The Capitol and the Readers

An original essay by Callan Norman

Throughout the whole Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins positions her readers to loathe the Capitol. They find entertainment in watching children kill each other, in merciless and barbaric deaths, and in the drama and excitement which accompanies such horrors. Instantly, every reader views the Capitol with a feeling of repulsion which cannot be expunged. In every sense of morals, what the Capitol do is wrong. President Snow is so very easily disliked, the scent of roses being all of a sudden something to be seen as evil to any Hunger Games fan. Yes, it’s true; we all hate the Capitol, and there’s nothing more we like seeing than watching their downfall.

And yet, curiously, one could say we are no better than them. Perhaps we view the books as works of fiction, but we crave seeing it. As Gale says in The Hunger Games film adaption,

“You root for your favourites, you cry when you get killed, it’s sick!”

Yes, indeed it is sick, and again we hate the Capitol for it. But if the reader stops and thinks for a moment, they realize that what Gale has just said is exactly what they are doing. They’re choosing the Tributes they like, they cry when they die – one merely look at Rue’s death scene for that – but we don’t regard ourselves as sick.

Strangely enough, the first novel could easily be an autobiography of a former victor, sold to Capitol citizens to relive the moments of their precious games and to see inside the eyes of a tribute. Because, really, in our own special way, readers are disappointed when they found that there would be no more Hunger Games. Relieved for the sake of the characters, but disappointed to be removed from the Arena action, to not see Katniss and Peeta mentor as Haymitch does. They wish for more stories about the arena, and while this is completely natural for us fans, it made me wonder just how different from the Capitol we really are.

I won’t lie; as horrified by the idea of another Hunger Games with Capitol children was, part of me was excited at the prospect of another games to read about; revisiting the Arena has been something we have wanted since the first book, that we are grateful for again in Catching Fire. Many feel the atmosphere and events of the Arena are sadly missed in Mockingjay, and I’d have to agree it doesn’t quite have The Hunger Games feel without the Arena. I despise myself for saying so, but I would have loved to read about Haymitch’s games, or Johanna Mason’s, even seeing Katniss and Peeta try and keep two tributes alive from a Capitol perspective.

We are rooting for our favourites, and we are crying when they get killed. While we despise the Capitol, we love seeing the interview scenes, the parade, finding out the Tribute’s training scores… readers even gladly go and see a movie on the barbaric games, because of the excellent story, and, of course, the entertainment. By no means would one suggest that our race is nearly as bad as the Capitol, but this vision of how the reader sits in an eerily close way to the Capitol is a perfect reminder that humans have the potential to become something just as brutal.

Regardless, it’s nothing to be ashamed of to be enjoyed by The Hunger Games trilogy. It’s what they were written for; to be enjoyed. And we are still far from crossing that line into Capitol territory, but it’s important to keep in the back our our minds just how horrible watching twenty four teenagers fight to the death is. Sometimes, when we’re reading, we don’t feel this impact. At other times the thought is overwhelming, but the Capitol never reach the stage of seeing just how wrong it is. They see only the entertainment side, and for us it would be too easy to do the same.

Collin’s warnings of what reality television could truly become reaches its pinnacle with this view, and we have to remind ourselves that we’re not the Capitol, and we don’t want to be like the Capitol in the future. One merely has to read the books to realise that it’s not that unrealistic for The Hunger Games to become reality when Masterchef no longer satisfies our entertainment tastes. Collins has expertly positioned her readers to view themselves with this doubt, and for those who realize it, it will serve to be the perfect reminder not to become the Capitol which we could be so easily.