The Hunger Games from a Jungian, Political, and Environmental Perspective
Dennis L. Merritt, Ph.D., Jungian Analyst, Ecopsychologist
The movie The Hunger Games at one level depicts the adolescent's world on steroids and at another level relates to powerful forces stirring in America. As a nation we are struggling to find a new identity as the myths that have sustained us are showing their age and ineptness while the controlling powers are expressing themselves more strongly. In Games those controlling forces directed by President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, are challenged by a powerful feminine energy in the form of sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen, played by Jenifer Lawrence. I see Hunger Games as a allegory of current American culture as Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, about the Salem witch trials, was an allegory of McCarthyism in 1952 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crucible).
The Story from an Archetypal Perspective
In the film the rule of the archetype of the Old King as embodied by the President is nearing its end. The King represents the dominant features of a culture depicted in its values, attitudes, behaviors and systems. (1) Old systems in Snow's realm are showing signs of strain in a decadent society that has lost its soul. The ruling power uses intimidation, deceit and diversions to maintain its position. The Capitol is the powerhouse and center of President's domain, a place of ultra modernity in its buildings, machines, and electronic marvels. It is inhabited by a ruling elite of shallow people living in luxury who are caricatures of humans with their bizarre clothing, makeup and behaviors. This society without a heart is epitomized by an annual event—the Hunger Games--captivating the entire culture. The games cruel nature is symptomatic of the absence of the Queen archetype--there is no feminine companion/counterpart to the President. The Queen symbolizes the Eros or archetypal feminine in a culture, the feeling values and how people relate to each other. In the film a primary feminine figure is the woman who reaps the tributes from the districts: a shallow, empty, painted woman enamored with the allure of the games.
Outside the Capitol lie twelve poor, starving, downtrodden districts still being punished for a rebellion over 74 years ago. Twelve is an archetypal number associated with wholeness (twelve months, twelve apostles). Here we have a kingdom of the haves and the have nots, reflecting the 1% and 99% in American society. Every year a male and a female between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected at random as tribute (sacrifice) to represent their district in the Hunger Games. The randomness highlights the cruel uncertainty of fate, subjecting everyone to its fears. The games are an annual reminder of the punishment for rebelling against the powers that be, a punishment meted out in the form of human lives for the entertainment of the populace and a means of maintaining a fear in both city and country of the ruling power.