YA author Kenneth Oppel wrote an interesting piece in the Globe shortly after the release of the first Hunger Games movie this past March in which he criticized The Hunger Games for appealing to its audience’s baser instincts. The Globe comments section, as usual, expanded my mind vastly by demonstrating that there were more ways to miss a point than I possibly could have imagined: “Can’t you see it’s a critique?” “Psst…it’s fiction,” “You’re just jealous,” etc. I’m pretty sure Oppel knows Hunger Games is a critique of our current realmedia obsession and that he realizes it’s fiction. I think his point, though, is that the audience watching the film is no less entertained by the games than is the fictional audience in the film (something that is, perhaps, less possible with Battle Royale, the rawer Japanese precursor to Hunger Games). The difference is that the audience within the film openly acknowledges that it enjoys watching teens fight to the death, whereas the audience walking out of the theatre gets to cluck its tongue and think itself morally superior.
And after the audience leaves the theatre, they can demonstrate how the film’s social critique has transformed them by buying Hunger Games gear, including Katniss and Peeta pen and pencil sets, Hunger Games “movie socks” with mockingjays on them, “Capital Colors” nail polish from China Glaze (Show which district you’re aligned with—what’s your “hunger colour”?). And yes, inevitably, Katniss Barbie. How lucky we are to live in our world and not Katniss’s: we have better morals AND better merch! Sure, the games are fictional, but given that the trademarked slogan of our modern gladiatorial games, the Ultimate Fighting Championships, is “As Real As It Gets”—precisely intended to reassure us that the spilled blood in the ring is the real deal—might it be that there are spinoff opportunities yet to be explored?