In Suzanne Collins’ book adapted to film, The Hunger Games is a thrilling battle royale story that follows Katniss Everdeen, a young teenage girl that volunteers in her sister, Prim’s place when she is chosen to fight in the Hunger Games. In Collins’ dystopian depiction of North America in the distant future, Collins is able to set up a bleak environment for her story to show the downsides of a totalitarian regime.
Throughout the film adaption, the audience is subject to various subliminal sociological theories and perspectives that only help to immersive the audience more into the story that Collins has developed. One of the first sociological theories is placed in the beginning of the film through the opening text that states: “In penance for their uprising, each district shall offer up a male and female between the ages of 12 and 18 at a public ‘Reaping.’ These tributes shall be delivered to the custody of The Capitol. And then transferred to a public arena where they will fight to the Death, until a lone victor remains.” This provides context to the Hunger Games and is also a subliminal use of the sociological theory called “social control.” As defined in the Essentials of Sociology 12th Edition, social control are formal and informal means of enforcing norms be it through negative or positive sanctions.
In context of the film, the Capitol, a totalitarian regime uses the Hunger Games as a negative sanction in order to punish all Districts to insure that a future uprising does not occur. The Capitol using the Hunger Games as a form of social control clearly works as some 74 years has passed since the original uprising with some of the wealthy Districts even openly encouraging volunteering in place of those already chosen or training prospective contestants in hopes of being chosen. The next sociological perspective in the Hunger Games is the juxtaposition in terms of quality of life and culture between the Capitol and District 12. When Katniss is first steps onto the train, she realizes that she is no longer in District 12, but is now in the Capitol. Stunned even when Gale gave her a small piece of bread, Katniss has a moment of culture shock when she is stunned by the luxury and the amount of food presented before her. Effie goes on to explain to Katniss that even though they will only be on the train for a short amount of time, Katniss can indulge and enjoy the luxury before her.
This small interaction between Katniss and Effie is the audience’s first example of resocialization which is defined in Essentials of Sociology 12th Edition as the process of learning new norms, values, attitudes, and behaviors. When Haymitch is first introduced to Katniss, he is portrayed as an alcoholic who, ever since his win, has indulged in the many luxuries that the Capitol provides him, even going as far as to getting angry when Peeta spills alcohol on his “new pants.” Coming from District 12, a place that is run-down and is incredibly limited in luxurious goods, Haymitch is an example of someone who has moved past resocialization and has now conformed to the norms that the Capitol has set for him. The final and most prevalent sociological theory/perspective in The Hunger Games is Collins’ use of deviance.
Deviance as defined by Essentials of Sociology 12th Edition is the violation of norms (or rules or expectations). Usually as a result of deviance, social control is put in place in order to regulate the population. Collins presents examples of deviance at the beginning and end of the film in order to use it as a recurring theme. Deviance first occurs when Katniss ventures into the forest by crossing over the district boundary in order to hunt for food.
Katniss does this as as a way to deviate in order to combat limited access to resources such as food. In a short dialogue between Katniss, and her friend Gale, she explains that she must kill the deer in order to sell it to the Peacekeepers to provide for her family. This is ironic in that the Peacekeepers are supposed to be enforcing the law that restricts Katniss from crossing over the district boundary but instead purchase meat that Katniss hunts from the forest. The next example of deviance that Collins implements is when Katniss and Peeta are the final players left in the Games and Katniss is able to convince Peeta to commit suicide together. This act of deviance forces the Gamemaker to announce both Katniss and Peeta as victors defeating the whole purpose of the games. Through Katniss’ act, the Capitol’s social control on the Districts has been broken when Katniss proves to the rest of society that the Capitol can be rebelled against. In Suzanne Collins’ adaption of her book, The Hunger Games, Collins’ implements a variety of subliminal sociological theories and perspectives in order to better immerse the audience in the world that she has created.
Be it from her use of social control from her example of the Capitol using the Hunger Games as a way to enforce the population to examples of deviance in face of totalitarian regime, Collins’ story is one to last as sociologists can draw upon it to analyze her various perspectives. Through its use as a way to enforce norms on its inhabitants, the Hunger Games is truly just, a battle for freedom.