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The Sociology of the Hunger Games

The Hunger Games are a current set of popular books recently released as a movie. Many students have commented on the sociological content. One of my students, Frank Holleman, wrote a fantastic Facebook post, describing the sociology lessons he saw in it. I asked his permission to share a portion of it. 

Since MNU is having a "Hunger Gamble" meal this week, where students will simulate world circumstances by being put into "districts" to eat, and since we are bringing back our Sociology of Film class this Summer, I thought this was a timely post. Here are one sociology student's thoughts on the Hunger Games:

The whole movie starts off with this sense of poverty. Shooting a deer... to sell it and survive. The children are then assembled and two are chosen to participate in the Hunger Games and get the "privilege" of visiting the capitol. You immediately see the difference of cultures. Peter and Katniss travel in a high luxury train, with baked goodies and the best of best provided for them. The capitol is a display of money, excess and "fashion". While the people of district 12 dress in a very modest and traditional way, the people here look rather ridiculous. Big, fancy, complicated, exaggerated dresses and gender independent make-up that perfectly matches the dresses in its stupidity. Peter and Katniss come out of a world of hunger and through a train ride they arrive in this world of un-necessity and overflow.

The first comparison a lot of people draw to the movie is ancient Rome. An empire where the suffering slaves were brought together in the Colosseum for the enjoyment of the rich. You want to know why I had tears after this movie? It's because I realized, that this story doesn't only compare to ancient Rome, but perfectly compares to our world today.
Of course, we don't actually let people kill each other for our enjoyment. Or do we? Obviously, we don't dress as stupid as those people in the movie. Heck yeah, we do! Why are there super models? Why is there Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana? It is because our society has decided on the norms of how we look. Society might have just decided that it's normal to look like this. The movie might show an extreme exaggeration of fashion, but when you ask yourself if wearing a dress and make up contributes anything to a better world you will hopefully answer with a "no."

The comparison between the actual games and today's world is less obvious, but also not hard to miss. We worship our Athletes and movie stars. We spend huge amounts of money on our entertainment instead of improving district 12 and frankly, stop at nothing to maintain our luxurious privileges that seem so essential to us. Politics will do nothing without the gain of a benefit, and it will do everything (including killing) if it sees the opportunity for a benefit.

I wanted to share this realization with you. The realization that we have a certain power and therefore duty to give other people a chance to also enjoy life and be happy. I think the ending of the movie is very beautiful.  I don't have all the answers to the universe, but I do know this: If we just start to live a life of love, we can change a lot! I think this love should start with our friends, our families and also neighboring strangers, eventually reaching out to our enemies and to "district 12."

A challenging and thoughtful reflection, no? 

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Bo Cassell is an Associate Professor of Sociology at MidAmerica Nazarene University. In his 20+ years of experience working with youth and young adults, he has directed mission programs, developed youth conferences, and served as a youth pastor. He is the author of three books, including Water, Fire, Wind: The Elements of Following Christ, and Global Christianity: The Life We’re Called To Live-- both of which were commissioned as the preparation reading for two youth conferences attended by over 17,000 teenagers. He has also written curriculum for WordAction Publishers, and published several articles in Group Magazine, Journal for Student Ministries, Youthworker Journal, and Credo Magazine. A student of missions and culture, he has traveled to over a dozen countries, and set foot on every continent except Antarctica. He is a sought after speaker for leadership and youth ministry workshops, college campus chapels, and youth camps and retreats. Bo is a graduate of Pepperdine University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He holds two Masters degrees, and is working toward a PhD. He lives outside of Kansas City.


  • Matthias Ripley Tuesday, 03 April 2012

    Thanks for a really great perspective, i would say it's a really challenging and thoughtful reflection! :)

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About This Blog

OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.