Archive of a Shut-In

Si Wen Shen: Hunger Games and Rome

Written by Si Wen Shen
Edited by Bhromor Rahman

Hello everyone! My name is Si Wen Shen and welcome to the Archive of a Shut-in! I’m the Editor of MariNews for MWR and the president of the Marianopolis Literature Club.

In the Archive of a Shut-in, I will be writing about TV series, movies, novels, anime, etc. that I want to share with people. Essentially, I’ll be recommending all sorts of content from any kind of media. If you’re bored at home, take a look and give it a try. Genres will be quite varied, so there should be something for everyone. I’m of chinese origin, so you can also expect some asian things to show up occasionally. Don’t worry though, everything I write about will be available in English.

For the first edition, I would like to talk about a classic: the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, both the books and the movies.

The story is set in Panem, a country that is supposedly a dystopian North America in the future. There are twelve districts with each producing a specific resource and District 13 in ruins after a war. The districts live under varying states of poverty and are ruled over by the lavish city known as the Capitol. Annually, every district must each send a teenage girl and a teenage boy to the Capitol as tributes to participate in the Hunger Games: a glorified gladiator battle where the last one standing is allowed to live. Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, the poorest district. At the 74th annual Hunger Games reaping ceremony, her younger sister Prim was chosen. Katniss volunteers to take her place and heads to the Capitol.

Unlike what the media often portrays it to be, the Hunger Games is not a story about a love triangle. It’s about the duality of human nature, the struggle between morality and survival, the horrors of war, and the price of freedom. The story is heavily inspired by Ancient Rome, as we can see from the references and the Hunger Games themselves which are just high tech gladiator battles. In Ancient Rome, gladiator fights were an entertainment for the privileged. The crowds would cheer at bloody deaths and cry for their favourite fighters. Sounds familiar? Some of you may also know the story of Spartacus (if you don’t, I recommend you to Google it). As I see it, Katniss is the Spartacus of the Hunger Games. She will fight in the Games, be a part of their show and their entertainment, but her actions will spark the fires of rebellion. She may be a piece in the Capitol’s game, but the piece has its own will and will not blindly obey.

Some claim that Suzanne Collins ruined the story by building a love triangle, but I disagree. Readers want strong female characters, but that doesn’t mean those female characters must never show emotions or vulnerabilities. Katniss is strong, but she’s just a teenage girl, forced to fight for her life, with little to no help. She fights for the people she loves so dearly, be it family or friends, but that is also her weakness. Incorporating love into a dystopian novel does not make it silly or impotent; it’s characterization. Like us, the characters are human and living through times of unimaginable crisis, with their lives on the line. Love is their weakness, but also their strength. Emotion does not disappear because of a crisis; in fact, it grows stronger. Those who call Hunger Games “too shallow” because of the romance were too shallow themselves to see the themes the story is attempting to convey. As I’ve stated previously, the Hunger Games is not about romance, but the ambivalent nature of humanity.

Movie adaptations of novels or comics are notorious for being underwhelming for the original readers, but I think that the Hunger Games movies did an incredible job. Of course, some elements of the original story were changed or removed for the big screen, but they’ve managed to convey everything the books tried to. It’s obvious the producers heavily invested into the costumes, props, and settings. Some details are very hard to notice unless you pay very close attention and actually read the books well. I have nothing bad to say about the special effects; they are marvelous. The actors really bring the characters to life: they know their characters well and have the skills to channel them. In fact, the Hunger Games movies are honestly my favourite movie adaptations of novels. 

When I watched the movies in theaters, I remember the audience cheering when some less likeable characters died. It may only be a fictional character’s death, but it was at that moment that I realized that the people of the Capitol aren’t purely fictional, and I was reminded that the shows in the Roman Colosseum were real. That could be you or me someday, who knows?

Stories such as these aren’t pure fiction. They’re a projection of what we could be or could have been.

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