A blockbuster film trilogy based on a bestselling book series in which 24 teenagers representing 12 exploited, impoverished provinces fight to the death for the entertainment of a wealthy, debauched capital city was always going to inspire plenty of political commentary. In fact, The Hunger Games has already moved a “coalition of fandom leaders and members” to raise awareness about poverty, hunger, and economic equality in the US. But it isn’t just progressives who have found support for their views in the series’ political subtext; as Jason Bailey pointed out last week, Tea Party types might well interpret the films as pro-states’ rights. Which raises the question: just what have right-wing publications and pundits been saying about Catching Fire?
Plenty of conservative writers are, in fact, reading the film as an endorsement of their values. Francesca Chambers at Red Alert Politics praises it as a propaganda film, arguing that it “makes the right to self-determination and emerging democracies riveting issues by employing top-notch visual effects and inspiring music.” And then she makes an incredibly bizarre assertion about who will and won’t enjoy Catching Fire:
Anyone not enthralled by the film is either a male over the age of 25 who doesn’t appreciate the concurrent plot centering on the personal life of the 17-year-old heroine, Katniss, and her ongoing love triangle with her Peeta and Gale or a left-wing feminist who takes issue with Katniss’ portrayal as being too weak-willed and emotionally fragile to handle being notified of the insurgency’s plans until after she’s participated in their mission.
Because, you know, why would you read what the actual “left-wing feminist” conversation around Catching Fire has been when you can just imagine what they might object to about it. (Also, if the opening-night screening I caught was any indication, men over 25 are plenty riveted by Katniss’ story.)
Meanwhile, Movieguide, the Christian Film & Television Commission-affiliated site that bills itself as “The Family Guide to Movie Reviews,” prefers Catching Fire over the first Hunger Games film, largely because the violence is less graphic and it doesn’t feature children killing children. It also employs some magical thinking in inferring the film’s support for conservative values on a number of hot-button issues.
According to Movieguide, Catching Fire features “strong anti-socialist, anti-big government and pro-capitalist content honoring Pro-American values in a fight against a tyrannical big government trying to destroy freedom and the free market.” Now, much of the right vs. left battle for the soul of The Hunger Games is over whether it’s truly against big government. Personally, I’d call the series anti-authoritarian and leave it at that, but I’m willing to admit there’s room for both interpretations. I’m more confused about how a film that depicts a decadent leisure class exploiting the laboring majority could be construed as “anti-socialist” and “pro-capitalist.” And I guess the “big government trying to destroy… the free market” thing is referring to a poorly contextualized 30-second scene in which stormtroopers set fire to District 12’s black market.
By far the funniest part of Movieguide’s Catching Fire review, though, is the big deal it makes of the film’s supposed anti-abortion stance: “A pro-life sentiment is made when a contestant is said to be pregnant, and everyone is shocked and appalled.” I’ll forgive the perplexing grammar there and get right to furrowing my eyebrow over the implication that only a “pro-life” film would depict forcing a pregnant woman to compete in a televised death match as horrifying.
Then there are the right-wingers who want to mine Catching Fire for wisdom about our current political predicament — you know, since America under Obama is already well on its way to becoming the stuff of dystopic YA fiction. “Virgil” over at the late Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood is pretty sure that preventing the US from devolving into Panem will require stricter regulations on immigration — but just try and tell that to the greedy (or is that bleeding-heart liberal?) tech sector:
Indeed, the overall phenomenon of open-borders multiculturalism is changing America. California, for example, is now 40 percent Hispanic—up from just six percent in 1940. There’s nothing wrong with new blood, but there is something wrong with depressed wages; farm workers make less today than they did decades ago. And it’s not just in agricultural work that wages have been whittled down; if the supply of labor exceeds the supply of jobs, then job incomes must fall. Indeed, Silicon Valley moguls, led by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are actively encouraging more immigration; Zuckerberg calls it “One of the biggest civil rights issues of our time.” Thus Zuckerberg not only gets credit for being “progressive,” but he also can look forward, if he wins, to plenty of cheap labor for a long time to come.
Still, all of the above is sane, astute political commentary compared to what the furthest fringes of the right-wing blogosphere has gleaned from Catching Fire. I don’t want to spend too much time pointing and laughing, but I will leave you with a great quote from this UN Agenda 21-obsessed analysis by a writer at BeforeItsNews.com — which describes itself as “the biggest community of citizen newsmakers and breakers” — in a piece that also deploys the term “sheeple” entirely without irony:
The portrayal of the government’s control of all food is reminiscent of what the Obama administration has done to the raw milk producers in this nation with their swat team raids on such producers of raw milk as Rawsome Foods. Interestingly, the sale of raw milk of the California based Rawsome Foods is legal, but don’t try telling that to the Federal government. In the movie, the tyrannical President Snow raids and destroys all the non-governmental food and alcohol entities in continual raids against the people.