By Jon Cogburn
This break the Cogburn family took a pause from our long-running Doctor Who/Adventure Time/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Marathon to watch all four Hunger Games movies in four consecutive evenings. Our kids hadn't seen them and Emily and I had done the usual irritating (to people who have a television perpetually on in their houses)* liberal thing of having read the books but not seen the movies. We were very surprised both that we liked the movies as much or more than the books and by how prescient they were.
The first Hunger Games book came out in September of 2008, near the end of W. Bush's disastrous presidency and at the beginning of the hegemony of social media and reality television. Facebook had been around for just four years and youtube for three. With the success of Survivor in 2001 reality television was already a major cultural force. Trump's Apprentice launched the same time as facebook.
In the vein of all good dystopian fiction Suzanne Collins' books are not only entertaining, but also a ferocious critique of the society in which they were penned. The society in the novel is divided into twelve poor rural districts, an urban area, and a thirteenth district which had been leveled seventy five years prior in a civil war. Every year the urban district hosts a "reaping" where each rural district must send a male and female game contestant to the capital, where they compete to death in a televised extravaganza. The survivor becomes wealthy and famous and must help future contestants in the games. They are called the hunger games because your odds of being selected are greater the more food chips you receive from the capital.
It's propitious to watch these films after the eight years of Obama's failed** interregnum between Kings W. Bush and Trump. Strangely, the films do an even better job of satirizing Trump's America than Bush's America, though the dysfunctions of the two eras clearly overlap.