The Hunger Games: rip-off, or pure inspiration?

No need to introduce The Hunger Games. Many have read the books and/or watched the movie. And it’s addictive; you just can’t keep yourself from turning the pages. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the movie yet, but I bet it’s as absorbing. And it’s totally normal. Whether it is a rip-off or pure inspiration, The Hunger Games includes elements that made other stories the successes we know today: Twilight, Battle Royale, The Fifth Element, and 1984.

1. Twilight fans, you’re welcome

There is a clear parallelism with Twilight, which you have obviously noted if you are acquainted with Stephenie Meyer’s novels.

The most obvious is the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. And these three remind us a lot of Bella, Edward and Jacob, don’t they? The female heroine, also the narrator, is in love with two completely opposed guys. She is also dumb, very insecure about herself, even self-hating. She’s determined as well, for good or bad. And finally, both heroines rise up in society, in a way. This is common to many children tales and princess stories, which could be the origin of female heroines, who nowadays tend to fill in more masculine-attributed roles.

Then comes the heroine’s first love Peeta and Edward. High social background, Caucasian, and self-sacrificing for the girl he is in love with, up to the point of stepping aside, leaving or putting his own life in jeopardy. He’s also the last to come into the heroine’s life, although still being the first of the two guys to enter the love triangle.

And last but not least, comes along the rebel best friend, who’s closer to the girl in a friendly way until he comes clean about his feeling towards her. Somehow low social background, closer to nature and wildlife; the exact opposite of his rival.

Of course, Katniss and Bella being the narrators, we feel close to them, and this obviously helps us to actually live the story, right beside (or inside) them.

2. Battle Royale, a fiery debate

Battle Royale connoisseurs, you know the resemblances. The Games seem very much inspired from the “game” played in Battle Royale. A bunch of kids are tossed into a battleground, and only one may come out alive. So the concept is pretty much the same.

However, some important differences arise. First, Battle Royale students know each other very well, they go to the same school, in the same class. So these kids are actually killing their closest friends, as opposed to Tributes, who will at most know one other fellow participant in the Games. This is clearly stated in the movie’s French poster caption: “Have you already killed your best friend?”

Another key factor in the battle is the way you get your weapons. Battle Royale provides each teenager with a bag full of mystery supplies, which can be of great use or of none whatsoever. In The Hunger Games, you have either the Cornucopia or improvisation.

Then, there’s organizers’ intervention. This may not look like a key difference, but it makes a huge one. Gamemakers keep meddling with the tributes in order to bring them closer and fighting, and they do this in ways unexpected by the tributes. On the contrary, their Japanese counterparts clearly set the rules as regards their intervention: explosive collars, a 3-day game, and danger zones in which such devices can explode as well. These mainly affect death by Gamemakers, game length and entertainment.

Yes, entertainment, and public awareness. Another thing that is absent in Battle Royale, in which the whole “game” is kept secret from the players until the very last moment. This is completely opposed to the Hunger Games, which apart from reminding the District population of a specific message the Capitol wants to convey, aim at entertaining the Capitolites. So Battle Royale is more of a punishment, and The Hunger Games are both a punishment and a show.

3. The Fifth Element, or the origins of the Capitol

Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element seems a clear reference here. Remember those gaudy costumes and styles designed by Jean Paul Gaultier? Remember Ruby Rhod? Well, all these elements may have influenced the setting of the Capitol, from the people up to the buildings. Oddly enough, this movie starts with a hero (Bruce Willis as Corben Dallas) and ends up with a heroin instead (Milla Jovovich as Leeloo).

         

And of course, the clear division between the upper city and the bottom, which is close to the Capitol / District division of the population. This kind of segregation can be seen in many other novels and movies that feature authoritarian regimes.

4. 1984, the political science fiction reference

And speaking of authoritarian regimes, what better reference that George Orwell’s 1984 dystopia, ruled by The Party, “IngSoc”, or its equivalent, the Capitol. Population disinformation and distorted truth are the better example: the District’s Peacekeepers have nothing to do with peace, and the TV broadcasts unreliable content. This also works for the Games themselves, which are actual warfare, instead of a replacement for it. This dichotomy could be directly inspired from 1984, in which official names represent the exact opposite of their real purpose; for instance, the Ministries of Peace, Love, Truth, and Plenty, work on war, hate, disinformation and rationing, respectively.

Another reference lies in world geopolitics. Orwell pictures the earth as divided between three intercontinental super-states, and the main one is ruled by the Ministries cited above. In The Hunger Games, the clear equivalents are Panem, and each District’s Justice Building, Peacekeepers’ Headquarters and Communication Center.

          

Finally, an important influence of 1984 is the way our environment plays an important role in shaping who we are. Here, Orwell takes a step further, pushing this environment to an entity that actually aims at changing your self, by destroying your beliefs, your mind and your body, even. I can’t help but notice a parallel in The Hunger Games, where Katniss and Gale must hide their true selves and activities to the District. In addition, Katniss and Peeta must play the role of lovers, regardless of whether they really (and consciously) feel that way about each other. This develops further when Katniss concludes “ desperate love” is the only way the Capitol will accept her poisoned-berry tactic, right before the Games end.

_____

The Hunger Games shows quite a lot of references and influences from other fictions, regardless of whether Suzanne Collins included them consciously. I guess everything has nowadays. And I think it’s rather a good thing. I find it very frustrating to finish a book or a movie, and being brought back to the real world, and out from that universe I was immersed in for a while. And remakes, inspirations, even rip-offs, in a way, help you get an extra dose of that universe. If you have finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy (or any absorbing saga, for that matter), then you know what I mean.

SPOILER ALERT: Some extra notes on Catching Fire

Another factor common to Catching Fire and Battle Royale is that victors can go back to the arena, because of the Quarter Quell new rules.

In Catching Fire, we see further examples of the Capitol’s disinformation campaign that resembles the work done in 1984’s Ministry of Truth: television broadcasts show the same footage of District 13 over and over, stating it is live footage…

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to comment below or contact me on Twitter. If you want to be kept informed of further articles and other interesting content, go check The Y on Facebook and Twitter, curated by myself.

Further reading:
– George Orwell’s 1984 on Wikipedia;
Battle Royale (movie) on Wikipedia;
– “The Hunger Games” Takes Cue From Hitchcock And Spielberg, As Kids Fight To The Death, on The Fast Company;
– Attempting to make a map of Panem, on AimMyArrowsHigh Livejournal.

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