The world of The Hunger Games is tragic, at least for families in district 12. Their whole existence is one of destitution. They have little-to-no food, no luxuries, and are oppressed and despised by the so called “Peace-Keepers.” The situation is worse for Katniss who has become the sole provider for her family, having next to no support from her mother. Then, things progress further into turmoil for the teenage girl when she is forced to fight to the death in the “Hunger Games.” The defining word in this young girl’s life is hopelessness.
Despite this hopelessness, though, Katniss keeps going. She keeps hunting and trading to put food on the table. She raises her sister Prim and tries to laugh with Gale. She does everything in her power to live a normal life. Then, she does anything she can to survive through the hunger games. What fuels her to keep pushing along in a world that has lost all meaning and purpose? Is it even reasonable and moral to fight to keep her family going in this kind of world? And finally, can she find any value or meaning in her own existence?
The answers this movie presents, bear a striking resemblance to a “genre” of philosophy known as existentialism. Genre is the best term because existentialism is not necessarily an actual philosophy in itself, but is a category of philosophy that takes different shapes depending on the thinker. Alfred Camus’ existential ideas, in particular, share this resemblance with the movies answers.
In his work, The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus gives his answer to how a man can have value in a meaningless world. The universe, as Camus described it, is Absurd. Man is thrown into the world, by whatever cause, devoid of purpose, but doomed to seek one; just like Sisyphus’ eternal punishment of pushing a boulder up a hill when it is just going to fall back down to the bottom again and again. Camus’ solution to the Absurdity was simple: revolt! Just as Sisyphus could receive pleasure by shaking his fist at the gods and pushing the boulder up the hill for the umpteenth time, so man simply had to shake his fist at the blind nothingness that was there and simply push on through life. By doing so, man is able to take control of his life because he chooses to live and give himself meaning.
This would seem to be all that is left for the strong-willed Katniss. She may be under complete oppression by the Capital and lives without anything really to look forward, but she can revolt. And she does by taking power away from the Capital. This can be seen most clearly in the final stage of the competition when she readily accepted suicide as her final solution. While many Existential philosophers, including Camus, typically discourage suicide, this situation was different. She was not simply giving up to the world, she was making a statement that she had the final say over her life. Through this, she had taken complete control. This became the final message in the movie, that man must take back the reigns of his existence. As a result, Katniss appears to be the existential hero of the “Hunger Games” universe.
There is one very important point, however, that jerks our heroin out of this existential role–– Katniss wins. Nowhere in existentialism does the concept of “winning” fit. In fact, all that existentialism really offers is a blind, empty hope in a hopeless reality. Man can give himself arbitrary meaning and arbitrary value, but nothing with actual substance. If this is the case, the President’s idea of using hope as a weapon makes perfect sense. When man is given blind hope but there is nothing behind it, he is left with despair. By giving Katniss the ability to win and return home, the movie empties out the existential push because they once again introduce hope.
But would it have been acceptable if she had died? Is there not something in man that is just not satisfied with the answer “life is hopeless, but keeps fighting for meaning anyway?” This system leaves man with despair and then tells him to enjoy it. This is the philosophy that relates to life, which is what the existentialists wished to give. It is not hope. It is irrational, destructive despair.
The following article will aim to provide a more suitable answer. By comparing the natures of the Capital and the God of the Bible, the article will argue that a Christian worldview better fits the reality in which man exists in order for them to live a proper and fulfilling life.