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Essay on 'The Hunger Games': Analysis Using Marxist and Feminist Theory

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This essay aims to examine Gary Ross’ The Hunger Games, a dystopian science fiction adventure film, using Marxist theory, and feminist theory. The Hunger Games was released in 2012 and took place in the future dystopian world of Panem where it follows the life of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen who comes from District 12. The leaders of authoritarian Panem live in the Capitol where they control the twelve surrounding districts. And each of the districts produces a unique trade such as mining, fishing, agriculture, or technology which is used for businesses. Every year two young representatives, a male, and a female from each district are chosen by lottery in an event called reaping to participate in the Hunger Games, an event that can be described as a lethal Olympics. During the games, the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors for a better promising future while it is broadcasted to the citizens of Panem as entertainment.

The Hunger Games is very significant because it allows viewers to understand and make connections between how Marxist theory and feminist theory are prevalent in today’s society. For example, the movie demonstrates that a civilization based on a capitalist mode of production is essentially suppressive because it creates two working classes; the rich also known as the ruling class which is portrayed by the leaders living in the Capitol, and the working class is displayed by the individuals living in the twelve districts. It also allows viewers to understand how “high socioeconomic classes exploit the labor of working-class for profits” (Ott and Mack 26). In addition, the movie shows post-feminism through the main female protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. In the movie, Katniss is seen challenging the traditional representations of femininity. By subtly incorporating Marxist and post-feminist theory within the film it questions the viewers if it is possible to critique modern popular culture while concurrently being part of that very same culture.

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As Frida Kahlo stated, “There is so much wealth and so much misery at the same time, that it seems incredible that people can endure such class difference, and accept the such form of hunger while […] the millionaires throw away millions on stupidities” (Jamie). Similarly, the differences in socioeconomic classes can be witnessed in The Hunger Games. The film revolves around a technologically advanced, supreme city with extravagant food and fashion called the Capitol. This city is where the nation’s most wealthy and powerful citizens live who rule the nation’s surrounding twelve districts who are not as wealthy as the Capitol and each year, they organize the Hunger Games inside the city. Throughout the film, it is shown that the individuals in the Capitol are spending their wealth on items that are senseless. For instance, males and females regularly spend money on buying extravagant wigs and clothes that they do not even wear for a full day. In addition, these characters are seen spending money on customizing their dog’s looks. While on the other hand, individuals living in the districts are very cautious about what they spend their money on because they do not receive a lot of money for their labor. Furthermore, within the twelve districts, the welfare levels varied significantly because they depended on the goods they produced. For example, Districts 8 – 12 were far more impoverished than districts 1 – 7 because districts 1 – 7 produced goods such as trains, electronics, and luxury items that were needed by the government-appointed peacekeepers and the individuals living in the Capitol. This accurately portrays Karl Marx’s theory of the capitalist mode of production because the individuals in the film are separated into two classes, the ruling, bourgeoise who live in the Capitol with high ended fashion, technology, and food. Then there is the working, proletariat class which has to obey all the rules given by the individuals in the Capitol and must provide its labor. The capitalist mode of production can be noticed every day in one’s lives such as, in the news or other sources of media they constantly show how wealthy people are misusing their wealth while there are individuals who have to constantly fight to live another day. Additionally, Karl Marx believed that difference in “socioeconomic class is much more significant in creating divisions between people than religion, law or education. It’s simply between the haves and the have-nots” (Ott and Mack 25-26). Hence, the people in the districts are the “have-nots” and the people in the capitol are the “haves”. The wealthy leaders used the working class in the districts to work more and to produce goods for their luxury but failed to provide the workers with secure pay or food. This proves the labor theory of value proposed by Karl Marx because “creating two different socioeconomic classes; will allow the bourgeoise class to become more profitable by misusing the conditions of the working class to create more profits” (Ott and Mack 26). Moreover, the film depicts profit-motive as described by Karl Marx. The profit motive is seen during the film when they show an introduction clip before the reaping of the two participants. In the short clip, it is shown that the winner of the games will be given a grand prize like a bigger fenced house and luxury items so they can live worry-free. This is very important because the districts that are impoverished need this grand prize therefore, they are more likely to support and participate in the lethal games. The profit-motive can be witnessed in one’s everyday life, for example, people are willing to do things that will give them more profits like businesses merging with another company to increase their sales. Overall, the Marxist theories which are very prevalent throughout the film cause the audience to critique their own culture and society.

As years passed, humans have progressed in many different areas however, when it comes to femininity humans still have not progressed. There are still outdated gendered stereotypes seen in media that see women as domestic, emotional, and submissive. For instance, these gender stereotypes in Critical Media Studies, are described, “Advertisements tend to depict men […] full of vitality or in good physical shape. Images of women […] tend to emphasize passiveness and weakness” (Ott and Mack 198). Consequently, this can be seen in The Hunger Games, all the women in the districts are seen as weak housewives who can only stay at home and cook, clean, and take care of their children while their husbands are shown as strong masculine figures who work in trades to provide the family with money. Also, Katniss’ sister, Primrose similarly portrays the emotional stereotype of women for example, on the day of the reaping she was panicking and scared proving that women are very emotional and do not stand a chance of winning the games. Furthermore, in The Hunger Games, patriarchal social systems are seen such as “men show little emotion and avoid certain occupations” (Ott and Mack 196). During the games, Peeta, Katniss’ male co- participant is seen to avoid crying when he was injured because it is not masculine for a male to cry. Additionally, Peeta is seen working in his family bakery even though he enjoyed painting/makeup. These patriarchal social systems are seen within real life as males do not cry when they get hurt or injured only women cry. Or it is not normal for a male to wear and work in cosmetics because that is supposed to be a female’s department. However, Katniss Everdeen appears to challenge the traditional representations of femininity. Katniss is independent and courageous she also possesses many skills which women in her district and other districts lack like, hunting or fighting. Katniss is representing post-feminism which shows both males and females as equal. Hence, The Hunger Games showcases both the feminist and post-feminist theories through the stereotypes the characters portray.

In conclusion, The Hunger Games has had a major impact on the lives of many individuals because it raises questions about the views of our society and culture. The Marxist theory on profits, socioeconomic classes, and labor theory is extremely prevalent and can be noticed in everyday life. Within society, there are many individuals who still confide in the traditional representations of femininity however individuals like Katniss who are strong and independent have inspired many girls to challenge the traditional norms on femininity and become independent and create a unique identity for themselves. Thus, Marxist theories and femininity theories have allowed for a better understanding of the film and society.

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Essay on ‘The Hunger Games’: Analysis Using Marxist and Feminist Theory. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2023, from
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