at the end of the ride everyone is dead except for you, the new champion
November 3, 2015 10:05 AM   Subscribe

The Hunger Games Theme Park and the Death of the Disney Dream

After passing through the gates, visitors will arrive in a re-creation of the fictional District 12, a mining region where Katniss grew up. There will be costumed characters and real-life versions of Peeta Mellark’s bakery and the Hob black market.
posted by poffin boffin (104 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
This reminds me of when the 2nd movie was released and Subway had a tie-in, something that still blows my mind. And I think there was nail polish or some other beauty products that were tie-ins too?
posted by Kitteh at 10:08 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


This was on Marketplace on NPR last night...
“In bringing an intellectual property to life, you need to check the boxes of all of the things that people are most familiar with in that franchise,” he said.

Leave something out, and fans could be disappointed. Fortunately there are plenty of family-friendly themes in the "Hunger Games" stories, like loyalty and skill, Hettema said.

“The ‘killing of children’ box could remain unchecked,” he said.
Honestly, a book based around children in gladiatorial combat is maybe not the best park theme ever, yeah.
posted by GuyZero at 10:09 AM on November 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


An Avatar based theme park?

Haven't the people of the Middle East suffered enough?
posted by The Whelk at 10:09 AM on November 3, 2015


I like the side note about their other park that has Twilight-themed attractions which I assume include chewing a plastic baby out of a marzipan stomach.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:10 AM on November 3, 2015 [20 favorites]


It should be noted that Atlanta has one of the highest wealth and income gaps between the rich and poor of any city in the US. We already are basically living Hunger Games here.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:17 AM on November 3, 2015 [21 favorites]


Man, the story of the people who have to survive in a recreation of a fictional dystopian future after the world goes to shit in the mid-21st century practically writes itself.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:17 AM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's too bad these studios are just getting into this sort of thing nowadays. We could have a Phenomena theme park!

After coming to a brief time later, Jennifer engineers her escape through a large hole in the floor that leads through a tunnel to a dungeon and into a basement. She falls in a pool infested with maggots and dead bodies, whilst Geiger is also present in the room, though above Jennifer in the pool, struggling to free himself from some chains attached to his wrists. Brückner appears and teases Jennifer for a moment, but Geiger frees himself from the chains and holds Brückner just enough to let Jennifer escape. Following her escape from the pool room, she passes a room from which she hears sobbing, subsequently finding Brückner's son alone and crying in the back corner of this room. When the child (Davide Marotta) turns around, it is revealed that he has a hideously deformed face, being the result of a rape (hence the mirrors were covered as he does not like seeing himself). He chases Jennifer until she gets outside and onto a motorboat. Just as she finally manages to get the motor started after many attempts and begins to leave the dock, he rushes from the trees and leaps onto the mototboat with his lance in hand, in a desperate attempt to kill her, but she summons a swarm of flies that attack him, causing him to fall into the water. Jennifer is also forced to jump into the water as the motorboat explodes, whereupon the child grabs her, as he is not yet dead. Rising into the flaming waters, he is eventually killed. Jennifer reaches the shore just as Morris appears. However Brückner reappears and decapitates him. She then leans over Jennifer threatening her with the same fate before revealing that she was the one who murdered McGregor and Geiger out of fear that harm would have befallen her son. Suddenly, Inga attacks Brückner and kills her with a razor. With the ordeal over, Jennifer and the chimp embrace.

Tell me that wouldn't make for an awesome It's A Small World-style ride.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:19 AM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


The other night I saw Hunger Game-themed commercials for a luxury car.

Because, yeah.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:19 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


children in gladiatorial combat

Jennifer Lawrence and Hemsworth all the central characters in the movies are about as much like children as James Bond is. My daughter would go bananas for anything remotely approaching 'imagine you're Katniss taking out fighter planes with your bow and arrow.'
posted by colie at 10:21 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I struggle to think of a YA series that's a worse idea for a bloody theme park.

I'd say it's a pretty good candidate for a bloody theme park. In fact I think the problem is this one will seem bloodless.
posted by ardgedee at 10:22 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bah, I am always down for over-analyzing the Hunger Games but this seems a little pearl-clutchy for me. There's interesting social commentary to be found in thinking about why dystopian fiction is so popular; I don't think that extends to convincing me that because a massive mainstream blockbuster hit now has a smallish theme park for families to go play at our society has somehow lost its optimism, inspiration, or hope. Especially because:

A) Disney remains king of the theme park, and has lost none of its "happiest place on earth" rhetoric.

B) While the Hunger Games story has a deeply ambivalent ending Katniss does win. The devastating personal consequences for her are profound and meaningful but the overall narrative is of a society becoming less dystopian and tyrannical, albeit at great cost and not without reversals.

I would be way more excited to see the articles talking about the irony inherent in a real life Jurassic Park Park. Bring on the genetically-engineered dinosaurs! (Yeah, yeah there's a ride at Universal, snore.)
posted by Wretch729 at 10:25 AM on November 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


An Avatar based theme park?

Haven't the people of the Middle East suffered enough?


The Pandora - The World Of Avatar area at Disney's Animal Kingdom at WDW Park is supposed to open in 2017. I was just there and there's tons of construction going on for it.
posted by tittergrrl at 10:33 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Disney connection here is weak. The direct antecedent to Disney parks was no just the world's fair, but also amusement parts, which lack Disney's utopianism. Non-Disney theme parks generally never shared in Disney's utopianism. The (planned) existence of yet another non-Disney theme park "signals the death of the Disney Dream"? I'm pretty sure that the Disney dream either

a) died a slow death after Disney himself was no longer at the helm. Alien Encounter? Or even before: compare the original plans for EPCOT to what it actually became.
b) is alive and well - at Disney.

Either way, the "Disney Dream" has always lived or died on Disney's terms, not based on what other theme parks are doing.

There is something that died, but you need to put it in more historical context - Disney drew heavily from the World's Fair when creating his park, as mentioned in the article. Utopianism was in many ways the spirit of the times, and the "Disney Dream" was a symptom of that broader utopian sentiment. There is a real narrative that can be written about the fading of that utopianism, and Disney's parks as a relic of their times. What's faded or died isn't the Disney dream though - it's the dream of the 50s and 60s.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:34 AM on November 3, 2015 [17 favorites]


"Smoked turkey legs here!"
"I volunteer! I volunteer as Tribute!"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:38 AM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


What people who don't understand these Hunger Games<>Brand tie-ins forget is that we don't live in the districts. We are the Capital.

Of course they would have fast food sandwiches themed after the Games. Ditto luxury cars. Crazy makeup? It's a must. It's what the people of the Capitol would demand in universe, and it's what we, as consumers who purchase these brands, demand in life.

The theme park just seems like more of the same.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:39 AM on November 3, 2015 [31 favorites]


The other night I saw Hunger Game-themed commercials for a luxury car.

Shallow? Selfish? Rejoicing in the Sorrow of 'inferiors'?

It's pretty clear that folks from the Capitol probably already drive BMWs.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:42 AM on November 3, 2015


poffin boffin: "I like the side note about their other park that has Twilight-themed attractions which I assume include chewing a plastic baby out of a marzipan stomach."

And you say that like it's a bad thing?
posted by Samizdata at 10:44 AM on November 3, 2015


Yeah, of all the tie-ins the one that really made the most sense was the make-up, although I wouldn't mind seeing some hunger games themed machetes.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:44 AM on November 3, 2015


I'm saving myself for a park themed around The Station Agent. You spend a lot of your time walking up and down train tracks, and occasionally encounter a Peter Dinklage lookalike who frowns at you in a pitying sort of way.
posted by pipeski at 10:44 AM on November 3, 2015 [22 favorites]


And yet I still can't get any fucking backers for Salòworld
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:49 AM on November 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm saving myself for a park themed around The Station Agent.

Ennu-wheeeeeeeeee!
posted by Think_Long at 10:50 AM on November 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


Kitteh: "And I think there was nail polish or some other beauty products that were tie-ins too?"

There was. The slogan was something like "The coal-mining look pioneered by District 12!" Basically, they went full Zoolander. My theory is that an ad creative went to work very hungover and very wanting-to-get-fired and pitched the stupidest, most tone-deaf idea he could come up with and the client went for it.

Let this be a lesson! Don't pitch anything if you're not willing to deliver it.
posted by stet at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Of course they would have fast food sandwiches themed after the Games. Ditto luxury cars. Crazy makeup? It's a must. It's what the people of the Capitol would demand in universe, and it's what we, as consumers who purchase these brands, demand in life.

The confusing part to me is that consumers of these branded goods don't seem to realize they're emulating the bad guys. I get wanting to identify with Darth Vader (who is terrible, but also big and powerful) or control the universe with the One Ring even though it's not my schtick. But it's not even like you're President Snow here. You're random Capitol extra #723.

Or maybe I just beanplate this stuff too much.
posted by immlass at 10:54 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


A Lord of the Flies theme park would work. And the adults could just leave their kids off and have a vacation of their own.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:58 AM on November 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


The people who live in the Capitol (for the most part) don't realize that they are the bad guys either.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:59 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jennifer Lawrence and Hemsworth all the central characters in the movies are about as much like children as James Bond is.

And yet, the thing that kicked off the revolution in The Hunger Games series (book and movie) was the murder of an innocent black child. The foundational act of resistance and revolution in The Hunger Games is to mourn that death, though Rue's death is soon enough lost amid the greater rebellion. I trust the depressing parallels to our current society are clear enough.

There's something genuinely fascinating yet also sickening in the way a source text with such difficult and harsh things to say about revolution and corrupt institutions is itself corrupted and co-opted by the real versions of those institutions. If you're creating or going to a Hunger Games theme park or buying Hunger Games make up, you are the Capitol.

But of course, who can imagine a major media franchise eschewing all tie-ins and marketing? If you're too nervous about commodifying actual revolution and protest (people might get ideas, it's too political), then all that's left is to run a media campaign as, effectively, the villains of the thing you're marketing. That's the magic of capitalism, I guess!
posted by yasaman at 11:02 AM on November 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


The phrase "a cheap holiday in other people's misery" seems apropos here.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:18 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


My Lars von Trier themed park is going to make this one seem tame.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:20 AM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


To be fair, none of the execs involved have seen the film or read a book. But they'll be the first to tell you how awesome it is.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:20 AM on November 3, 2015


I would like to be Haymitch to be honest.
posted by colie at 11:21 AM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's also kind of... extra-weirdly disturbing that they're turning District 12 into a theme park outside of Atlanta. District 12 is pretty clearly based on Appalachia already. So.... you're monetizing and trivializing the lack of services, poverty, and social problems that plenty of places a few hours' drive away[1] are really experiencing?

I don't think the parallel is exact, but this feels like a kissing cousin of how corporations make money off of cultural appropriation.

[1] And that's only if you want the rural setting to along with it-- you can find plenty of oppression and neglect for basic human dignity right there in Atlanta if you want to.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:21 AM on November 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


I look forward to the first parent who pitches a fit that little Snowflaxon isn't actually allowed to kill all the other children at the park.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't want to think about the line at the snack bar.
posted by Samizdata at 11:26 AM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]




Jennifer Lawrence and Hemsworth all the central characters in the movies are about as much like children as James Bond is.

*Josh Hutcherson sits quietly and sighs.*
posted by Rock Steady at 11:32 AM on November 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


My wife just went through a job hell that she and her co-workers likened to a Hunger Games scenario. She and her nine co-workers were given two weeks to prepare for an interview process at the end of which were the five remaining jobs. They turned on each other.

The selected five were all the newest hires, the least-expensive employees with the smallest longterm retirement costs.

When I have shared this story with my younger Uber-using Seattle-area friends they inevitably express sympathetic understanding... for the company.

The Hunger Games functions in part as a mass-entertainment mechanism that normalizes the satirically-intended expectations and understandings of the society seen in the franchise.
posted by mwhybark at 11:37 AM on November 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


Hunger Games theme parks are mentioned in the books themselves: the old locations are turned into tourist destinations, and Capitol citizens can visit them and reenact previous Hunger Games, and the food there is really good, etc.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


*Josh Hutcherson sits quietly and sighs.*

he's in the shot but you can only see the top of his head
posted by poffin boffin at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Honestly, a book based around children in gladiatorial combat is maybe not the best park theme ever, yeah.

You've never been to a birthday party for pre-schoolers?
posted by octobersurprise at 11:49 AM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


So a soulless corporation out-Banksyed Banksy?
posted by Apocryphon at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2015


tapping into that valuable Generation K market: "this new generation knows the world is an unequal and harsh place."

Generation Katniss?
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:17 PM on November 3, 2015


if all the proceeds went to Feed the Children perhaps
posted by changeling at 12:19 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


(weirdly/coincidentally, I'm going to disneyland thursday with a bunch of other YA authors. wonder what we'll be talking about.)
posted by changeling at 12:22 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


tapping into that valuable Generation K market: "this new generation knows the world is an unequal and harsh place."

Generation Katniss?


wut

does that make the kids born between 1985 and 1992 "Generation H"
posted by Existential Dread at 12:34 PM on November 3, 2015


It's true that a theme park for children built around a series of novels about children fighting in gladiatorial combat is a particularly sweet exhibit of black humor, but it isn't as if children's entertainment has ever shied away from the gruesome. How different is a Hunger Games attraction from a Pirates of the Caribbean attraction or a Star Wars attraction? Or for that matter a Hansel And Gretel attraction?

There's interesting social commentary to be found in thinking about why dystopian fiction is so popular ...

Fundamentally, IMO, dystopian fiction—and especially YA dystopian fiction—is popular—popular to write, fun to read—because it's a very easy way to stage melodramas. The plots write themselves: revolt, die, or just survive; while idealized characters are sufficient to evoke the sympathies of readers. Even the more sophisticated varieties of dystopian fiction, and especially the less sophisticated varieties, are basically adventure/fairy tales with the dystopian agency dramatically equal to wicked stepmothers/fathers.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:37 PM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


An Avatar based theme park?

You have no idea how disappointed I was to find out this wasn't an Avatar: The Last Airbender theme park. Instead all we get is one ride.
posted by mbrubeck at 12:42 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


My Lars von Trier themed park is going to make this one seem tame.


Your Lars von Trier theme park is just an empty sound stage, staffed by Udo Kier, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and a bunch of the off-brand costume people from Times Square.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:42 PM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ohh, can we ignore the economic subtext of the novels that the creation of entertainment spectacle often involves violent disparities that are even more brutal than the title Games?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:47 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cube theme park?
posted by kokaku at 1:00 PM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


The thing that always bugged me about The Hunger Games was that writing in a dystopian setting basically excuses you from having to come up with a fictive economic system that makes sense and yet the way Panem functions is still a giant pile of WTF.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:06 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Man, the story of the people who have to survive in a recreation of a fictional dystopian future after the world goes to shit in the mid-21st century practically writes itself.

"Boy, have we got a vacation for you!"
posted by octobersurprise at 1:23 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


How different is a Hunger Games attraction from a Pirates of the Caribbean attraction or a Star Wars attraction? Or for that matter a Hansel And Gretel attraction?

I'd say what makes it different is that there's a profound and unsettling mismatch between the message and themes of The Hunger Games books/movies and the media empire surrounding them.

Take Harry Potter as a point of contrast. There's a Harry Potter theme park, and it seems pretty delightful! You can wander around a facsimile of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts and play around in a fictional world that has whimsy and wonder and magic. But imagine if the theme park instead focused on recreating the world of the seventh Harry Potter book, and only the seventh Harry Potter book. And not because someone's gone Banksy, and is making some point about the books' darker themes, but because they decide "yes, Voldemort-run Wizarding England is the thing we want kids to play in." So you get to go to Hogwarts! Where you get to watch the Carrows torturing students and the rides are all about avoiding punishment. Occasionally, a theme park actor calls a random visitor a mudblood and hurls insults and curses at them. You get to go to Diagon Alley! Where you can buy a wand if you provide papers proving that you're a pureblood wizard, and sometimes, a theme park actor picks a random visitor to be a Muggleborn, who then gets carted off to the Ministry of Magic and spends the rest of their stay in the park in a prison cell. The Ministry of Magic is also a ride now, complete with horrifying fascist statue. There's a parade every day where the Dark Mark is beamed into the sky and actors playing Muggles are mercilessly tortured and fake killed. There are no rides or shows about overthrowing the Dark Lord. There's no Battle of Hogwarts. It's just 24/7 Voldemort-run Wizarding England. There is no indication anywhere in the park or promotional materials that this is at all strange or not-fun or in poor taste.

Any Harry Potter fan would be pretty discomfited by such an experience, right? They'd wonder "why the hell is this the aspect of the books we're recreating in fantasy form? Why do the suits think we like Voldemort-run Wizarding England? Why do some people actually like Voldemort-run Wizarding England? They know the Death Eaters were the bad guys, right?"

A Hunger Games theme park feels like that, only worse, because The Hunger Games is literally all dystopia. It's not like Harry Potter, where there are fun and family friendly aspects, or where there are parts that are fairy tale-dark as opposed to grim reality-dark. A Hunger Games theme park asks you to insert yourself into a fundamentally, profoundly corrupt and oppressive system founded upon the murder of children, all the while acting like that's not what it's doing at all, and more than that, expecting you to align with the oppressors. That is some meta-dystopian shit right there. It's not like "Capitol = Bad" and "children killing each other in gladiatorial combat = bad" are deep readings of the text.

There's the dark joke to be made here about "how is that different from real life, exactly?" But the article makes a good point: even Disneyland has some high-minded ideals hidden under all its crass capitalism. What's the ideal underlying a Hunger Games theme park? Unless it's a theme park that includes a daily armed insurrection, I'd say we really should think hard about the frankly monstrous messages a Hunger Games theme park suggests. Because when you get down to the whole core and tone of the things, Disneyland is about optimism and fantasy, and Universal Studios is about the wonders of movie magic. What, exactly, would Lionsgate Hunger Games land be really about? Can you come up with literally anything that isn't fucking horrifying on one level or another?
posted by yasaman at 1:39 PM on November 3, 2015 [22 favorites]


OK so this is a derail but prize bull octorok can you elaborate or link me to a better explanation of why Panem's economy is WTF? I see that complaint a lot, but I don't get it. Panem's economy seems, from the limited picture we get in the books, to be unequal, extractive, cruel, and also terribly inefficient but for me it just seemed analogous to the screwed up Soviet and Chinese totalitarian planned economies, or maybe also to Roman imperialism. How is that unrealistic?

I will totally concede that, say, the Harry Potter universe's economy is nonsense, but Panem's just seems dystopian.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:45 PM on November 3, 2015


So what's next? A restaurant based on the Hannibal franchise?

Because that would be awesome.
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:50 PM on November 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


I had a hard time reconciling the vast futuristic megalopolis of the Capitol with the "here's District 12, there's about 150 people here and they supply all the coal for the entire nation" premise. I'm sure there's extratextual resources that explain how it's all feasible, but all through the books the scale just felt completely wrong IMO
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:04 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the economy of Panem doesn't make a ton of sense without making up some apocrypha to expand things a bit. There need to be more coal miners although I doubt the flying cars and force fields run on coal and there's no more nuclear power or maybe there is. At any rate if you basically assume it's all centrally planned a la a fancier 1975-era soviet union and that Katniss has about as much education in macroeconomics and geography as the average 1975 resident of Siberia then it all probably makes sense.
posted by GuyZero at 2:08 PM on November 3, 2015


man though wouldn't it be great if one day everyone in the theme park took Katniss's advice and pointed their weapons at their real enemy?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:10 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Katniss is a bit of an unreliable narrator, but the basic principle of workers kept too poor to buy what they produce has been broadly applicable throughout the 19th and 20th century.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:18 PM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


And 21st!
posted by Wretch729 at 2:19 PM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


And it is, in the end, a story and whether the economics are finely tuned to match reality is spectacularly irrelevant.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:20 PM on November 3, 2015


And it is, in the end, a story and whether the economics are finely tuned to match reality is spectacularly irrelevant.

Turns out this is was also true for a rather long story called "The Actual Soviet Union".
posted by GuyZero at 2:30 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I find it hard to believe that anybody is going to even care about the Hunger Games in five years.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 2:43 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


And it is, in the end, a story and whether the economics are finely tuned to match reality is spectacularly irrelevant.

And just to say a bit more on this point, worldbuilding is a thing but everyone takes different things from it, whether it's culture or physical landscape or a system of magic or inventions or whatever. Economic systems are as real as culture is and for some of us they're a really interesting element of good worldbuilding. And economics in the real world is as much about storytelling as it is about hard data considering that it's often impossible to run real experiments. The difference between a story and a mathematical model is the language you use to describe it.
posted by GuyZero at 3:17 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


A 1984 theme park would be poor, but a Brave New World theme park would be spectacular. Get this: you're living in it.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:20 PM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Bad news: you're all Gammas.
posted by GuyZero at 3:24 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I find it hard to believe that anybody is going to even care about the Hunger Games in five years.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 2:43 PM on November 3 [1 favorite +] [!]


It's a great series. Like many YA series, there are signs of hasty writing (especially in the third book), but it is a smart, fun read.

Moreover, the movies are fantastic, top to bottom, soup to nuts, with the damage caused by too-fast writing fixed up. They're rousing films that cogently comment on the dystopian nightmare that is present-day America. I mean okay, life, death, and revolution aren't nearly as simple in the real world as they are in young adult fiction, but I for one both hope and believe that a popular series that trains children to recognize that the only way we will win our birthright as humans is by making sure that they know that if we burn, they burn with us will not be quickly forgotten.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:45 PM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I figured the districts were just concentration camps. Sure, they produce some goods for the Capital, and the lower-numbered ones seem pretty well integrated into the high-tech economy of Panem, but in the case of say, 12 or 7, it seems more like labor for labor's sake, as a means of crushing dissent, with the resource outputs being somewhat incidental.

Similarly, while the Hunger Games do seem like a massive waste of resources for what is essentially revenge against a large segment of the population (particularly when the resources and technology involved could be committed to feeding and helping that same segment), look at the resources the United States commits to suppressing certain minority segments of its population. I don't think it's meant to be a rational economic regime.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:03 PM on November 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Economics is culture. While it might not be something world building always focuses on, it's as much a part of culture as anything else.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:54 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Worldbuilding," as advocated over the last few decades has become something of a pox on the genre. Fudging the demographics isn't the worst handwavium of the series. And Tolkien's critique that it's a fundamental mistake to treat literary works as a census, history, or grammar rather than as literature seems more relevant than ever.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:11 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


If anything, Katniss's relative ignorance as a narrator becomes something of an overused plot device throughout the series.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:36 PM on November 3, 2015


"1984 theme park would be poor, but a Brave New World theme park would be spectacular. Get this: you're living in it."

I hear Ya.
It too had domed Denizens of doom.
posted by clavdivs at 7:42 PM on November 3, 2015


worldbuilding is fine, but rigorous worldbuilding would only be necessary if rigorous worldbuilding were possible. Which, well, it's not; to state the obvious, the worlds in fantasy works, must be understood as at their root responses to and interventions in the actual world, rather than attempts to lay out in full detail an imaginary world separate from our own. This is because it is impossible to use the language, metaphors, and tropes of our world to lay out in full detail an imaginary world separate from it.

Like, okay, my favorite works of Tolkien are the early bits of the Silmarillion and the appendices in Return of the King. I'm that dude. I love the hell out of the fine filigree of the story that Tolkien tells, with Middle Earth itself as the only fully realized character in any of his works set there, but even I admit that it's not a world that works any more than Panem is, or the wizarding world is, or the Federation, or fucking Westeros, or whatever. Hell, China Miéville gets closer to a fully realized world than anyone (by dint of his rigorous materialism and his focus on labor), but even Bas-Lag falls apart if you treat it as a real place.

The economy of Panem doesn't work. But that's not a particularly interesting thing to say, because novels don't contain complete simulated worlds, and so it's not necessary to include complete simulated economies. As such, straightforward discussions of Hunger Games economics are boring, because there's not much to say, because there's not much there.

Discussions of Hunger Games as a fictional document showing a world gone mad in ways both cartoonish and over the top, but also unnervingly reminiscent of our own, though, now those conversations might have some meat to them.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:47 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Rigorous worldbuilding doesn't even work for our own world, I think fantasy fiction is fine.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:03 PM on November 3, 2015


rather than attempts to lay out in full detail an imaginary world separate from our own.

So, while lots of SFF books take the tack you describe, there are some that attempt to lay out a very seriously complete world that's its own. I guess I'm thinking of the Virga sequence by Karl Schroeder or even the Ringworld series by Niven which is, for the most part, a travelogue in a world that doesn't exist. As much as I enjoyed those books, Niven isn't the kind of writer that reflects on larger human themes much.
posted by GuyZero at 9:05 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


upcoming Hunger Games stage show in London

wat
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:22 PM on November 3, 2015


With respect to my comment above, one of my Uber-using young friends has called my attention to Thomas the Tank Engine's long-standing role in normalizing such features of an abusive work environment as dismemberment and immurification:

http://finalbossform.com/post/132491496997/
posted by mwhybark at 10:17 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


litera scripta manet: "So what's next? A restaurant based on the Hannibal franchise?

Because that would be awesome.
"

But only if you'll let me have you for lunch.

Erm, over for lunch.
posted by Samizdata at 12:41 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


You Can't Tip a Buick: "worldbuilding is fine, but rigorous worldbuilding would only be necessary if rigorous worldbuilding were possible. Which, well, it's not; to state the obvious, the worlds in fantasy works, must be understood as at their root responses to and interventions in the actual world, rather than attempts to lay out in full detail an imaginary world separate from our own. This is because it is impossible to use the language, metaphors, and tropes of our world to lay out in full detail an imaginary world separate from it.

Like, okay, my favorite works of Tolkien are the early bits of the Silmarillion and the appendices in Return of the King. I'm that dude. I love the hell out of the fine filigree of the story that Tolkien tells, with Middle Earth itself as the only fully realized character in any of his works set there, but even I admit that it's not a world that works any more than Panem is, or the wizarding world is, or the Federation, or fucking Westeros, or whatever. Hell, China Miéville gets closer to a fully realized world than anyone (by dint of his rigorous materialism and his focus on labor), but even Bas-Lag falls apart if you treat it as a real place.

The economy of Panem doesn't work. But that's not a particularly interesting thing to say, because novels don't contain complete simulated worlds, and so it's not necessary to include complete simulated economies. As such, straightforward discussions of Hunger Games economics are boring, because there's not much to say, because there's not much there.

Discussions of Hunger Games as a fictional document showing a world gone mad in ways both cartoonish and over the top, but also unnervingly reminiscent of our own, though, now those conversations might have some meat to them.
"

Down THAT path lies a slippery slope. I am as big a fluff whore as ever was, but it is far too easy for an author to get so bogged down in their explication that they lose track of other things, like plot or characterization. As long as they give me the impression they at least thought about it a little, and it ends up not being a plot point, I am willing to cut some slack.
posted by Samizdata at 12:49 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nothing surprises me since visiting an American toy store when I was 12 in 1980 and seeing an Alien action figure.
posted by rory at 4:36 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


As long as they give me the impression they at least thought about it a little, and it ends up not being a plot point, I am willing to cut some slack.

The difference is in degree. There's a difference between a fiction that imagines something impossible (warp drives) and fiction that imagines something possible (dystopia) but without taking at least a few more steps down the road.

It would be one thing to imagine that the Capitol still needs food, lumber and minerals. It's another to say it needs coal, so we include all the trappings of traditional Appalachian misery.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:35 AM on November 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Katniss doesn't come from a coal-mining family imprisoned in an Appalachian concentration camp because the Capitol needs coal. Katniss comes from a coal-mining family imprisoned in an Appalachian concentration camp because a character from a coal-mining Appalachian concentration camp works well for the plot and neatly illustrates the nature of an America-gone-recognizably-mad. This is not a bad thing. It is not necessary for coal-mining Appalachian concentration camps to make any literal sense whatsoever in terms of a hypothetical real economy of Panem, just like it's not a bad thing that (to take an arbitrary example) the experialist foreign policy of the future United States that David Foster Wallace describes in Infinite Jest wouldn't make any sense in the real world.

District 12 is not an actual place. It's not even a prediction of a potential actual place. As such, it doesn't work well to treat it as if it were an actual place. Instead, like most fictional representations, it's best approached as a funhouse mirror image.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:15 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well yeah, okay... and there's that old dictum about asking audiences to believe the impossible, not the improbable. Panem's entire economic (and technological--wtf coal) makeup makes literally zero sense if you think about it for more than three seconds. Sociologically, too, it makes no sense whatsoever that people a) have children in the first place, and b) aren't secretly training them in at least the basics of survival and e.g. garrotting.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:19 AM on November 4, 2015


I don't understand the wtf coal thread. Currently, 39% of our energy in the US comes from coal, and in many regions of the US that number is higher. That coal is mined by people. Many of those people live in Appalachia.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:40 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thus far, all of the arguments against Panem being a mirror of an economic system that's dominated the world since the industrial revolution have amounted to little more than "LOL YA lit." Any industrial economy is going to need reduced sources of carbon for reasons other than energy production, and it's a feature of our current economy that we really don't care if industries use dirty carbon as long as it's NIMBY. Interdependence is both a feature of the Districts in Hunger Games and a feature of our modern economy. Mockingjay reveals that the Capitol uses hydroelectric power and possibly has military nuclear power as well. The other districts are described as having minimal access to these resources, so it's possible that District 12's coal is primarily sold to other districts as part of the plantation system.

The novels describe a key incentive for having children: access to food and medicine depends on children entering their name multiple times into the lottery. The more privileged districts invest considerable resources in training volunteers for the games. And Katniss repeatedly describes her horror at the possibility of becoming a mother under this system.

But people have children, even when it's not in our best interest to do so.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:56 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


LOL YA lit? Hardly. I love both the books and the movies. I've lost count of how many times I've reread/rewatched. I think they're fantastic, and especially with the first movie they captured lightning in a bottle. The handwavium about how the society actually works and how the economy actually works is kinda jarring and suspension-of-disbelief-breaking, for me, that's all.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:03 AM on November 4, 2015


The handwavium about how the society actually works and how the economy actually works is kinda jarring and suspension-of-disbelief-breaking, for me, that's all.

The narrative doesn't provide that.

What the narrative does provide is a first-person perspective of a lower-class person within a colonialist system, and outside of the games themselves, much of what's described actually exists in the 21st century.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:14 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The subtext, however, does provide that--especially in the movies. Watch the opening scenes, watch when KatPee goes on the victory tour. Everyone in the District shows up for the Reaping, and there's maybe a couple thousand kids there. That's a highschool, and indicates a population not even remotely large enough to support themselves, let alone the Capitol.

Similarly, the social structure makes no sense--birthrate would be amazingly low when you know for a fact that your child has a solid chance for six years of being murdered for entertainment. Plus, training kids (officially verboten but Careers) would be seen as a social good, even if it has to be done in secret.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:20 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


the social structure makes no sense--birthrate would be amazingly low when you know for a fact that your child has a solid chance for six years of being murdered for entertainment

I'm not certain that's how people work. it's not like we stop having kids when we're living in a place where they might get drafted for colonialist wars or die mangled in industrial machines or whatever. Typically we only stop having kids when women have access to birth control technology and also the social power/autonomy to use it, or when the situation for average people is so dire that it's clear that there's no way to feed and shelter a child (as in capitalist Russia).
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:27 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well I dunno, every time I've talked about THG with people in person, literally everyone has said "why they fuck are any of them having children? I wouldn't."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:29 AM on November 4, 2015


birthrate would be amazingly low when you know for a fact that your child has a solid chance for six years of being murdered for entertainment.

Oddly in the real world the opposite is true - top birth rates in the real world? Niger, Mali, Somalia, Chad, Burundi... places that are pretty brutal. South Sudan's birth rate is an AVERAGE of 5 children per woman and South Sudan makes District 12 sounds pretty awesome.

Making District 12 a multi-generational gulag that happens to produce some coal is probably the best explanation I've ever heard for the setup. It's fenced in, it basically has guards that kill you if you try to leave. There's no indication that the other districts are the same way at all and may well simply be other cities that are subordinate to the capitol.
posted by GuyZero at 9:29 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


As a gulag it makes sense, yep.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:31 AM on November 4, 2015


birthrate would be amazingly low when you know for a fact that your child has a solid chance for six years of being murdered for entertainment.

I did not get the impression (from the books or movies) that folks in the districts have access to robust family planning options. Katniss spends a fair bit of time angsting about marriage because she assumes that marriage == children, and, logically, she was wary about bringing a child into the world.

Maybe condom technology is lost/banned. Hormonal birth control requires a pharmaceutical infrastructure that supports it. Abortions are probably still available, but from "healers" like Katniss's mom who probably didn't have formal training (so safety/efficacy would vary). I won't go into the myriad ways that abstinence fails as a birth control method.

When folks (especially women) in a society don't have access to birth control, there's no way that birth rates would fall, even if it is in the woman's best interest to avoid children.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:57 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Proletarian," as you know, was originally a term referring to those unpropertied people in the Roman Republic who were seen as primarily contributing to the nation by breeding more children for it. My partner and I are a pair of proles on strike. We aren't having children, in part because having a child under capitalism would neatly ruin three lives — we'd have to drop all of our political work and a big chunk of our dreams to be able to pay for the care and feeding of a child, who would in turn be subject to the same damn demands that capitalism places on all poor people.

Panem uses violence to suppress anything that even resembles a worker strike, so presumably they also use violence (coupled with simple denial of birth control technology) to prevent our sort of strike, too.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:03 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Part of the system described in the novels (but not the movies) is that wages and rationing provide for minimal nutrition, shelter, and heating. Anything above that is obtained either through the black market or by putting your child's name in the lottery for the games. Gale for example takes several slips to support siblings, while Katniss has three, in spite of her black-market connections and a family goat.

Although the Games get a lot of attention, it's pretty clear that shared labor across an extended family is the only thing keeping many people from death by starvation or treatable disease in District 12.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:21 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


When folks (especially women) in a society don't have access to birth control, the only way of controlling the birth rate is infanticide.

Which Classical society practiced. I remember reading about a dig in England somewhere where they found a ton of tiny skeletons: they concluded the place had been a brothel.
posted by glasseyes at 11:56 AM on November 4, 2015


Similarly, the social structure makes no sense--birthrate would be amazingly low when you know for a fact that your child has a solid chance for six years of being murdered for entertainment.

Define "solid chance." It's a national lottery, and there are ways described to directly affect the odds of selection, both positively and negatively.

And if actually selected, your child would have, at worse, a 1-in-24 chance of winning, with significantly better odds for athletic males. Winning is shown as providing lifetime wealth and fame.

It's not out of bounds to imagine that societies would evolve to revere the tributes, even the families of the failed tributes. Indeed, this is written directly into the text -- the Career tributes, and Katniss' post-win tour of the other Districts, where loving montages are shown of the dead tributes.

Suicide bombers are often told their families will be taken care of. Seems like there could've been a narrative opportunity there.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:13 PM on November 4, 2015


Define "solid chance." It's a national lottery, and there are ways described to directly affect the odds of selection, both positively and negatively.

Nope, it's a District lottery--and as we've seen, the population of the Districts is really very small.

And there is no way to lessen your chances of being picked from 1-in-however-many-gender-in-your-cohort. You can increase your chances by taking tessera, you cannot erase your chances.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:12 PM on November 4, 2015


Wait, aren't there non-fuel uses for coal? As a chemical stock or such?
posted by Samizdata at 11:08 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Am I going to be the one that has to mention the Westworld theme park?
posted by quartzcity at 4:54 AM on November 5, 2015


I could care less about economics, personally. I just can't wait to go to the Hob and eat dog stew.
posted by SassHat at 1:52 PM on November 6, 2015


You can increase your chances by taking tessera, you cannot erase your chances.

I may have misremembered, so thank you.

But thinking about what you're writing here, you could certainly lower your odds -- you could pay someone (or many someones) to increase their chances. In other words, if you don't want to win the lottery, you should buy lots and lots lottery tickets for somebody else to use. And if you say, well, who would accept those lottery tickets? I'd say, well, Careers are already a thing...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:01 PM on November 6, 2015


I admit this is purely headcanon but I have a very hard time believing that the lottery for who goes to the games isn't secretly rigged, at least in the districts with careers but likely throughout. Canon shows the games as being carefully stage managed, why would the selection not also be?
posted by Wretch729 at 5:30 PM on November 6, 2015


That's a good point. I figure it might be rigged in at least the places with Careers, or somewhere where someone's really been ticking off the government (a la Katniss in book 2).

I definitely think there's no birth control in Panem and ah, we all know ladies don't always get to choose to abstain.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:00 PM on November 6, 2015


But thinking about what you're writing here, you could certainly lower your odds -- you could pay someone (or many someones) to increase their chances

Living at subsistence level might make it difficult to do that, unless you're talking about trading survival sex.

I admit this is purely headcanon but I have a very hard time believing that the lottery for who goes to the games isn't secretly rigged, at least in the districts with careers but likely throughout. Canon shows the games as being carefully stage managed, why would the selection not also be?

It's not rigged in 1 and 2, where Careers are--they draw names as usual and then two Careers step forward and volunteer.

Plus, making it random makes it more terrifying, and thus more useful as a method of control.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:25 AM on November 7, 2015


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