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What ‘The Hunger Games’ Can Teach Us about Defeating Tyranny

By: Elena Toledo - @NenaToledo - Dec 7, 2015, 10:19 am
Katniss Everdeen embodies the sensible, humane leadership that a responsible opposition should strive for. (<a href="http://desdeel15.com/2014/12/09/los-juegos-del-hambre-sinsajo-parte-1-el-fuego-se-propaga/" target="_blank">DesdeEl15</a>)
Katniss Everdeen embodies the sensible, humane leadership that a responsible opposition should strive for. (DesdeEl15)

EspañolWhen the first Hunger Games movie came out, I wrote it off as just another shallow fantasy saga. Already hooked with The Lord of the Rings, I didn’t want to waste my time with “more of the same.” But that all changed when a good friend convinced me to give it a chance.

We binge-watched all four movies in a single weekend, which allowed us to better appreciate the story. Thirty minutes into the first installment, I could already tell the story was about exposing the horrors of totalitarianism and the human suffering that it causes.

The story takes place in the future. After the destruction of our current North American nations, a new country was born: Panem, from the Latin phrase Panem et Circenses, bread and circus.

Panem is divided in 12 city-states called districts, each of which has a specific economic or intellectual role. However, the districts are not allowed to interact with each other directly, and all orders come from the wealthier and stronger Capitol, the seat of power.

The film centers around two teenagers, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, who take part in the Hunger Games, a gruesome combat reality show where the winner receives fame and fortune. They did not wish to compete, but they had no choice; the government picks participants from every district at random.

Panem compuesto por 12 naciones-estado es gobernado por una dictadura de partido único que controla el absoluto de la vida de sus habitantes. (Wikia)
A single party rules Panem’s 12 districts with an iron fist. (Wikia)

Both Katniss and Peeta emerge victorious, which leads to the decline of President Snow’s rule. The single-party structure fractures, and Katniss leads the resulting insurgent movement.

The film constantly reminds viewers of concentration camps and portrays rulers as eccentric dictators. I immediately made the connection with Venezuela and Cuba, where hunger, human-rights violations, and political manipulation keep despots in power.

It’s interesting how Suzanne Collins, the author of the book trilogy that the film is based on, provides another take on the corrupting nature of power.

The writer makes it clear that if the rebellion strays from its principles, it can become even more harmful than the tyrannical government that it fights. Katniss understood this when she became the key to defeating the dictatorship; she pushed for completely new authorities, so that Panem could rebuild itself from scratch.

Unlike other dystopian films, The Hunger Games does not depict the population as an homogeneous faceless mob. It masterfully tells the story of individuals and how the oppressive system crushes their lives.

Panem could easily be any Latin American country that is struggling with tyranny, like Venezuela, and Snow could pass for any tropical dictator like Nicolás Maduro or Raúl Castro.

But who can be the Latin American Katniss Everdeen? She leads the rebellion through more than just her fighting skills. She possesses the mental clarity to understand that the Capitol has used the rebellion to kill in her name. She understands that if she doesn’t take strong measures, the opposition politicians could end up becoming worse than the ousted government.

Sadly, we don’t have anyone that lives up to this role. Immature Latin American opposition movements continue trusting power-hungry leaders who fail to change the status quo, because they are comfortable with it. In the meanwhile, people fight their own hunger games; there’s plenty of circus, but no bread.

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The Hunger Games is an example of how a totalitarian system can be defeated. It exposes the flaws of all sides in the conflict: the ruling party, as well as that of the opposition and society. Suzzane Collins crafted a world that aptly describes the high price we must pay to achieve freedom. But despite the effort and tribulations, there’s no doubt that liberty is worth it.

Translated by Daniel Duarte.

Elena Toledo Elena Toledo

Educator by trade, social-media apprentice, activist for a democratic Honduras, and free thinker. Follow her on Twitter @NenaToledo.