When I stepped out of the theater, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a group of teens – ‘I can totally see that happening today!’ And another retorted, ‘what will your strategy be?’ And yet another teenager ramping up excitement, lipped, ‘who will your first kill be?’ Before another could blurt out an answer, I screamed, ‘what? You kidding?’ Withdrawn, they looked at me as if I was from another planet. And they were right. I couldn’t recognize which side of the universe I had been tossed. For a conversation like that to be acceptable as entertaining was what bothered me most about the movie.

Perhaps, director Gary Ross, and fellow writers Billy Ray and the series author, Suzanne Collins, were right in thinking that all we wanted to see was lots of hunting and bloodbath. And maybe that’s what we have become. The film’s deliberate dodging of obvious questions and its out-of-touch senseless sci-fi provides no opportunity for social criticism.

So I asked, ‘you will start slashing other teens’ throats, limbs, and stomachs in a game?’ With straight faces and some exuberance, they poured over the answer, ‘yah, if it meant survival – a choice between life and death.’ I stood there thinking and implored, ‘am I really the only one who thinks there’s something terribly amiss?’ They giggled away. Only one replied, and when he did, he whimpered, ‘it’s just a game!’ Get a grip!

I am not surprised. Looking at what has been happening to our African American communities at the hands of the Law, and the desensitization that video games like Just Cause brings to it, should it be surprising to imagine today’s ‘bloodthirsty teens’ playing with giant f-cking guns and razor sharp machetes?

The Hunger Games may not be far removed from us. Just like Panem’s Reality-TV-Drunk society, we may have just developed an appetite for spilling blood. Maybe not in those exact terms? But we have certainly developed a hunger for cheap gas (often from other people’s lands where we sometimes have to play hunt and kill in order to take it by force), cheap goods from China (turning a blind eye to China’s ‘enslavement’ of millions of its own people), and even much worse, under our own noses, we have decided to play stupid, clueless and unblemished when day in and day out, millions of incarcerated black men are led to the slaughter to work for peanuts or nothing in providing billions of dollars in services and manufacturing to the economy we call, America!

These citizens of Panem couldn’t be more barbarous than the Romans? But how different are our American lives today? When a Zimmerman can hunt a Trayvon from across his own home, gun him down in cold blood, walk off, call it self-defense, and we don’t do nothing about it, then I have to ask, ‘how different are we from Panem?’

In the same way that no one seemed concerned about the barbarity of the dismembering that was taking place in Panem – the eyesaw of a game between young men and girls – it is even more frightening that Katnis (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) themselves, nor any of the tributes really felt the trepidation, sorrow and rash of revolution that situations like those aroused in people whose existence was under threat. It was as if they almost liked to be there – they liked to be at the games and fight for the pride of district!

Such is the story of today’s black elite – the black bourgeoisie. In their life-long fight and attempt to fall into the bracket of the so-called Talented First, they have become completely oblivious to what happens to the majority of black folk. They fight to be ‘raised’ among the very people who enforce and orchestrate the rhythms of the system that oppresses their own people. Why? For the pride of of the hood? For the pride of black people? So they can say, ‘see, I am the first black man in Hollywood, in the Ivy, etc?

Recently some of these disciples of Du Bois begun re-igniting discussions on finding solutions to the problem of the black man in America. Who’s the problem? The black man? When I look out there with 80 percent of Chicago’s black men in jail and Trayvon being gunned down in cold blood by Zimmerman, I don’t see the black man problem. We know who the problem is! So why are we not trying to solve that problem? Toothless elites? Even Du Bois himself stopped reading Du Bois before he was dead and buried in Ghana!

Like the teens I met outside the theater, I feel we are not asking the right questions about Panem. ‘Cos if we did, we’ll start asking serious questions about the white-man-problem we have in America!

Peradventure, Panem is a world that is quite possible – where the Zimmermans can go play hunting and killing precious lives like Trayvon, and call it self-defense! Sheer barbarism! And we sit and enjoy the entertainment as it ramps up with familiar excitement; and doing nothing, just like the dormant inhabitants of Panem.

Those teenagers were probably right, ‘I can totally see Hunger Games everywhere I turn!’ My worry has now bloated into uncharted trepidation, Just Cause, maybe, America has always played this game with black bodies and is still playing the game with black boys in the streets and black men in prison. Just Cause! Because they can?

Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Gary Ross (screenplay), Suzanne Collins (screenplay)
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth


  1. The Hunger Games is another version of the Running Man, this one is more big budget and made more to teen audiences, but the concepts of both films are similar. The purpose of the Hunger Games in this movie is to scare the masses and intimidate them, the purpose of the Running Man is to distract the audiences. Running Man takes place in 2018 after a global financial crisis decimates the world economy. The Hunger Games takes place centuries into future, judging by the technology that the Capitol possesses.
    As far as comparing the kids in the movie to George Zimmerman, I do not see a similarity. People like Zimmerman are typical of the old America that you grew up in, seeing a dark skinned face and reacting with violence. George Zimmerman kille by choice and by hatred. These kids in the movie are killed because they are forced participants. Even Cato at the end, regretted what he did. That is why Katniss killed him before the dogs ate him alive.
    The violence in this movie and its dark content are unprecedented for a movie aimed at younger people. But it does not surprise me given how much violence young people are exposed to in their lives. Especially seeing dark images of death in the Middle East and elsewhere.
    If you read the book it was far more violent and graphic than this film, I am sure those kids who were talking about what they would do read it. Things like this are just another sign of the dark times America has entered.

  2. *spoiler alert* My beef with the movie/book is… why did all the kids just not kill anybody in the beginning? If the game players didn’t want everybody to die like in the end when they stopped them from committing suicide… why didn’t they all just not play the game in the beginning? nobody kills, nobody dies. and the movie didn’t tell us what the point of the game was. I guess no real set up?

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