The Irony Behind the Success of The Hunger Games

By: Anna Cox

In the Hunger Games universe, there are four movies: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. 

In 2020, Suzzanne Collins penned and published the fourth installment of her book series and it would soon be picked up by Lionsgate. The fifth movie, The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes, is set to release on November 17, 2023, and fans are building hype for the movie via social media. 

If it wasn’t enough that fans were making TikTok edits and starting Twitter discourse, Netflix put all four movies on their site in early March. Because of this, conversations about the genius behind Suzanne Collins and theories about the movie are circulating as people get excited for the new movie. 

Fans are rehashing the Team Peeta versus Team Gale shipping wars, giving in depth explanations about their favorite characters’ backstories, and even making their own fictionalized versions of the games like its Squid Game; however, there is an issue with this. This series is about a reality show where children are killed at the hands of other children. The children are picked in a sort of lottery, where the male and female tributes of each of the 12 Districts of Panem are sent to fight in an arena. The purpose of the games is to punish the districts for a past uprising that almost destroyed Panem. This message gets lost very quickly as people tend to focus on things other than the political commentary.

The whole love triangle discourse is ironic considering one of the ways that the main characters survive in the original movie is by pretending to be madly in love with one another to become a fan-favorite relationship. The relationships, both in the Capital and the real world, are used to fuel emotion for these people, but the audience is expected to see this. The manipulation of the Capital citizens and districts is almost blatant to the audience because we see the behind the scenes. So, the shipping wars and people seeing this as a romantic movie are falling victim to the manipulation of the movie.

Another thing that shows people are playing right into what this movie is trying to satirize is the need for more.

The most common thing you will hear a Hunger Games fan say is that they want more movies. People are itching to hear about the games that Haymitch, Finnick, and Johanna went through. However, this is ironic given the purpose of this series. 

The Hunger Games are about the sensationalization of violence and how inherently barbaric society is when they are told that enjoying violence is okay. The constant videos about wanting to hear about the games these characters had to endure is getting old and tired at this point. I fully understand being emotionally attached to these characters and wanting to see more of them. But, there is no more commentary that Suzanne Collins could possibly give on the games anymore. Collins says “it’s that cycle of violence that seems impossible for us to break out of,” when speaking about the use of violence and war in the universe she created. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay serve as her vessel to show her perspective on the connection of violence, exploitation, and entertainment. 

Going back and watching games that take place under the same government with characters that have already provided additional layers to the story would be redundant and pointless. Collins would become the exact thing she is satirizing. This point of people loving the violence that comes with the series can also be seen in reactions toMockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2, specifically. Many dubbed those movies as worse than the others because they preferred the setting of the games and were bored by how “political it had become.” But, the Hunger Games was always political, and the violence was never meant to be the thing you took away from the movie. In fact, disliking the other movies because of the lack of Hunger Games is directly proving Collins’ point about how much people love to watch violence.

People have even taken it so far as to to create fictional scenarios where they are characters in this universe. I was scrolling through TikTok the other day, and I watched a video that detailed this creator’s ideas for the twist of a quarter quell. For those unaware, a quarter quell happens every 25 years in the Hunger Games country of Panem. On this special occasion, a twist is added to the games. So, the first quarter quell had the district vote for who they wanted to send to die, the second quarter quell had 48 tributes instead of the usual 24, and the third quarter quell had all past victors names in the reaping bowl instead of new names. And, the idea of someone thinking, ‘You know what would be totally on brand for the Hunger Games fandom? If I decided to ignore everything that this book says about murder and entertainment and give ideas for a quarter quell. That would be so cool,’ is absolutely mind-boggling to me. It just shows how uncommon media literacy truly is.

The final point that I want to make is less about the fans, but more about the marketing team. Who thought it would be a good idea to make a club remix to the song “The Hanging Tree” and push it to pop radio, subsequently making it the song of the summer in 2014? If that is not ironic marketing then I don’t know what is. I personally like to believe that it was a conscious choice made by the marketing team to make a dark commentary on society and how it relates to the movie, but I highly doubt that.

The Hunger Games is a series about the glorification of violence in the media, and the attention that both the movies and books received are direct proof of this theme. Althoughit is inarguably an entertaining and interesting universe that Suzanne Collins has created, most fans don’t fully understand the point of this series past its blockbuster status and star-studded cast.


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