The Unintentional Carnism of The Hunger Games: Movie Review

I finally saw The Hunger Games on DVD with my mom last night. It was a good film and a solid, entertaining story in general, however, it was extremely carnist. To sum up the plot: in the post-nuclear war apocalyptic future, the masses are arranged in 12 Districts, each producing a commodity (coal, wheat) for an elite corporate central government. Every year, the central gov’t holds a lottery where two children between ages 12-18, a male and a female, are chosen from each District to compete in a game to the death. Out of 24 people, only one child will survive/win.

Carnism is a belief system that conditions and enables the believer to love one animal while murdering, abusing, and eating another animal.

Carnism is one of the founding principles of Western society: our way of life, capitalism, originated when ancient Middle Eastern sheep-herders greedily eyed nearby tribes with more sheep and decided to conquer those tribes through war. Animals became collectible commodities rather than companion spirits as these violent tribes formed herding religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) to dominate and stamp out Earth goddess worshippers who depended mostly on vegetables and grains for sustenance. Carnism enabled a violent, elite corp of males to control the vast resources of society, concentrating their power into small, warring cabals rather than sharing like the goddess cultures did. We live today under the same system of a violent, mostly male elite that wields power over “the rest of us” while conditioning us to believe that their system is superior than the alternatives, even though it is clearly not.

Back to the young female protagonist, Katniss Aberdeen, who is shown bowhunting in the forest in the opening scenes of The Hunger Games. She would happily shoot a deer in the heart and is supposedly quite good at it. As her family is depicted as semi-starving, I almost understand resorting to hunting, but the sad, sad thing is how Katniss’s hunting is glorified to the young female audience as part of her hyper-responsibility.

As for Katniss: Her dad died in a coal-mining accident when she was very small. She’s more of a mother to her little sister than her actual mother.

How tragic. In our male-dominated, violent culture, it isn’t enough that Katniss be depicted as a good nurturer and gatherer. Our society forces us to believe she cannot be a hero unless she goes out and kills other creatures in order to eat them. She’s always hunting, yet Native American cultures largely did the opposite, almost constantly gathering or growing food in the form of vegetables.

This could have been Katniss’s yard…*sigh*

Nowadays, using modern methods of intensive organic permaculture developed in the 1920’s, it is possible to produce a spare but adequate vegetarian diet for one person on only 1000 square feet of soil. That is a 20 x 50 foot yard or 1/43rd of an acre. (info from John Michael Greer, The Long Descent). Katniss, in all her hopped-up young person responsibility, was unable to generate a peaceful, abundant life for her beloved family by using KNOWLEDGE instead of violence. Instead, she goes into the forest and kills its inhabitants because she thinks she has to.

Mid-film, children are torn from their families and forced to compete for survival in a forest environment that is essentially controlled by humans. Meat eaters are so blind that they can’t see the irony of the human children being in the SAME EXACT POSITION as the little deer Katniss was readying to shoot in the beginning scenes. Children get picked off one by one, sometimes by other humans, sometimes by natural tragedy.

One scene has Katniss with a butterfly landing gracefully on her finger, then she’s eating a squirrel.

No, I didn’t make this meme. Obviously, I’m not the only one who thinks killing squirrels in every movie you’re in is kind of weird.

There’s also a recurring theme of mockingjays (birds) being important as a symbol and a means of communication. I think of the children who will watch this film, their bellies stuffed with dead birds in the form of factory-farmed, tortured, genetically modified chickens. Only the most intelligent among them will come to understand even a smidgen of the hypocrisy of equating one bird as a cheap food source and another with beauty and saving grace. Yet all will feel the torture of not wanting to kill sentient beings but being conditioned against their will to fit into our culture’s crazy parameters. Our culture definitely has rules and one of those is “eat meat or else.” If we dare question where that meat came from or the system that makes “meat” so common, the whole system shudders because the construct is corrupt and fragile. Those who go one step further and choose to stop eating animals are made fun of, called extremists, and pressured to eat animals, especially by our own families! It’s easy and healthy not to eat animals, which frustrates those who are still addicted to consuming animal blood and fat even more.

I believe that only the truest psychopaths, which is basically 5 percent of the world population, are truly okay with eating meat in their hearts. These are people like serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer who don’t really “see” the world around them, everything in the psychopath’s world is an object, a blank piece of wood, to be used or thrown away, including other people. The rest of us feel a terrible, soul-eating guilt over killing or exploiting animals, whether we choose to admit it or not.

Katniss is depicted as having great respect for nature because she hangs out in the woods and knows how to survive there, yet that connection is a false product carnist disconnect. Most of us wish we could be in nature more and hate the fact our industrial society is so divorced from the natural world. Deep down, everyone knows the only true respect for nature is to live while harming it as little as possible. As humans are essentially very intelligent monkeys, our way is that of our vegetarian ape ancestors, who live in the forest and swing from the trees without exhausting the forest to this day. Eating animals is completely unneccesary, which is why science is proving over and over we weren’t meant to do it at all. Carnists want to believe they’re the natural apex predators of the forest because of their tools (much of The Hunger Games deals with stealing or acquiring tools) yet without those tools, all would agree that humans are unable to obtain meat sans tools.

The Districts are depicted as full of acquiescent sheeple who rape the environment and can’t muster the energy to rebel against a system that cruelly steals their children year after year. At least the producers of The Hunger Games got that part right, without irony.

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