Reap What You Sow
by Na'dayah Pugh
Based on the novel of the same name, Gary Ross’s 2012 blockbuster The Hunger Games follows sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen after she volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the titular Games. After being whisked away from her impoverished hometown, District 12, Katniss navigates the new worlds of the wealthy Capitol and, later, the violent arena of the Games. During preparation for the Games, Katniss—along with the other tributes—is presented with substantial feasts. These meals continue until the tributes are thrown into the arena, where they must forage, hunt, and kill, all while being watched by an audience that wants nothing more than to be entertained. This invokes a sense of cannibalism: after being fattened up like animals, tributes are then “consumed” for entertainment, thus becoming the meal for a privileged and elite audience.
The opening of the film establishes the fact that the government deprives the people in the outer districts of bare essentials, including food. Citizens appear thin and malnourished, and hunting game oneself is a criminal offense. Katniss’s parting words include a desperate plea to her friend, Gale, begging him not to let her family starve while she is away. Though Katniss is starved while she is in District 12, that quickly changes after she becomes a tribute. Once in the Capitol, she is presented with feast after feast, and platters upon platters of food are offered to her with ease specifically in preparation for her entry into the Hunger Games, to better prepare her to entertain the millions watching the event. She is also groomed: her eyebrows are tweezed and her legs are waxed, similar to how garnishes are added to fancy dishes in order to visually enhance the meal. At the beginning of the Games, tributes are placed on pedestals surrounding the Cornucopia, comparable to dishes surrounding the centerpiece at a Thanksgiving feast. In this way, Katniss and the rest of the tributes are served as a meal for the Capitol. They are given food and fattened up before the Games, then “consumed” as entertainment while they battle each other to the death. Despite the extreme violence of the Games, they are casually televised, playing quietly in the background of some scenes and being eagerly watched by smiling audiences in others. The Capitol is the host of a cannibalistic dinner party, but they feast for neither need nor celebration. They “eat” the tributes for pure amusement.
The Hunger Games,Dir. Gary Ross. Lionsgate. 2012.