The nightmarish nation of Panem isn’t exactly the kind of place any of us would ever want to live. There’s the rampant starvation, government mandated murder of children, and forced labor from coast to coast.
It sucks, basically.
Author Suzanne Collins never really applied much of a political agenda to her story—but that hasn’t stopped anyone of citing the ruthless government of Panem as a cautionary tale for both extremes of modern American politics.
Both stupid and pointless, this kind of politicizing doesn’t really add or subtract any substance from the story, but it is fun. So, for the hell of it, we decided to give it a shot.
Our ruling? The Hunger Games features a liberal dystopia, one that takes conservative fears of liberalism in America and amplifies it to a cartoonish degree.
1) Panem and the dangers of the Federal Government
All political roads in Panem lead back to The Capitol where President Snow lords over the nation with an iron fist. The seclusion of the Capitol and the deaf ears to the plight of rural Panemians (?) represent the kind of inside-the-beltway thinking that most conservatives feel has corrupted our own government. Many of the people in power in The Capitol have never even visited the outlying Districts, and why should they? All that matters is The Capitol and its continued prosperity.
2) Government ownership of resources doled out to non-working lay-abouts
One of the ways that the government of Panem maintains control over the districts is by keeping them in constant need. While the inhabitants of the districts toil away in fields, factories and mines, the fruit of their labor immediately gets shipped away to The Capitol, where its inhabitants squander it on pink hair dye for their dogs. In this way, The Capitol is a kind of massive welfare state, one where its inhabitants enjoy the benefits of labor without ever actually having to do anything. The districts are awarded only a scarce amount of food to function, while the government and those they favor relish in unearned excess.
3) Government regulation inhibiting personal wealth
Katniss Everdeen only has one ambition in life: to feed and protect her family. She has considerable skill with a bow, meaning she could make a healthy living hunting game for the people of her district. But, thanks to the government’s heavy regulations and electrified fences, Katniss can’t make the kind of money that she’s capable of bringing in.
4) Panem’s network of reliable, cross-country high-speed trains
After the Reaping in District 12, Katniss and Peeta are whisked from their home on a beautiful, magnetically propelled train with a top speed of 200 kph when they could have just taken one of those fancy hoverships. It’s all very… European.
5) No guns (or weapons of any kind, really)
It seems that after The Dark Days, The Capitol went and took everyone’s guns away. They didn’t stop there either, it seems that the Panemian government went on to seize all weapons from The Districts. While everyone knows that Katniss is handy with a bow and arrow, that’s only because her father made her an illegal bow, one that she’s forced to keep hidden in the woods, away from the eyes of Peacekeepers. In fact, no one in Panem seems to own a gun—not the citizens of The Capitol, not the Peacekeepers (a term that brings up images of The U.N.), they aren’t even in The Hunger Games. Could it be that President Snow fears an armed populace to such a degree that he’s engineered it so no one even knows what a gun is?
6) The Metric System
The Arena where The Hunger Games is sectioned off in kilometers. Just another step towards Europeanisation.
7) Everyone in The Capitol is a preening, homosexual drag queen
The residents of The Capitol are famous for their outlandish taste in clothes and style. All pink hair and 10-inch heels, parading around like a bunch of fops. To more reserved eyes from outlying districts, this display of preening comes across as a bit, well, queer. There’s no evidence that everyone in The Capitol is a homosexual—but we’re making leaps here, so let’s just go with it.
8) A charismatic leader with an evil agenda
President Snow is not a nice man. The disillusioned people of the Capitol view him as a peacekeeper and a hero, while those in the Districts whisper of tyranny and oppression. He’s President Obama, is what I’m saying.
9) The use of state-run television
The most popular form of entertainment in Panem is also one of its most powerful forms of oppression: The Hunger Games, which airs on The Capitol’s state run television network.
10) Abuse of scientific research
The scientists in The Capitol seem to have no regard for the laws of nature and the moral limits of science. They whip up genetic mutations to weaponize animals and, in a turn that proved to be too dark for the film, combine human DNA with dogs to create fearsome kill-monsters.
11) The Capitol as a secular government
The presence of a traditional religion is negligible in The Hunger Games. Having likely been outlawed at some point in the past, religion has instead become supplanted with a kind of government worship. President Snow acts on the people of Panem as a God surrogate—a malicious caregiver that demands complete dedication and a yearly sacrifice of 23 children.