In an article I have written early this year, I discussed the political dimension of the Hunger Games trilogy using Immanuel Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory. Now, I am going to discuss again the Hunger Games but this time, I will be focusing on its themes of revolution and resistance. In the trilogy, the third book, Mockingjay, deals with this theme although the precursors of the impending rebellion have been revealed already in the first two books. We remember well the three-finger salute which Katniss Everdeen gave to her fallen friend and fellow tribute Rue during the 74th Hunger Games, an event which was broadcast in all Panem. Also, we remember during the third Quarter Quell how Katniss shot an arrow to the forcefield covering the Games, an event which led to the downfall of the barbaric reality television match. Forgetting for now themes of adolescent love and decadent violence, here are some of the things that the Hunger Games trilogy wants readers to know about revolution and resistance.
Warning: The text below contains spoilers.
(1) Where there is power or misuse thereof, there is resistance.
Immanuel Kant argues that revolution is a force for the advancement of humanity. Revolution attempts to thwart oppressive leadership and ensure that people enjoy their liberties and achieve their fullest potential. It is the right of the people to defend themselves against tyrants and secure a government that is responsive to their needs, so says the English writer John Milton. Historically, the Hunger Games has been legitimized by the Capitol as an act of penance for the districts which had initiated uprisings in Panem some years ago. So we know that long before Katniss fought in the arena, rebellions have long plagued the Capitol. The Hunger Games, responsible for the wanton killing of many young people for the sake of personal gratification, remained unchallenged for years until Katniss and Peeta Mellark took a bold step to subvert its established rules. Being the first to perform such act of defiance, Katniss eventually became the Mockingjay, the iconic symbol of the revolution, tasked to encourage the districts to rise up and jolt into action against President Coriolanus Snow’s tyrannical rule.
In a society where injustice prevails, people seek justice because it is their due. Clearly, we see that the dystopian society of Panem favors the aristocracy and frowns upon impoverished people. There is a stark contrast between the rich and the poor, i.e. the Capitol citizens and the destitute people of the Districts, respectively. The social structure transforms people’s innocence to felony as they struggle to survive. In such an environment where equality of rights and privileges is far-fetched and social discrimination rampant, the people have no recourse but to fight for what is inherently theirs.
(2) Revolution has faith in the power of the people.
Revolution always believes in the power of the people. Collective action is its strength and solidarity is its guiding ideal. While Katniss is regarded as the Mockingjay, this does not imply that she has to perform all the work alone. This is why in the first part of the cinematic adaptation of Mockingjay, Plutarch Heavensbee came up with a series of propaganda videos to urge the Districts to fight the oppressive power. The people have to be united to carry out a noble cause. It is problematic if the revolution, or any social movement for that matter, resorts into fanaticizing a particular person. The empowerment of the populace, not just of an individual person, spells success to a revolution as the revolutionary impulse has to come from below.
Throughout the course of history, most of successful revolutions have been instigated by the masses. Despite of their inferiority in arms and resources, peasants and natives have toppled great powers by relying in their strength and purpose. Antonio Gramsci calls them organic intellectuals, people who are politically-conscious of the injustice they experience and dare to oppose it. Most of the people in the Districts, due to lack of social safety nets, became vulnerable in all types of injustices. But after years of living in blind submission and apathy, one by one people made their firm resolve to fight against repression as they had been disenfranchised for so long and now wanted to break free.
(3) Revolution is not a ‘spur of the moment’ phenomenon.
Is the Hunger Games brand of revolution just based on a shallow issue or deeply grounded in class interest? We first look at Katniss who seems to have more interest in saving Peeta rather than overthrowing the government. But as the film goes on, Katniss sees for herself the complete obliteration of her district and the shelling of a hospital housing wounded men, women and children – events which underscored the fascist nature of the Capitol. We now look at the response of the people, all of whom are the citizens of Panem and most of whom comprise Panem’s working class. Singing the melancholic song Katniss sang (which apparently has become the revolutionary chant) to grant Pollux’s request, people rushed toward the Capitol’s dam and planted explosives in it, destroying the Capitol’s source of electricity.
This revolution is definitely not an issue-specific one as it is not a spur of the moment but rather a thoroughly planned counterattack. As revolution is, in essence, challenging a flawed established order, it is rooted in the ideals of freedom and liberty. The underground-based District 13, led by its President Alma Coin, launched ingenious fighting stratagems to intercept Capitol’s battle plan. Although sentiments of non-confidence to the leadership of President Snow resulted to the breakdown of public order, revolution is viewed in the series not as an act of notoriety but an act of heroism. Notoriety is of the oppressor; heroism is of the oppressed.
(4) The government should be afraid of its people, not the other way around.
Popular sovereignty is a force that any government should not shrug aside. From the words of an article, “popular sovereignty is that apparition which makes the government afraid of its people, and the force which makes the people demand from the government all that is due to them.” The Capitol might be in control of advanced technology and strong armaments but the power emanating from the people is one that is inextinguishable even by use of force. The despotic Capitol cannot put into oblivion who the real government is. The government is the people, and none shall ever be.
Image Source: JoBlo.com