The Conservative Message of Hunger Games?

General experience suggests that authors of fiction tend to be pretty liberal.  Of course, that doesn’t usually prevent conservatives from enjoying their work; after all, one can create a fictional world and plot with politics’ being something even less than implicit.

Indeed, to the extent that conservatives’ view of reality is accurate (which, naturally, they believe it to be), it shouldn’t be uncommon for them to hear echoes of sympathy within compelling fiction, no matter what the author espouses in real life.  Last summer, I suggested such a reading for the latest book in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.

In a similar way, Colleen Conley (local tea party founder) incorporates The Hunger Games into political commentary for a Providence Journal op-ed:

Instead of our elected representatives serving us, it too often seems that we live to serve them. And both political ruling classes are good at one thing: creating enmity amongst their citizenry. In Panem, it is manufactured by the Hunger Games themselves, which require children to kill children; in America, it is via the vitriol of the media and the political parties. Both succeed in taking our eyes off of the real villain — an unaccountable, oppressive government that sustains and enriches itself at our expense.

Thankfully, in America 2012, we still have a privilege that is unavailable to the citizens of fictional Panem: elections. We can change the course of our destiny by holding our political ruling class accountable.

It would be a mistake to overstate the influence of pop novels (movies, TV shows, and all the rest) on people’s political views, much less their likely political action.  (Not the least because the most common approach to politics, these days, is apathy.)  Still, in a gradual way, cultural productions, even the pop stuff, reinforce and help to shape principles that members of the society simply feel to be true.

That cultural influence goes both ways, of course, with large audiences gravitating toward works of art that express what they’re already feeling, helping to articulate it in words, images, and stories.  So, given the unique popularity of the story that Conley describes, perhaps there’s reason to hope for an expanding understanding that the villain, in terms of government, isn’t necessarily defined by his skin color or position on social issues, but by the structure under which he desires for society to live.



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