In the Hunger Games the people of the Capitol can not get enough of the death and destruction going on in the arena. Every death will be played and replayed to satisfy the audience’s taste for blood. What kind of people would enjoy watching innocent children die? We must ask ourselves are we more like the beer swilling revelers of death or are we just innocent people caught up in the Games of the Capitol and battling for survival? Our culture is obsessed with celebrity, but even more we are obsessed with the juicy affairs, wardrobe malfunctions, and trips to rehab. If you have found yourself fighting back a smile when you read about a star’s fall from grace then you have experienced Schadenfreude.
In Panem the government is centered at a place called “the Capitol” and this government has established a ritual as a demonstration that powerfully defines the relationship between the government and the governed. The arena is a symbol to the people of Panem of the Capital’s control and it’s commitment to that end. One of the ways the Capitol controls people is through the use of surveillance. “The Careers” who are the tributes from the Capitol were described by Katniss as “lapdogs.” Killing for the Careers is not just a matter of survival it is a noble and, perhaps, enjoyable thing. As shown by the words of Clove one of the career tributes:
“I promised Cato if he let me have you, I’d give the audience a good show.”
Peeta realizes and represents the regenerative power of art imitating nature in stark contrast to the Capital which declares war on the principle of art mimicking nature. The “freakish” Capitol residents decorate their own bodies and the Gamemakers create monstrous human-animal hybrids. True culture celebrates the power of re-creation instead of de-creation.
“The pleasure in our lives of affirming creation is inverted into perversities of destruction, pleasured in the pain of suffering and death.”- Phillip Rieff
Art and entertainment in the Capital has abandoned mimicry of nature and meaning in favor of a freakish attempt at self-referencing and self-originating power. The motto of politics, ethics, and art becomes “I can do it, so I will do it.” The need to show re-creation through nature, self-mastery, and adopt real meaning has been replaced with the need to assert one’s external ambitions and maintain the perception of total control in a world that is always changing by tapping into our not-so-secret and deeply rooted vicious pleasure in watching others suffer.
to be continued…