The Hunger Games have captured the imagination of millions of youth in the heartlands of capitalism. Set in a post-apocalyptic North America, it presents a powerful allegory of neo-liberal times, in which a tiny, super-wealthy minority located in 'The Capitol' brutally control the rest of the population in order to exploit their labour intensively whilst keeping them in poverty and subjection. A means to enforce this domination is the yearly 'Hunger Games' - a horrific TV reality show in which a male and a female teenager are chosen from each of 12 districts to battle to the death in a technologically manipulated arena beset with dangers, as punishment for a previous uprising. Katniss Everdeen, the story's young heroine, embodies the way in which such oppression can bear the seeds of its own destruction - from survival in the face of poverty, to resistance, rebellion, and ultimately revolution.
This paper analyses the politics and pedagogy of The Hunger Games, examining in particular its portrayal of gender as it interplays with class, race and youth. Drawing on Marxist-feminist theory (Carpenter and Mojab, 2011), it explores The Hunger Games' depiction of capitalist, racist patriarchal social relations; of the learning and consciousness that even the most dire 'limit situations' (Freire, 1972) can enable; and of the potential for individual alienation to develop into collective resistance and rebellion. In particular, the paper highlights the role of women and their socially reproductive labour, both as an absolute necessity for the Capitol, and as an inspiration for the solidarity and revolutionary activity required to overthrow the Capitol's rule.
The paper argues that The Hunger Games offers a sophisticated analysis of contemporary society, and of the disposability of youth and other 'excess' populations (Bauman, 2004; Giroux, 2009); of the inseparability of struggles around gender and racial inequalities from those around class exploitation; and of the potential of women's struggles in particular to contribute to the transformation of society. As such, the books and film offer an important pedagogical tool that challenges not only received gender stereotypes under neo-liberalism, but also offers a vision of how young people - male and female - may not be simply duped by neo-liberal ideology and the restricted gender roles that predominate in its popular culture.