got thinking about the parallels to real life civilizations. For anyone who has seen the first Hunger Games film or read the books, you can almost come away with the feeling that this sort of dystopian society is too foreign a thing to ever happen or to have had happened in real life; that’s it’s all just a science fiction parable to remind us to appreciate our freedoms. However if you look closely there are elements in The Hunger Games of real societies of today and throughout history. While no one society may completely encompass all the elements of the fictional world of the post-apocalyptic nation of “Panem” – some have scary similarities.
The Roman Empire: Battle To The Death
The main aspect of The Hunger Games society that is intriguing is the concept of a battle to the death that Katniss and the other Tributes must endure. The last man standing at The Hunger Games is the winner. What’s unique about its portrayal in the books and films is that it’s happening in a technologically advanced society, while most people would consider a battle to the death to be barbaric. For its time The Roman Empire was considered an advanced civilization and the famed Roman Gladiators were Rome’s versions of “Tributes.” Most Gladiators were considered slaves, or of the lower class, much the same way the people of the Districts are treated as second class in the Hunger Games. Gladiators fought one another in addition to criminals and even animals as crowds gathered at the Roman Coliseum in hopes of seeing a brutal death. For about four hundred years the Gladiator Games were all the rage in Rome. Volunteers to fight and those condemned to fight went to harsh schools where they were trained in preparation to put on a good fight- much in the same way that the Hunger Games Tributes are prepared prior to their fight.
North Korea: Thought Control
North Korea recently executed eighty of its citizens for “watching foreign films.” One of the biggest themes in The Hunger Games is total control of the citizens loyalty to the nation of Panem. The Capitol government of The Hunger Games broadcasts it’s propaganda during the games in elaborate patriotic fanfare, much the same way we would see a modern dictatorship throw military parades. In North Korea that type of loyalty is controlled through the state run, highly censored media. Nothing critical of the government or dictator Kim Jong-un and the Kim family can be said on television, film or radio. Internet access is highly restricted with only some government officials having access. In The Hunger Games Capitol we get this fun guy giving us updates on child death:
Nazi Germany: Police State
The Peacekeepers in the world of The Hunger Games are the Military Police who use brutal tactics to squash any type of dissent amongst the citizens. They are responsible for representing the government of The Capitol in the Districts and punishing citizens who break the rules. Much like the SS military police of the Nazis, the Peacekeepers had distinct uniforms dressing in all white (interestingly the SS officers were considered to be “extra pure” examples of “the white master race” according to the Nazis.. so maybe a not so subtle reference in The Hunger Games). The SS officers of the Nazi regime were accused of committing some of the worst crimes against humanity during World War II. Peacekeepers in the Hunger Games punish criminals with a public whipping.
17th Century England: Powdered Wigs and Fancy Pants
In England during the 17th and 18th centuries wigs of the big puffy variety were fashionable among men for one very important purpose: they needed to cover up their bloody sores, rashes and thinning hairlines. During this time syphilis was a major epidemic that created early balding in the many men who acquired the then untreatable disease. This included the King of France, Louis XIV who began wearing a wig. While we don’t know the syphilis situation in The Hunger games it’s safe to say that the television personalities who wear fancy cloths and wigs have large influence over their audience in the same way that the King of France would back in the day. Thus puffy wigs and fancy pants are big in Panem.. let’s hope not so much for the VD.