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Watching ‘The Hunger Games’ on election night

<h6>JeepersMedia / Creative Commons</h6>
JeepersMedia / Creative Commons

Election night was a uniquely awful experience for me, as I assume it was for many other Americans as well. Not only was it my first time voting, but as the night drew to a close it became clear that we wouldn’t have a result for the next few days, if not longer.

Even with Biden projected as the president-elect, I still feared what would really happen before Jan. 20. Despite this overarching fear, there was one thing that gave me respite that night: “The Hunger Games.”

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On election night, while incessantly checking my phone for poll updates that I knew would never arrive, I started to flip through channels randomly on the TV and stumbled across “The Hunger Games.” It struck me as an odd choice to play a movie about the government forcing children to murder each other on election night, but then I realized the ironic genius of it all.

In my opinion, this was no simple ploy to bring in apathetic teens who wanted to avoid election coverage, but a poignant message (and perhaps a warning) about the possible impact of the election’s results. “The Hunger Games” is an extreme metaphor, but one clear and large enough to communicate to even the most oblivious of voters that this election was not only about taxes and personal preferences, but about protecting human life.

There are eerie parallels in “The Hunger Games” to our current political state — from the rural poverty in District 12 to the commercialization of violence. I am aware many have previously commented on how the book uses our reality and turns it on its head, but I think the parallels are even more pronounced now than when the film first came out in 2012. Not to be alarmist or err on the side of nostalgia, but I remember 2012 as a time of hope in my small, rural Missouri town as the economy began to climb up from the depths of the recession.

Although President Barack Obama was by far not my local community’s candidate of choice, there was, from my memory, a far different tone politically now than in the past. With this in mind, despite 2012 having numerous flaws, 2020 has almost certainly fared worse than any other year in the 21st century thus far. With a global pandemic, economic downturn, and political reckoning, 2020 has seen the world completely change in less than a year.

In turn, this makes “The Hunger Games” more relevant than ever. The film perfectly encapsulates our anxiety and fears towards the seemingly both predictable and unknowable future. Just like Katniss knows the games will be an inexplicably terrible experience, we too feel this sense of dread, this sense of fear of what the next day will bring.

Perhaps this dismal outlook is why one particular quote from the film stuck with me as I went through election night and the rest of the week, and stays with me even now: President Snow (the murderous villain) tells Seneca Crane (the character who built the Hunger Games arena) that the reason why they have the games instead of just randomly murdering children in the Districts is because “Hope ... is the only thing stronger than fear.”

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Although they come from a maniacal dictator, there is a truth in Snow’s words. He views hope as a tool to subdue those who challenge the Capitol, but the movie changes its meaning when Katniss and Peeta both survive the games, suggesting that hope is not a tool to intimidate, but one of progress. Hope to see her sister again motivates Katniss to stay alive. Hope makes Haymitch actually do his job to prevent Katniss from dying.

Although “The Hunger Games” may have been marketed as an action film, the true soulful spirit of the film shines through the hope both the characters and the audience have for the protagonists' survival and, ultimately, their rebellion against the Capitol.

Relating back to the election, it may be a shallow interpretation, but the role of hope in “The Hunger Games” reminded me of its importance in 2020. On election night, as I stared at my phone wondering what would become of America in the next few months and after, I realized that my hope is more powerful than my fear.

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