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Image: Bernhard Hanakam / Flickr

‘The Hunger Games’ prequel: the birth of Panem

As we’ve entered the ‘Age of Trump’, the place of dystopia both in the literary and political spheres has gained an increasing topicality. There seems to be a hunger for not just the genre (as well as spin-offs in general) but the genre as a means of exploring the dark political trajectory this global economy is falling into. The idea of a continent with a cultural bloodthirst so collective that society is structured around a televised game show that forces children from prepubescent to young adult to slaughter one another was once completely alien. Perhaps now, it is closer to reality than fantasy.

It may have been only 11 years since the trilogy’s original publication but this past decade has brought waves of socio-political revolution and contention that have spurred a hunger for exploring a world where all sense of ordered law and morality are destabilised. Dystopia, and the very idea of the Hunger Games, is a perfect opportunity to ‘game’ with this fearful prospect. So, why has Collins chosen to revive this cult-classic with a prequel now? At this stage, no one can be sure, but I refuse to believe her timing is just coincidental with Trump trying to turn America into Panem (did he use the politics of The Hunger Games as his blueprint, I wonder?) and I can easily see this becoming transatlantic when our next leader is likely to be Boris Johnson.

I am beginning to wonder what prophetic powers she wielded when writing over a decade ago in her representation of the battle of presidency between two leaders who were both terribly immoral and unfit to lead society

This is all too similar to ‘the lesser of two evils’ idea that Collins toyed with through the conflict between Snow and Coin. I am beginning to wonder what prophetic powers she wielded when writing over a decade ago in her representation of the battle of presidency between two leaders who were both terribly immoral and unfit to lead society.

Maybe 11 years ago The Hunger Games represented just a speculative vision of the far-future, but now everything about it seems closer than ever. Panem’s regime of segregation, media secrecy and governmental tyranny seem all too familiar in an America which is simultaneously globalising yet under the reign of a president who is creating divide after divide. This is both geographically with his ‘wall’ (which I can imagine is about as probable as me being stunned by a hoard of tracker jackers this instant) and socially in his implementation of restrictions designed to marginalise and alienate the minorities, notably (but not restricted to) the transgender military ban. 

Through President Coriolanus Snow, with his is all too chilling awareness of every step Katniss takes, and his inescapable dictatorship over her life, Collins created a shockingly accurate foreshadowing of a predatory president who now reigns in the form of Trump himself. 

Maybe in this prequel we will see Collins take her trilogy away from the direction of Young Adult dystopia and more towards a political satire

If there is one line I will always remember, it is in Mockingjay when Snow says to Katniss, “Ms Everdeen, It’s the things we love most that destroy us”. If we cannot find safety in the things we love, where can we find it? Certainly not in the political climate that we are seemingly heading towards, and especially not in a dystopian world where Snow (or Trump, since the two are somewhat interchangeable) rules over us.

Maybe in this prequel we will see Collins take her trilogy away from the direction of young adult dystopia and more towards a political satire, in which we will watch America fall into the Panem that it has settled into by the 74th annual Hunger Games of the series’ first novel. She has the opportunity to really make something out of her original trilogy if she harnesses the current political scene and I trust she will not tarnish the legacy of the Mockingjay, but instead set it free.

Or perhaps Snow reigned all along, hiding behind the mask of Trump

Fans have long since been theorising how the creation of a state like Panem arose. I quite like the theory that Lady Gaga was once president of the Capitol, hence the flamboyant and animalistic dress sense of its residents. Admittedly this was one circulated on Tumblr, so there is not any authorial validity to this but maybe we will see her overthrown by Trump. If not the man himself, at least a Trumpian figure who in his sadistic tyranny starts the annual Hunger Games tradition and births fascist extremists which eventually take the form of Snow 74 years into the regime.

Or perhaps Snow reigned all along, hiding behind the mask of Trump. Regardless, I have faith in Collins to write with an anti-republican feminist agenda, but whether she does this or not this author is the mother of one of the greatest dystopian narratives since Orwell, and I just know she will make the mockingjay proud. 

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