Hunger Games mania is upon us. The Young Adult trilogy-turned-blockbuster is due out this weekend, and some of you out there still have no idea what these crazy Food Games are all about. Fear not, as we have compiled a detailed Hunger Games explainer, just in time for G-day. Be you screaming tween, good-sporting parent, or disgruntled old timer, this explainer will guide you as we as a nation prepare for the newest (and unavoidable) pop-culture phenom.
What is/are the Hunger Games?
The Hunger Games is a Young Adult book series, a trilogy in fact, written by Suzanne Collins. The first Hunger Games novel made its debut in 2008 and has been adapted into the highly anticipated movie, starring Jennifer Lawrence as the series' protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. It is due out this coming Friday. Or Thursday at midnight, depending on your level of fandom.
The novels follow Katniss, a 16-year-old living in the dystopic world of Panem. At its most basic, Panem is the collection of twelve districts that surround the Capitol city, located at the heart of what was once North America. Each of the districts' economy and livelihood relies on a resource- fish, produce, textiles- that is eventually exported to the Capitol. Katniss, our heroin, lives in District 12: the coal district. All of the 12 districts, which vary in size and population, share in common their impoverishment and complete subordination to the Capitol's rule. All citizens outside the Capitol are on some level starving, poorly clothed and sheltered, and under the control of an often corrupt security system that acts as liaison enforcement via the Capitol. The Capitol, in comparison, is a wealthy, cosmopolitan metropolis. Think L.A., but an L.A. completely devoid of poor people and even more fanatical about plastic surgery.
That sounds pretty unfair. 12 Districts spread across North America seems like a lot of people. Why would they stand for the Capitol's mistreatment? Can't they just overthrow them?
They did rebel, once, 74 years before the novel's present day. At the time of the uprising, there existed a thirteenth district and together the districts banded together in an uprising against the Capitol's control. Unfortunately for the Districts, strength in numbers doesn't always do the trick when your opponent can afford to create a technologically superior army virtually out of thin air. The rebellion was quelled, the thirteenth district completely demolished as punishment, and an annual event known as the Hunger Games instated to remind the districts of their failed uprising.
Oh. Does this have anything to do with all this grisly child-murder I keep hearing about? Is it true?
Yes. Scene after scene depicts the bloody end of a child at the hands of brutal Capitol adults or their fellow competitors. There is cutting out of tongues, torture, maiming, starvation, etc. ETC. Here's why this happens: beginning at age 12 until they are 18, every boy and girl from each of the districts must add his or her name to a lottery. There is then a Reaping in which the name of one girl and one boy is selected from each district to participate in the nationally televised Hunger Games. The Games take place in a different terrain, all depending on the whims of the Gamemakers*. There they fight each other to the death. There can only be one winner overall, meaning even those from the same district are pitted against each other as competitors. The arena, though set up to look like your run-of-the-mill jungle or forest, is completely controlled by the Gamemakers and booby-trapped with all kinds of lethal danger . There are Muttations and fires and floods and droughts and Tracker jackers.
And remember how I mentioned that district residents are incredibly poor? Well, when they turn 12, the year they are required to submit their name for the Reaping, they are also eligible for Tessera, or extra food rations. But for every Tessera, the name of the submitter is entered and additional time. Super unfair, especially for the peasants. And there are a lot of them.