Perhaps I’ve been toiling too long in the public policy salt mines, but my take on "The Hunger Games" is that it’s less an adolescent dystopian adventure/love story than an allegory of government rules run amuck.
I may be trying too hard to squeeze a square peg into a round hole, but bear with me:
The movie’s premise is a future nation, Pan-America, where warfare has been replaced by a reality television series in which selected teenagers battle each other to the death. Two teens are chosen to represent their respective districts in a process straight out of an earlier generation’s dystopian fantasy, Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery."
Now, I’m no fan of wars in general, and judging by the antics of the theater audience attending the matinee I watched, I may not have a problem with groups of snooty teenagers being sent to the woods with the provision that only the noblest returns. So far, so good.
But just as most government programs begin with the best intentions, usually there are negative consequences in the results. In "The Hunger Games," those consequences include a group of impossibly attractive young adults portraying improbably gorgeous adolescents, dropping each other like pigs in a slaughterhouse.
The viewer is complicit with the theme that this isn’t cool. Donald Sutherland plays the government leader, and the audience just knows in their communal heart that this status quo will be challenged by our young protagonists in the film’s climax.
But, even as the teens play by the government-established rules of the Hunger Games, they discover it’s the government that’s changing the rules, to the detriment of the contenders. For example, when it appears the film’s pouty-lipped heroine is insufficiently keen on disemboweling her opponents, the game masters unleash nasty beasts and fireballs upon her. Naturally, this only strengthens her resolve to beat the rigged system.
Just so in the real — as opposed to reel — world: When it was discovered that growing layers of rules and regulations imposed on businesses were stifling innovation and investment, and that individual liberties and privacy were also being relegated to the backseat under the guise of protecting the public at large, concerned citizens — small business owners and Tea Party members, for example — took it upon themselves to fight back.
In response, lawmakers and regulators in this reality have unleashed their own version of fireballs and bloodthirsty mastiffs that kill jobs, curtail profitability and disincentivize investment. Sound far-fetched? How else would readers characterize Obamacare; green energy mandates; "net neutrality;" massive housing, banking and auto bailouts, and more?
The movie's conclusion is an obvious setup for a sequel, leaving our intrepid protagonist with much, much more work to do to end the carnage. The same theme carries over to our current political environment. Much has been accomplished, but much more needs to be done to prevent our state and from nation winding up as an allegorical, lifeless stiff on the legislative and regulatory forest floor.
Bruce Edward Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.