Sunday, February 26, 2012

Citizens of Capitols: Victims or enablers?

“Mom, why do the Hunger Games happen every year?”

“Didn’t you pay attention in school? The Hunger Games are punishment for that awful rebellion during the Dark Days. District 13 thought they could beat Capitol. Now they’re all dead.”

“But no one from Capitol goes to the Games, right?”

“Oh no, son! We know what great and wonderful things Capitol does for us. Without Capitol, we’d be like wild dogs! Imagine that, your father killing and skinning something for us to eat!”

“That boy from 4 is closing in on the pack and they don’t know it!”


That’s a conversation I imagined between a son and his mother while watching the Hunger Games. While reading the books, the citizens of Capitol seem like idiotic, horrible people. From their excitement over watching the slaughter of District citizens to vomiting in order to enjoy more food, Capitol’s citizens define several of the seven deadly sins. It’s easy to write them off as worthless and evil. 

One of the biggest questions I’ve heard others ask about this book is how the people of Capitol can sit and cheer for the Hunger Games. Humans are violent. Countless examples through history and even occurring right now prove the point. Children see violence on cartoons almost immediately. Stemming from that idea are public executions. How many people watched a hanging on YouTube?

 Most know the stories of crowds gathering in Place de la Revolution (now Place de la Concorde) in Paris to watch many die by guillotine. The gladiators in ancient Rome are another example. With these events in mind, it’s easy to see why the people of Capitol see the Games as “entertainment.”

Severe propaganda is necessary to maintain the idea that the Games aren’t “wrong” and that the Districts deserve to go through them each year. Countless times have people questioned how a group of people can blindly follow a leader or government when it’s clear that the actions are wrong. One of the clearest explanations of how this can happen is in the book The Wave by Todd Strasser.

In the book, a high school teacher, Mr. Ross, finds that his students don’t understand how the Germans allowed the Nazis and Hitler to do what they did. He creates an experiment to teach the point. He starts out simple by requiring strict discipline and behavior in the classroom. Then he creates a special symbol and a motto for the class. It picks up and the class starts recruiting others to “The Wave.” The movement causes some students to change their appearance, behavior and actions.

 Eventual a student starts to question "The Wave" publically. Her protest leads to repercussions, specifically violence from her boyfriend. Eventually Mr. Ross realizes what his classroom experiment turned into and calls for the students to gather. He uses an image of Hitler to explain to the students that they proved how the Germans allowed the Nazis rise. 

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Through Katniss’s descriptions of Capitol citizens, readers see how self-absorbed the people are. The outside appearance is a huge deal. Why else would so many wear what they do and alter their bodies? From this idea, it seems as if Capitol places emphasis on the self. If a person is constantly thinking of himself, odds are he won’t be so inclined to contemplate the suffering of others. The parade of tributes forces the citizens of Capitol to focus on the show rather than the person who is probably going to die soon. Thinking about how a way to mimic the gorgeous District 5 suits fits right into Capitol’s obsession with the self. 

The people of Capitol themselves aren’t naturally evil, though they are guilty for allowing these monstrosities to take place. In the end, they celebrate the Games. Katniss has clear pity and disdain for the citizens. While I agree with her disdain, I can’t say I ever felt pity for them. As easy as they are to ignore for the big picture, they serve as a lesson to readers as to what happens when a group follows a leader blindly.  

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