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Human Objectification and the Power of the Rich and the Media: A Marxist Analysis of "The Hunger Games"

Updated on October 6, 2019
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Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

The Hunger Games Trilogy

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Human Objectification and the Power of the Rich and the Media: A Marxist Analysis of "The Hunger Games"

The Hunger Games is a series that has been known internationally through the series released and especially because of the movie “I volunteer as tribute” (Collins, 2018). This line has been famous upon the release of the film adaptation of the novel, The Hunger Games. It was released in 2008 and it is a trilogy with titles The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay with 100 million copies released worldwide in print and was in The Times best-seller list for 260 consecutive weeks (New York Times, 2018). The novel and film have reached different places and it is among the contemporary novels’ worth studying. The nature of the dystopic novel asserts how the writer presents the human objectification which can potentially transpire in the future. The Hunger Games is a literary piece can be read through Feminist and Marxist concepts commodification, classism, and objectification as it foreshadows the way humans can be used for entertainment in the near future as the power of the rich and the media intensify from the present until the future.

About the Author

The author of this series is Suzanne Collins as her groundbreaking trilogy has been adapted into films. She is the person behind the picture book Year of the Jungle as well as Underland Chronicles which is a New York Times bestseller (thehungergames.co.uk, 2019). She is currently residing in Connecticut with her family. She started her professional career in writing for children’s show (http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com, 2019). She has written numerous children’s stories making her background more on fictional and for children. From there, she proceeded to write the trilogy which was embraced all over the world.

What the Novel is All About

The novel is primarily about Panem’s punishment for the rebellion of a district, the Capitol required all the 12 Panem Districts to choose a tribute in their annual hunger games. The punishment process was turned into a form of entertainment where the tributes will have to fight for their survival. The last one standing will be the winner and the losers are the dead ones. In the process, a district will have to draw lots among girls and boys between age 12 to 18 years old. The apocalyptic world has started the process of choosing the 74th hunger games, and it happened that Prim Katniss’ younger sister was selected. Since she lost her father in their youth, Katniss volunteered to be the tribute. In the process, she became the symbol for hope and courage and she even won in the competition. With almost putting her life on the line, she managed to become victorious along with Peeta who both won in the annual hunger games. However, the entire process was a game eliminating all the lives of the tributes created monsters out of the viewers and the tributes themselves. The only way for them to survive is to win. Despite this context, the crowd still cheered for the battle.

The important characters include Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Haymitch Abernathy, Effie Trinket, and Prim Everdeen. There are still other characters who contributed to the overall impact of the novel. However, the main character is Katniss Everdeen who volunteered for the sake of her sister. From volunteering, she ended up winning in the hunger games making her an icon. In the story, Katniss and Peeta broke the record since it was the first time that there were two winners. They only managed to do this when they threatened to kill themselves if they will not be declared as winners. Since the crowd will not want a winner less game, both won and survived.

Aside from this, the way the crowd accepted the hunger games is an alarming situation since putting the lives of the people for the sake of entertainment has been found acceptable and worth watching. No one seems to have condemned the act and it appeared to be a fad and something acceptable already. Everyone appeared to have monitored every event that transpired in the game.

The setting is in Panem, a fictional country to have formed after North America collapsed and the time is about a hundred years from the present time. The primary theme includes the gap between the rich and poor and how the upper class makes fun of the dying tributes. It also features how money can stir people to accept what is supposedly unacceptable. The primary symbol is the brooch of the Katniss, the mocking jay as it represents her determination in surviving without necessarily compromising her co-tributes in the hunger games.

Themes in the Text

The major theme in this text is the gap between the rich and the poor. The ones in the Capitol are those who can be considered rich and are in the ruling class. It is their idea to come up with the annual hunger games as they fight for their lives just for these people to be entertained. The poor, on the other hand, are those who are selected to fight over the other. In the process of the lottery, the names from where the tribute will be picked come from the poor families and the rich are not included. Aside from this, the rich were the ones who funded the clothing of the tributes and were the people behind the competition. The existence of the game was for their entertainment as it was also a form of punishment for the failed rebellion. Each of them supported a tribute and even had placed their bets.

Another major theme in the novel is the power of the media. It is notable that everything in the hunger games is televised as each of the tribute fight for their lives. It appears that the media legitimizes the entire situation even if it is highly objectifying. In the novel, not just one is watching in the novel but every citizen in Panem is closely looking at the very steps of the tributes (Petersson, 2011). The media pressured the characters as well that even the decisions that every tribute has done can be considered as influenced by the power of the media. One wrong move will mean the broadcast of the action all throughout Panem which can lead to prejudice about the person.

Another theme worth considering is the form of entertainment that Panem seems to have accepted. People have accepted that even the game requires lives, they still would have to watch it and patronize every scene. In the process of the game, the hunger games become a propaganda into a game that will entertain people (Collins, 2018). This game is a punishment, but it ended up being a game being looked forward to as lives are sacrificed and the winners are just victims who managed to survive or kill the rest. This kind of entertainment is something that is not surprising since people now are enjoying sports like boxing and any physical games that end up harming each other to win the match. It is not surprising if in the future, games like hunger games will become a reality.

Lastly, the citizens in Panem especially the upper class appear to have obsessed on the appearance that they have. The poor people were practically looking normal since they do not have the resources to do what the rich are doing. However, the ones in the Capitol ended up looking like clowns with the attempt to be in with the fashion trend. With their desire to be accepted by their group, all of them end up looking like clowns with the kind of fashion that they have come up with.

Under the Marxist Lens: Analysis of the Text

Collin’s novel can be read in myriad of ways considering the Marxist approach. With how humans were treated in the novel, the kind of society that the novel illustrated shows what influence, money, and objectification of people can do. With that, classism, objectification of both men and women, and the power of the media can be seen evident all throughout the novels, the kind of society they have, and the characters especially with Katniss Everdeen.

Taking the lens of a Marxist, the role of the ideology in keeping them in power is highly important. The predominant ideology in the text is classism where one’s value as a human being is equated with the social class to which one belongs (Tyson, 2006). This is prevalent in the entire plot of the novel as the ruling class has manipulated the society for a form of entertainment like the hunger games acceptable. Classism is an ideology that equates one’s value as a human being with the social class to which one belongs: the higher one’s social class, the better one assumed to be because quality is “in the blood,” that is, in born (Tyson, 2006). In the novel, the rich individuals can be seen being in the VIP area watching the game and betting on their tributes. This shows how the power of the ruling class can make such games work and exist for their entertainment. Aside from this, the way those in the respective districts followed the Capitol blindly shows how much power those in authority and power has.

The main character has ironic features which makes the novel interesting to investigate. Initially, the novel is perceived to be feminist in nature as it puts forward a character who is different from the usual vulnerable and damsel-in-distress types. The main character Katniss Everdeen is presented as someone strong, independent, and active female character (Peters, 2013). It can be seen how the novel challenges the society with how females are presented. It is a way that will empower women as Katniss managed to survive the hunger games. Seeing her this way is just taking her character in a surface level. Contrary to her independence and courage, her character also shows how females are objectified as she lost her freedom in choosing what she should do and what clothes to wear (Peters, 2013). Her outfit was chosen for her, yet she feels beautiful about it as presented in the following statements:

The creature standing before me in the full-length mirror has come from another world. Where skin shimmers and eyes flash and apparently, they make their clothes from jewels. Because my dress, oh, my dress is entirely covered in reflective precious gems, red and yellow and white with bits of blue that accent the tips of the flame design. The slightest movement gives the impression I am engulfed in tongues of fire. I am not pretty. I am not beautiful. I am as radiant as the sun (Collins, 2018).

The transformation that she receives made her feel good about herself. The acceptance and appreciation of the main character to what happened to her are signs of total submission of the character to the female commodification. She permitted these organizers to take control of her and her body. There may be an attempt to resist but the mere fact that she adhered to the rules and to the situation, she already conformed to the status quo and to what the ruling class wants to happen. To add more to that, she felt good with what was done about her showing that her mindset was in alignment with what the ruling class wanted. With the need and want to survive, she ended up following the rules that she is objectified as the image of female strength while becoming an object of desire in the process (Godbey, 2014). The mere fact that she participated in the game and worked her way through the game shows how she got absorbed with the rules and how she gave in to what is happening.

Even if she presented herself as a strong woman, she still has her vulnerabilities all throughout the novel. It can be surmised that Her physical and sexual vulnerability is visible in the entire novel especially when she ended up falling in love with Peeta and their attempt to entertain people with their love story afterwards (Godbey, 2014). The relationship of Peeta and Katniss was sensationalized as it was televised, and Katniss just embraced the situation with their permission. In the process of commodification, the role of the media should also be considered. Media has placed Katniss and the rest of the tributes under the pressure of the public’s eyes. With the televised situations in the game, the hunger games have made the people comfortable with the violence that is happening and end up wanting for more (Matos, 2013). The media as well as the ruling class has managed to set the mind of the public to just accept the rules of the game. As they were doing their roles as tributes and fighting against each other, surveillance cameras were monitoring their movements down to the intimate ones or even the life or death situations (Petersson, 2011). Their lives do not matter anymore if the ones who wanted the game to exist and the public are entertained. This situation is already allowing the society in the novel to commodify and objectify the characters in the novel.

In the novel, the main character aided in the presentation on how they were commodified. Katniss even characterized herself as a “plucked bird, ready for roasting” (Collins, 2018) as well as a “piece of meat” to be prepared with the kind of game they are about to enter. The main character herself can see how the tributes like her are to become animal-like in the story. The placing of the self as food and animal after her transformation affirms the power of both the media and the ruling class (Miller, 2017). There is the implicit acknowledgment of the dehumanization of the tributes.

This game has dehumanized the tributes, the audience, and the public. However, with the power of the authority, the ruling class, and the media, it appeared to be something entertaining enough for people to cooperate with it. Despite the inhumane rules, the hunger games even reached its 74th year without the public going against it despite the damage it brings to the tributes and the lives that compromised in the process. With the power of the rich and the media, the game has become something to be looked forward despite it claiming lives every single year.

Implications in the Future

The novel presents something that may transpire in the near future. This includes the influence of the ruling class, the power of the media, and the form of entertainment that people may end up wanting to see. The power of the ruling class is apparent already from the past and even in the present. It is not questionable that this may carry on in the future as the society continues to operate with the rich on top and the poor ones at the bottom.

The power of the media may also intensify in the future just like how the novel presents it. Now, the media has gained its influence and is continuing in influencing people with what the ruling class wants. These two major game players in the society may end up pairing up to feed the public that the whims that the rich would want to happen is already acceptable. This is already evident at present with the standard of beauty that the business people are putting forward through media. So, in the future, if the media gains more control and power over the public, the novel of Collins has already foreshadowed it.

Another is the kind of entertainment that people are embracing. It is noticeable that the entertainment turns out to be dehumanizing as time passes by. People are treated like animals just for people to see what they want to see. With the power of money, there are those who participate in this kind of entertainment just to earn and survive. In the future, the hunger games are not impossible to happen since people are slowly gravitating to the concept of objectification of people. Several games including harming the other competitors are already existing that this might end up looking like hunger games as years pass by. This shows how inhumane people are becoming.

Conclusion

Through the major points highlighted in this paper, Collin’s The Hunger Games can be considered as a novel which can preempt the kind of objectification that humans may face in the future. These are the possibilities that are likely to happen with the situation currently happening. By using the concepts of ideology, classism, and objectification, the way Katniss played throughout the game showed how the rich manipulated poor ones to sacrifice their own lives to survive. This novel also shows how media can work together with the upper class to make the unacceptable acceptable by exposing the public with it. Katniss was also the character who was highly objectified as well as the rest of the tributes as they have to kill each other in order to survive. Her relationship with Peeta was also objectified as everything about the game was sensationalized just to gain the approval of those in power and of course the public. This made the tributes like animals and objects.

Notable themes in the novel include the power of the rich, the media, and the dreadful kind of entertainment that people end up obsessing about. The process of killing each other in the process end up normal since everyone is watching and no one is going against it. The novel is a clear picture of what the society may become if humans end up losing their values and their sense of humanity.

References

"Biography - Suzanne Collins". (2019). Suzannecollinsbooks.Com, http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/bio.htm

"The Author - The Hunger Games". The Hunger Games, 2019, http://www.thehungergames.co.uk/the-author/.

Collins, Suzanne. (2018). The Hunger Games. Scholastic Australia, pp. 1 – 150. Print.

Godbey, Margaret. (2014). “Beyond Sensation: The Hunger Games and Dystopian Critique”. The ALAN Review, pp. 1 – 24. Print.

Petersson, Sara. (2011). “The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Entertainment or Social Criticism?” Centre for Languages and Literature. Lund University, pp. 3 – 11. Print.

Miller, Mary Catherine. (2017). “Restorying Dystopia: Exploring the Hunger Games Series Through U.S. Cultural Geographies, Identities, and Fan Response”. Ohio State University, pp. 38 – 45. Print.

Matos, Mary A. (2013). “Media in the Hunger Games”. JCCC Honors Journal: Vol. 4: Iss. 1, Article 1, pp. 1 – 8. Print.

Peters, Megan. (2013). “The Ambiguity of Panem: Capitalism, Nationalism, and Sexuality in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Series”. Minnesota State University. Mankato, pp. 1 – 47. Print.

"Suzanne Collins Talks About ‘The Hunger Games,’ The Books and The Movies". New York Times, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/18/books/suzanne-collins-talks-about-the-hunger-games-the-books-and-the-movies.html.

Tyson, Lois. (2006). Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, pp. 38 – 62. Print.


The Hunger Games Trilogy

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