Panem et circenses is a Latin phrase that represents the totalitarian rule emperors had over their people despite running a legislative government, emperors were near absolute monarchs over Rome and its surrounding districts. Panem, the postmodern, apocalyptic nation in which The Hunger Games trilogy takes place, is based off of this government and operates by manipulating its citizens through this concept of 'bread and circuses.'
Aldous Huxley wrote of a dystopian future, in his novel A Brave New World, in which there was a development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions. This parallels Panem in many ways and represents the 'circuses' that distract the people from reality. The media that broadcasts to the citizens of Panem hides its cruel realities with distractions, much in the way The World State's media did in A Brave New World. Plutarch Heavensby addresses this in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire when he suggests that they should, Make everything about [the important wedding]. What kind of dress is she gonna wear?Floggings. What's the cake gonna look like? executions. Whose [sic] gonna be there?Fear. Blanket coverage. Shove it in their faces. Hiding such devastating truths among pretty ideas is satiating the curious mind with 'circuses.' This is also where the idea of the annual Hunger Games event comes from as it gives the president the chance to restate his/her position of power over the common people and entertain the masses with gore and gossip reminiscent of the events held in the Roman Coliseum.
The question is: What worldview is this coming from? The Roman Empire was a polygamous institution, yet Panem seems distinctly godless. The economy is rather obviously a command economy, as seen in the government's frequent raidings of black markets that merely sell food and the community's fondness of trade, which is indicative of a communist society. Yet, the drive behind this command economy is capitalistic gain for a select few, which points to an authoritarian government. Upon further examination, it can be proved that Panem is based in a totalitarian government through the standardization and strict regulation of the school system, the globalization based on an extraction model that exploits its own minorities, and the favoritism for its meritocratic capitol. This is the 'bread,' thrown back to the capitol citizens to achieve a loyalty based in an illusion of success.
In this society plagued by economic, governmental, and media corruption, a young girl named Katniss Everdeen becomes the face for a revolution when she shows the citizens of Panem the truth of their government. Katniss is the protagonist of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, who stars as a young hero that has risen to fame after revealing her humanity in a fight to the death. Through this, she captures her country's heart and shows the cruelty of the government for being willing to kill so many innocent youths. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss is forced to take part in the cruel and unusual Hunger Games event once again, during which she sparks a revolution. Her symbolism proves that the true antagonist of this tale is the Capitol and what it stands for. Despite my group concluding that President Snow is the obvious antagonist, I stand by the idea that Suzanne Collins meant for her satirical work to be more than just characters. President Snow is a representative of the Capitol in the same way the Capitol is a representative of an animalistic, tyrannical capitalism and Katniss is a representative for the oppressed. However, as Katniss' story is personal and her symbolism as a revolutionary is merely that, a symbol, she remains the acting protagonist despite fighting against an abstract antagonist that is her oppressive economic/political system.
As a whole, this work addresses what is worthy of sacrifice and the question of what is socially right and wrong. The answer given here seems to be that it is worthy to fight for equality among all people and it is right to oppose laws over a person if they challenge these natural, inalienable rights as evidenced by Katniss' actions.
With parallels drawn to the Roman Empire and The World State, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire portrays a complicated society, similar to and different from American culture in many ways. All in all, this movie shows a strong, honest, and loyal protagonist fighting for a cause she believes in, and, in this, it proves itself to be a film with great messages for the whole family.