The Hunger Games, 18c French Aristocratic Culture, and Ancient Greek Culture

May 8, 2013

I just finished reading the book series ‘The Hunger Games‘ in anticipation of the upcoming second movie and could not help but ponder the correlations between the series and the French aristocratic culture we saw in ‘Ridicule‘ and that Rousseau would have been dealing with in his time.

Though The Hunger Games was gripping in many ways, from its non-stop spree of child on child violence, to its predictably verrry drawn out love triangle, and its fantasy quasi-post-apocalyptic world, the feature I found drawing me back each time was its stark depiction of the Capitol and its relation to the other Districts 1-12.

 

Katness’ three stylists many interactions serve as quite possible the largest pool of information we have when it comes to the way the Capitol sees the district people.  They often rant on and on about fashion trends in the Capitol, gossip of the latest celebrities, and the sporting events (past and future hunger games).  When the stylists inquire as to what Katness does regularly, or to the lives of the districts they are not even able to fathom what this ‘simple’ lifestyle could be.

The opposite applies as well, and perhaps to greater effect in the books as our protagonist provides the perspective of the Districts people.  When over hearing this seemingly babble from the people of the Capitol to one another an almost un-remorseful anger arise for Katness as these people go on with their seemingly empty lives without any care for the travesties that ravage the lives of the poor.

This all is very direct to the way the Aristocrats view the poor in ‘Ridicule’ where Madame de Blayac states, “The poor, such boring lives.”  For to them these ‘worldly’ matters are so base it is not simply unfashionable to entertain them.  In the movie our protagonist (Ponceludon) is faced with the simple task of getting funding from the king to drain his swamp to keep his people from dying of malaria.  However to do so he must prove himself to the king through jests of rhetoric, wit, and poetry.  This need to do so is viewed by Ponceludon and other poor characters as bordering hysterical  for to them the negligence of such worldly problems is unfathomable.

So while reading I was also immensely intrigued by hoe Katness tried to put herself in the shoes of the people of the Capitol and question if they were deserving of her hate.  Often coming up with thoughts like, “I guess if I was raised in the capitol I too would be wondering what the next fashionable color to dye ones skin is”.  But even when she was able to justify the ‘blindness’ to the rest of the world of its citizens it didn’t seem she could ever justify the reason the capitol would promote such a system.  This is where I think ancient Greek culture comes into play.

For the Greeks, to have to do manual labor of any sort was considered lowly and something only for a slave.  And boy did they love their slaves, for to truly be a citizen one must be able to remove themselves from the hardships of life to be able to think upon the deeper philosophical questions.  This at least was one justification they presented.  For if one is always caught up in the turmoil of difficult living, one can only think of remedies to their situation, and therefore cannot begin to attain true knowledge.  I think this also works in the Capitol’s favor as they are not able to pursuit these high forms of art, beauty, architecture, etc without being 100% removed from ‘worldly duties’ .

So I have a few questions to prompt comments:

  1. aristocracy, at its core, will always justify itself with a claim to being more knowledgeable, however in doing so does it also setup a necessity to disregard the troubles of the poor as moot to their situation?
  2. Another way I was reading the Hunger Games was as a play on the way 1st and 3rd world countries interact in modern day society, i.e. we in the US ignore the travesties of most of Africa, Asia, Middle East etc and are able to go on with our daily lives often without the ability to even fathom what is occurring their.  Further the people of those countries must see us as the Districts people saw the people of the Capitol, as over indulgent and blissfully ignorant of the reality surrounding them.  My question is, if this is the case will an unequal society always have this dispute between populations or is this just a result of the vastness of the inequality?
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