In the post-apocalyptic future of "The Hunger Games," the country is ruled by a totalitarian, fascist government that pits its citizens against one another in a constant reminder of the power it has over its people. But in real life, its themes are striking a chord with people on both sides of the political aisle, and liberals and conservatives alike are claiming that it underscores their political values.
Liberals seem drawn to the story's environmentalist warnings, strong female protagonist, and the rebellion against the power-hungry, arrogant elite.
The environmental issues in the book are clear: Panem itself rose from the ashes of North America after global events caused seas to rise and land masses to shift, and citizens living in impoverished districts must turn to nature in order to survive. But the 99 percent is more concerned about oppression than the environment. Actor and Occupy Wall Street movement supporter Penn Badgley, who accompanied his girlfriend Zoe Kravitz, to the premier (her dad, Lenny Kravitz, plays stylist Cinna), says he was "shocked" to see the Occupy's message up on the big screen. "It's the 1 percent" forcing kids to fight to the death, he told New York Magazine. "I think you'd have to be blind to not see that."
[Watch more scenes and trailers from "The Hunger Games" here.]
The gap between the haves and the have-nots is immense and unjust. That point is further driven home by the way that the rich are painted as "lazy and overly indulged oppressors" while the poor are "the industrious ones," Paul Bond points out in The Hollywood Reporter. And the Hunger Games themselves -- a reality TV show in which innocent kids are pitted against one another in a gladiator-like fight to the death -- is easy to interpret as a lecture on the corrupting influences of commercialism, celebrity, and mindless entertainment.
Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to focus on the film's anti-big-government message. At Fox News, James P. Pinkerton points out that the books and the movie are "a furious critique of our political system, in which the central government grows rich from the toil of the masses, even as that same political elite finds entertainment in the contrived and manipulated death of its subjects."
According to film critic Roger Ebert, the movie's political split may be generational. "The old folks in the Capitol are no doubt a right-wing oligarchy," he writes. But while some consider the young "Tributes" to be left-leaning, "My conservative friends, however, equate the young with the Tea Party and the old with decadent Elitists."
Even though religion of any kind isn't mentioned at all in "The Hunger Games," some are calling the story is a warning about, not the battle between good and evil, but the dangers of a secular society.
"This is the story that takes place in the remains of the United States after the demonic liberals have succeeded in erasing God and Christ from the culture completely by successfully creating their own Utopia -- which is really a distopian nightmare for anyone not in the liberal ruling class," Mack Right writes at The Fredrick Douglass Foundation of New York. Of the ruling class, "We know they're all liberals because they have wild haircuts, facial tattoos and cat-whisker implants," he writes. "That, and they live a life with no consequence, completely oblivious that others don't have that luxury."
"In a world where God doesn't exist, liberals have no moral reason not to enjoy watching children kill each other in a reality show," he writes, adding that Katniss -- the 16-year-old protagonist heralded by feminists -- is only strong and self-sufficient because she "had the benefit of being prepared for the trials and tribulations by her father whose disdain for the governing dictates didn't stop him from pursuing happiness in the form of meat on the table."
For her part, author Suzanne Collins doesn't focus on the film's political leanings; she says her books were meant to spark deeper conversations about the world in which we all live.
"It's crucial that young readers are considering scenarios about humanity's future, because the challenges are about to land in their laps," she writes in her notes for the film. "I hope they question how elements of the books might be relevant to their own lives. About global warming, about our mistreatment of the environment, but also questions like: How do you feel about the fact that some people take their next meal for granted when so many other people are starving in the world?"
Have you seen "The Hunger Games"? Did you think it was Liberal or Conservative?
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