HUNGER GAMES & THE FOURTH TURNING

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Posted on 24th April 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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It looks like I’m not the only one who sees parallels between the Hunger Games books and movie and The Fourth Turning. Our good friend Neil Howe just made this post on his blog. I always love to see the insights of the master. He picked up things that I never even considered. Enjoy.

I highly recommend The Hunger Games and The Fourth Turning to anyone who wants to better understand what will happen in the next 15 years.

“Hunger Games” and Fourth-Turning America

Apr 22, 2012

 So why has The Hunger Games broken so many box-office records in its first few weeks in theaters?  Sure, the trilogy was a huge YA reader hit before it became a movie.  But the books weren’t exactly Tolkien, nor did they have the same celebrity status as the Harry Potter series.  And even if the books did generate a lot of buzz behind the movie, that just begs another question: Why was the trilogy so popular to begin with?

I have no idea.  But I do think there are several themes in the film that strike an obvious resonance with 4T America.

Theme One is the overwhelming imagery of the 1930s.  In the film, we see images either of America’s dire want and deprivation—think of dirt-eating Appalachia before the TVA arrived—or we see images of National Socialism triumphant.  On the one hand, scenes of semi-starved District 12 are deliberately filmed as a black-and-white evocation of rural America in the middle of the Great Depression.  Think of the Time Magazine’s cover picture for October 13, 2008: A stark photo of breadlines in the early 1930s.

On the other hand, the computer-assisted scenes of the Capitol of Panem look like Berlin as it might have been redesigned by Nazi architect Albert Speer.  Fortunately, history did not allow him time to complete this task.  He did a brilliant job, however, with the Nuremberg rallies, which look like Panem’s Capitol on a smaller scale.  And what isn’t directly Nazi-inspired comes from Art Deco or Art Nouveau.

I’m certainly not the first one to point this out: See this article in the Atlantic for example or this very nice blog post.  I’ve even seen a youtube video pointing to the striking similarity between the Hunger Games Mockingjay pin and Herman Goering’s Luftwaffe badge.  I’ll show a couple of examples here, the most striking of which is the CGI movie image of “Avenue of the Tributes.”  The insignia for each district look disturbingly similar to badges handed out by the U.S. National Recovery Administration (NRA).  Note btw the task assigned to District One: “Luxury.”  Hey, it’s a job and someone’s got to do it.

 

 

Why is this important?  Because the specter of National Socialism loomed large over America at the depths of the Great Depression.  As government aggregated greater authority under FDR, many suggested (both on the populist left and the authoritarian right) that perhaps government should go further.  In 1935 Sinclair Lewis wrote the novel It Can’t Happen Here about a fascist take-over of the United States, which was popular enough to be turned into a stage play in 1936.  In Lewis’ novel, it was not so much that large numbers of people really wanted a dictator.  It was just that no one any longer cared much for the liberal and democratic alternative.

Theme Two is the imagery of a vast gap or distance between the privileged and the subjected.  By most calculations, inequality by income in the United States (as measured by the Gini Coefficient) has recently reached the highest levels since the late-1920s and 1930s.

In Hunger Games, the rich are hi-tech and garish.  The poor are resilient and plain.  In the OWS era, the relevance is clear.

 

 

Theme Three is the imagery of a staged yet savage competition among the young for survival.  I think Hunger Games can be read as a metaphor for team-working and risk-averse Millennials entering a young-adult economy defined by survivalist Gen-Xers, who are accustomed to competing against each other in a no-holds-barred, winner-takes-all economy without safety nets.  Gen-Xers know all about Survival Games.  They think nothing of working for businesses governed by the Jack Welch managerial philosophy–which is to fire X percent of your workers every year “pour encourager les autres.”  Life is a gigantic Las Vegas casino.  ”May the odds be ever in your favor.”  How X can you get?  If Millennials fear anything, it is this future.

How things have changed.  When Boomers were young, William Golding wrote a much-discussed novel about kids killing each other that was quickly turned in a movie.  It was called Lord of the Flies.  And why were the kids killing each other?  Because they wanted to.  Because they were accidentally separated from the adults who would otherwise have enforced order and restrained them.  Hunger Games turns the story entirely around.  In this world, it’s the adults who deliberately stage the teen-on-teen gladiatorial contests.  Hunger Games is by no means the first in this genre.  During the Gen-X youth era, we’ve seen novels and movies like The Long Walk (Stephen King) and Battle Royale (a ‘90s Japanese classic).  And how many Xer “reality shows” have followed this same basic model—with Donald Trump or Simon Cowell or some other middle-aging Boomer yelling “you’re fired” at a young person?  The number is beyond counting.

If you’ve seen the film, then you recall the scene where the competition-trained blond jocks chase down and kill an unseen screaming victim.  An image came to my mind: Karate Kid I (1984), where the Aryan Cobra Kai kids (dressed in skeleton uniforms) chase down and catch Daniel-san and would have beaten him to a pulp had not Mr. Miyagi intervened.  This enormously popular movie persuaded countless millions of young Gen-Xers to practice martial arts, buy a gun, or do just about anything to defend themselves in a friendless world.

But here’s what’s changing.  In today’s new 4T era, what felt OK or normal for young Gen-Xers seems outrageous and unacceptable for young Millennials.  For a generation of kids so fussed-over and protected—now to be sent out with bowie knives and machetes to eviscerate each other from throat to gut?  No, the line has to be drawn somewhere.  And this is what adds a whole new edge (so to speak) to the movie.

I originally had a Theme Four in mind, which is the horrifying Oprah-style interviews of young victims about to be sent to their death.  Here is a glimpse of modern American decadence that deserves fuller treatment.  In the heyday of imperial Rome, gladiators once shouted “morituri te salutamus!” to the clamoring coliseum crowds (we who are about to die salute you).  In Hunger Games, the contestants confess personal secrets like they were on Jimmy Fallon’s ever-nice late-night show.  The effect is truly chilling.

But the hour is growing late.  I’ll come back to this in another post.

 

29 Comments
  1. newsjunkie says:

    u1OfmvxymkSSF1kGSLaPYg2.jpg

    24th April 2012 at 1:35 pm

  2. Thinker says:

    Just catching up on all my reading… also found this blog post insightful:

    The Hunger Games … articulation of the Occupy Movement

    24th April 2012 at 1:50 pm

  3. Thinker says:

    Jim, what did you think of Howe’s take on Gen X, as it relates to the film? You’ve seen it and read the books, I believe. Thought some of his observations in this blog post were spot on. As usual.

    24th April 2012 at 1:52 pm

  4. Colma Rising says:

    Howe is belting out great stuff… this one is a beauty.

    I like that Lord Of The Flies comparrison…

    24th April 2012 at 1:57 pm

  5. Administrator says:

    Thinker

    His assessment of Gen X is pretty much spot on. The last 8 years has felt like the Hunger Games for me.

    24th April 2012 at 2:09 pm

  6. flash says:

    NH- think of dirt-eating Appalachia before the TVA arrived
    While most were poor, the hardy Scott-Irish stock that populated the Appalachians didn’t eat dirt. Most lived pretty good self-sustaining lives farming ,trapping , mining and making whiskey, that is until the Federal government moved in a and stole their land .
    G’damn Yankees akin;t good for nothing but stealin’.

    In a collapse , it’ll be the concrete pounders that starve…country folks know how to survive.

    Best be learning’ how to cook up a mess of polk sallet.

    24th April 2012 at 2:14 pm

  7. Tator says:

    I live in Appalachia now and have for the last ten years. The local history books (as in written by church ladies and such) say exactly what Flash said. Until the government showed up, the people here were self sustaining.

    And as Flash implies when things get bad in the cities, we (I am one of them now) can support ourselves. We all have gardens, animals galore to hunt, chickens, dairy cows, and many water sources…and to top it off we still have moonshine :).

    24th April 2012 at 3:36 pm

  8. Tator says:

    I forgot to say I picked up the first book on a Friday in the airport returning home from a business trip. Could not put it down. Finished it the next day and bought the other two and read them in the next four days.

    They are not great literary works, but they pull you in in a way you will keep turning pages to find out what happens next. I found them engaging, surprising, and disturbing in how many themes can be applied to today’s world.

    I will not say more in case someone plans to read them.

    24th April 2012 at 3:45 pm

  9. TeresaE says:

    Tater weighs in with an important topic.

    My kin came from Appalachia and Kentucky Coal Country. My branch moved north with the industrial revolution.

    You are 100% correct, if any “group” of people have pretty good odds of surviving, its the hill/mountain people. Well, most. You have to admit that an ever-growing percentage of your population is becoming incapable of cooking a meal from scratch, let alone growing enough to feed your family. So, most would be just fine.

    But, just like with moonshine, hemp, and at times wheat and corn, the federales will use a whole bunch of new(ish) laws and retain the power to force us to NOT grow our own food.

    The USDA/FDA bill passed by the lameduck Democrats and signed by a lameduck Bush, gave them the power to do just that.

    Anecdotal evidence shows they are already using these laws to eliminate small, family, farms, co-ops, herbal and supplement industry around the country now. Every day. Another family, or many of them, lose their livelihood, and worse, they lose the CHOICE of how to feed their families.

    So, don’t count on being able to openly have a victory garden and share the bounty with your less fortunate neighbors. If history is to be a guide, the feds will burn your crops and throw you in prison before they allow you to feed yourself.

    The collapse plays on. And very nice to meet you.

    24th April 2012 at 4:13 pm

  10. DaveL says:

    I guess I should have seen the movie instead of reading the book.

    24th April 2012 at 4:44 pm

  11. Kill Bill says:

    Hungarian diabetics who fail to stick to their diet will be deprived of more modern treatments from July, under a government decree published Monday aimed at cutting health spending.

    Let the Hungary Games Commence!

    24th April 2012 at 4:49 pm

  12. flash says:

    tator-I will not say more in case someone plans to read them.

    What books?…gotta’ link.

    Another victim of Federal assholes with guns.

    24th April 2012 at 4:52 pm

  13. flash says:

    TVA,…Revenooers, IRS , Yankee smart growth fuckers…Popcorn salutes you.

    picture_8.png

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdVemLUszlo

    Hundreds gather for farewell to famous moonshiner ‘Popcorn’ Sutton
    http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2009/oct/25/goodbye-to-popcorn/

    12244_02wp_t607.jpg

    24th April 2012 at 5:01 pm

  14. Kill Bill says:

    I was listening, thru an open window, to the neighbor girls playing next door and they were acting out parts in the Hunger Game.

    What surprised me is that werent acting out the part of Kniss [sp?] but the garish elite with a British sounding accent.

    Kids.

    ~~~~~

    …and to top it off we still have moonshine :) .-Tator

    Yeh, well here in Texas we have oodles of military contractors and bases that will take your mooshine when Wall street orders it. Hah!

    24th April 2012 at 5:03 pm

  15. Kill Bill says:

    Wait. Didnt Popcorn Suttons family take his moonshine recipe legal?

    24th April 2012 at 5:05 pm

  16. Administrator says:

    flash

    Tator is talking about the three Hunger Games books. You can click the link in my post to get all three books.

    24th April 2012 at 5:06 pm

  17. flash says:

    Tator says:I live in Appalachia now and have for the last ten years. The local history books (as in written by church ladies and such) say exactly what Flash said.

    admin- From lead in on his comment I assumed he was talking about Appalachian history books.

    BTW, Since my wife bought what I thought was the one book for my niece several years back, I assumed it was a book for teenage girls. …little did I know.

    24th April 2012 at 5:14 pm

  18. Kill Bill says:

    “…think Hunger Games can be read as a metaphor for team-working and risk-averse Millennials entering a young-adult economy defined by survivalist Gen-Xers, who are accustomed to competing against each other in a no-holds-barred, winner-takes-all economy without safety nets” -Neil How

    Sounds like an old world order.

    And the Moties blow themselves back another few thousand years.

    24th April 2012 at 5:23 pm

  19. flash says:

    If we’re reccing fictional books , which I very rarely read, then there’s one damn good fictional read I’d like seen made into a movie..It’s be a blockbuster fer’ shure’…might get you on the watch list just for buying it though.

    An Act of Self-Defense
    Erne Lewis (Author)

    http://www.amazon.com/An-Act-Self-Defense-Erne-Lewis/dp/098282050X

    24th April 2012 at 5:26 pm

  20. flash says:

    Kill Bill says:

    Wait. Didnt Popcorn Suttons family take his moonshine recipe legal?

    There is no special recipe for moonshine..corn, sugar, water ,ferment , boil ,condense alcohol and praise the lord for the bounty of which you have received.

    Hogs whiskey and corn are Gods three finest gifts.

    No individual can make liquor or grow weed.. Now if your wuz a corporation…thaze people too.. greaze the right political spokes and pay some serious tax….den who knows… you might be in the whiskey business.
    on a sidenote.. Fuck Washington and Hamilton.

    24th April 2012 at 5:37 pm

  21. Kill Bill says:

    Wait. Didnt Popcorn Suttons family take his moonshine recipe legal?

    There is no special recipe for moonshine..corn, sugar, water ,ferment , boil ,condense alcohol and praise the lord for the bounty of which you have received. -flash

    I know that. I was watching a moonshiner reality show that included Popcorn and how the illegal moonshiners were trying, some did, to go legal.

    24th April 2012 at 5:48 pm

  22. Tator says:

    Sorry Flash I am famous for changing gears without proper guidance. Administrator is correct. I was referring to the three Hungry game books.

    24th April 2012 at 5:55 pm

  23. flash says:

    KB
    Like I said , grease some palms and pack some campaign coffers.
    I don’t get any Google hits on legal ‘shine distillation for home use.

    Moonshine: Finally Legal!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/04/moonshine-finally-legal_n_105294.html
    Mahalek, then a marketing executive for R.J. Reynolds, accepted the glass but didn’t immediately sip, watching warily as others drank. When after a few minutes everyone looked fine — happy, even — he tasted the clear liquor. It was strong but smooth, with a hint of peach. Mahalek hadn’t expected moonshine to taste like that. Nor did he think for a moment that making moonshine would one day be his full-time job.

    The word “moonshine” conjures bootleggers and fast cars, mobsters and flappers. If Mahalek has his way, drinkers instead will associate it with concepts such as premium, smooth and $14 cocktail. His company, Piedmont Distillers, has launched two brands: Catdaddy is a flavored product redolent of nutmeg and vanilla (though Mahalek denies that either is on the secret list of ingredients); Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon — named for the bootlegger, granddaddy of NASCAR and Last American Hero — is more traditional, with a brisk, clean flavor. “When you say the word ‘moonshine’ and every head turns, you know you’ve got a powerful story,” Mahalek says. “You’ve got their attention.”

    There’s just one question: If it’s legal, is it really moonshine?

    And from the great state of Texas, the only tool you’ll ever need.http://www.lnlprotekt.com/custom-made-home-distillation/
    The pic dump is a hoot.

    24th April 2012 at 5:57 pm

  24. Kill Bill says:

    http://www.popcornsuttonswhiskey.com/
    Popcorn Sutton was well known throughout the South and the world for making
    the best damn “likker” anyone had ever tasted. Now you can taste for yourself!
    ©2011, Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey®
    46.5% [93 proof] alc./vol. Distilled and bottled by Popcorn Sutton Distilling, Nashville, Tennessee.

    24th April 2012 at 6:01 pm

  25. flash says:

    KB
    Thanks for the link.
    Popcorn couldn’t sell his squeeze but big money bags can,even if the money bags is Hank Junior….fucking travesty.
    Popcorn would rise from the grave, bash the heads in and suck the brains out of every pencil dick, no balls pencil pushing milksop at a cum swilling corporation for ripping off his name and bastardizing the nature of his free spirit,

    “Celebrating the legacy of a whiskey-making legend, we’re proud to bring you Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey exactly the way Popcorn made it.”

    New York Times
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/us/popcorn-suttons-whiskey-once-moonshine-is-now-legal.html?pagewanted=2&_r=4
    A few months after Mr. Sutton’s death, a state law allowing microdistilleries was passed. Mr. Grosser, who now had a new partner in Hank Williams Jr., set up a distillery in Nashville, which as of last fall began producing 800 cases of Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey a month.

    Mr. Grosser has long planned to open a distillery in Cocke County, possibly with a museum attached. He discussed it with county officials, who had come to see Mr. Sutton’s legacy, in a rather amusing twist, as a potentially rich source of tax revenue in a county that has its economic struggles.

    24th April 2012 at 6:21 pm

  26. DaveL says:

    Was the screenplay written by the author of the book?

    24th April 2012 at 7:29 pm

  27. Administrator says:

    The screenplay was written by the author and another person. They left a lot of details out of the movie and added some non first person stuff about President Snow.

    24th April 2012 at 7:38 pm

  28. DaveL says:

    Seems they added a lot of imagery that wasn’t in the book also. I wonder how much of the authors vision in the movie was hers and not the other writers and director.

    24th April 2012 at 8:20 pm

  29. Kill Bill says:

    Popcorn couldn’t sell his squeeze but big money bags can,even if the money bags is Hank Junior….fucking travesty.
    Popcorn would rise from the grave, bash the heads in and suck the brains out of every pencil dick, no balls pencil pushing milksop at a cum swilling corporation for ripping off his name and bastardizing the nature of his free spirit, -flash

    Be that it may flash, Popcorns name has been, without his consent perhaps, gone big money. Im sorry to say.

    24th April 2012 at 9:22 pm

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