Dying to Hope: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (film)
Image via Wikipedia

“Tomorrow will be more hopeful than this awful piece of time we call today.” Katniss Everdeen uttered in a chapter of The Hunger Games. In a dark dystopia, she is seeking hope even though all the odds are against it existing. In the dystopia that is Panem, the  Twelve Districts are reminded yearly that they are at the mercy of the ruthless Capitol by the cruel ritual of The Hunger Games; a massacre masquerading as a festival. Two tributes from each of the twelve districts are randomly chosen each year to participate in the game where the only objective is to be the last alive in the arena, and The Hunger Games follows the story of Katniss Everdeen – someone not chosen, but someone who volunteered herself as a tribute to save her little sister from going forward. Her companion – and intended enemy – in the arena is Peeta. Together, they move into the Hunger Games, all the while trying to resist them.

The Capitol are the controllers of Panem. Their role in the story is key, and yet there is largely no face to attach to them. They are President Snow, and the game makers, and the stylists… They are completely in control, and yet it is impossible to discern who they are. Their tight grip on the districts is to prevent rebellion, and yet this grip is not for the good of the people, but for the good of those in control and f0r the luxury of the minority. They would have hope stifled to the point where the purpose of life is not to live, but merely to survive.

The citizens of the Capitol are protected from the pain inflicted on the Districts, and they are ignorant of the true implications of the Hunger Games. The tributes are merely faces of entertainment to them – much like contestants in the Big Brother house in our view – and because of this disconnection, the value of the lives of the tributes is lost. Their suffering is entertainment, as is their joy. They are captivated by the tragic footage of a tribute’s death – eyes glued to screen as the protagonist Katniss watches over a newfound friend as they die. In cushioned lives, it seems irrelevant to bother with those outside of the realm of comfort. The tributes are not real people to the citizens, they are characters in a drama. Hope in dark days is not necessary for those in the Capitol – because they are protected from the darkness, and that which they are spared is amplified onto those in the Districts.

Tributes could be better named sacrifices. Death for 23 of 24 tributes is the intended outcome of the Games. They are forced to abandon hope as they enter the arena. Stylists are hired to present them well to audiences, they are coached for interviews to make them relatable, and yet all the while they know that they will not ever meet those who percieve them well or relate to those who empathise with them. And yet, they fight. They fight and they die and the tragedy is that they feel that the Capitol is undefeatable – that their death in the Arena is inevitable.

Katniss Everdeen, however, wants a hopeful tomorrow. She wants to survive. She is a provider for her sister and mother following the death of her father, and does not want to leave them on their own. The sense of her character, however, is that she knows that she must give up some of her humanity in order to survive the games – that she must kill others in order to see another day. As the story develops, there is a shift in her. A dramatic move from the Capitol in an effort to boost ratings brings her back to life as she scrambles to escape. Hope is alive yet.

The Hunger Games is not primarily a story about death,  though the bloody events in the arena make it an easy perception. The Hunger Games may be about control. But ultimately, it seems to me, that the Hunger Games is about the need for hope. Effie Trinkett, a Capitol puppet, proclaims after the announcement of the tributes of District Twelve, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour.” And her words are empty, but they are an attempt to hope for hope… Even in the hopelessness of the Hunger Games.

The idea of hope permeates our culture. It is heavily embedded in our music, our movies, our books and our TV series. We love to see someone fight for a better day. We love to see what they once hoped in become a reality. The Gospel is a final and definitive announcement of hope.

Katniss Everdeen is forced to fight for a better day, to hope for hope against all odds, and teenagers will look to her and desire to take up their own fight for a better tomorrow. They will dare to hope for better days. Yet, as they begin this fight to not merely be a victim, they will be missing something – they will be missing the declaration that Christ is victorious and that our hope is not whimsical and flimsy – it is a sure hope.

We live in the days when the world remains broken. Relationships are broken, nature is broken, we ourselves are broken and our fight to fix this is futile apart from Christ. In Christ, we have the assurance that when these days end there is Eternity. There is victory. There is a home, forever, where God will reign and there will be no more sin. This is the tomorrow that we look forward to.

As Katniss scrambled to survive, as she squinted to see hope on the horizon, we can assure those who are beginning to take up the same fight that if they are in Christ, the victory has been won. The Hunger Games, where death reigns, is over and hope is sure.

We don’t need the odds to be in our favour, because Christ has already won the victory for us.

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