As the climb of upward mobility has grown steeper, our rags-to-riches entertainments have grown more garish, random, and humiliating.
In Suzanne Collins's trilogy, and the recent movie adaptation of the first book, the Hunger Games are a nationally-televised spectacle in which 24 randomly chosen teenagers are forced to fight to the death in a man-made arena. The annual Hunger Games are an instrument of oppression by the Capitol--the center of totalitarian power that survived a rebellion--to remind the 12 districts under its power just how powerless they are. The citizens of the Capitol love the Hunger Games. To them it is pure entertainment. To the citizens of the 12 subservient districts, it is a form of torture. Their children and neighbors become murderers or victims, and they are forced to watch (literally--viewing is mandatory). There is a paradox at the heart of The Hunger Games' appeal.