My son is a huge fan of The Hunger Games trilogy, so the family went to the movies last night. Though I wouldn’t say that the film is brilliant, it is very good, and although “subtle” is not the word that most would use to describe the movie, there was a lot of subtle commentary on the culture of television, reality tv specifically, fascism, slavery, personal sacrifice, class conflict and the role of violence in pop culture. Indeed, the movie was very violent and ended up being a riff on itself and the exploitation of violence as a marketing tool to get people to watch something so sponsors can sell their stuff. I took careful note last night as to whom was sponsoring commercials in the movie theater before the movie began. The Hunger Games is about a completely secular society that represses and exploits others so that they may lead a life of leisure and luxury; imagine if Rome had never fallen but had continued to flourish into the 21st century. The “Capital” culture exploits the outlying “districts” so that they may follow a life of wealth, power, hedonism, and luxury. The outlying districts are, more or less, living hand to mouth to do the work that ensures the luxurious lifestyles of the Capital. The movie starts in District 12, the designated coal mining region which supplies all of the coal which keeps the lights on in the capital. The exploitation of the workers is ensured by a faceless army of thugs and brutes which rule through violence and fear. The government is fascist writ large. There is no democratic process to ensure any kind of representation, and there are no checks and balances which might curtail corruption or exploitation. The actual “Hunger Games” is an exercise in ritual murder turned into a reality television show, and the participants–all of whom will be violently murdered–are chosen via lottery (wink and nod to Shirley Jackson)–two from each district. The last man standing is turned into a pop celebrity for “winning” the Hunger Games. Tip of the hat to Woody Harrelson for bringing life to a cynical alcoholic ex-winner of the games from District 12. The main character is a reincarnation of Diana the Huntress, who begins the film by sacrificing herself to save her little sister who has been chosen to participate in the macabre reality show of violent death, mutilation, suffering, and cruelty which is being staged for the entertainment of the Capital, and for the humiliation of the districts. No spoilers here. Watch it, read it, but remember, this is strong stuff–not for the weak of heart.