In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided into 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games not only serves as entertainment for the Capitol, but it also serves as a reminder to the Districts about how much power the Capitol actually has to suppress them.
0:00:03 Natalie Dowzicky: Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor. I’m Natalie Dowzicky.
0:00:08 Landry Ayres: And I’m Landry Ayres.
0:00:09 Natalie Dowzicky: Today is the day of the reaping. Two tributes have volunteered to risk their lives through a sadistic podcast entertainment to discuss, none other than The Hunger Game saga. Peter Suderman, features editor at Reason is here with us.
0:00:22 Peter Suderman: Thanks for having me.
0:00:23 Natalie Dowzicky: And Marianne March, Marketing Manager for libertarianism.org.
0:00:27 Marianne March: Hello everyone.
0:00:28 Landry Ayres: The world of The Hunger Games, Panem as it’s called, is named after a phrase attributed to the Roman poet juvenile panem et circenses which means bread and circuses, where citizens give up portions of civic responsibility in exchange for food or entertainment, literal bread or circuses. Do you think we live in a nation of bread and circuses?
0:00:58 Peter Suderman: Well, it’s a little interesting to watch this movie, the series started in… The first film came out in 2012, and the idea that we would be in a country governed explicitly by a reality show was seen as kind of far‐fetched and satirical, and that it was supposed to be… It was like, “Oh my gosh.” It sort of sometimes seems like that, politics feels like a reality show, we treat it as one, but it isn’t really. And now of course, our president is an actual reality show star who often treats the politics and the job of the presidency as a… In much the same way that he did as a reality TV show host, and so there’s certainly some interesting parallels there in terms of how politics became a form of hateful entertainment in a way that I don’t think it was when The Hunger Games movie, or at least it hadn’t risen to the level that it has now, in just a… In less than a decade. And there is a weird presciences in this film and in this story that makes it for strange viewing today.
0:02:22 Marianne March: Yeah, I definitely agree with what you’re saying, Peter. And I think that we see something similar in news media, where every story has a villain, every story has a victim, there’s somebody who’s going to cry and scream, and oftentimes there’s a hero as well. So, we see this throughout our lives, especially in the news media and in politics where it’s all very theatrical, there’s a lot of performative behavior that happens in society.
0:02:46 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah, and I also think I know… So I went back and re‐watched these movies, I hadn’t seen them for a very long time, probably some of the movies since they came out, I haven’t seen them, and it struck me as, we might not be there yet in terms of our news being as theatrical as The Hunger Games, especially their TV show host, but it got to the point where I was looking at it, I was like, “Oh, some of the things they’re saying are pretty close,” but then they have the crazy hair and the crazy costumes. The whole idea of living in the capital and being like a celebrity of some sort came with this great onus to have your hair up and pink and be glittery and all their attire was very over the top and they really cared about really surface level things, which kind of just played into more of the theatrical presence of their news media, but also of their perception and… Their perception of the world and their understanding of their place in the world and what’s important, because even Effie Trinket, which I’m sure we’re gonna talk about her a little bit later, is dead set on this idea that what she sees from the capital and from the people that are giving her the news and presenting The Hunger Games is all of these superficial things that should be important in their lives.
0:04:10 Marianne March: I think picking up your point about the outrageous outfits that the capital leads wear, the hair colors and the wild outfits, I think that we could pretty easily draw a parallel to people today on social media using filters to change the way they look, to YouTube celebrities who are always wearing new outfits, always have their makeup done and actively use software that changes the way they look in videos and in photos.
0:04:37 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah, and I think it’s also an indicator of social status, so in their Panem society, we see the districts that are quite literally starving and fighting each other, and they’re all giving up to the capital that has a surplus of food, what seems to be a surplus of goods and wealth, and it’s a social signifier that they are… The capital is depicted with bright colors and glitter and all of that kind of stuff, and then you go to the districts, like district 12, and everyone’s wearing gray clothes, everyone’s much more plain looking, mind you, that’s also for the entertainment purpose of the movie to show us the difference between these two areas of presumably the same country, but I just thought it was interesting because even the theatrics they see on the news, they embrace those theatrics in their life as well.
0:05:25 Peter Suderman: So the clothing and all of the theatricality of that is a visual signifier of both the cultural and economic divide between the capital and the outer districts, and that divide is… It’s kind of an interesting… It is a divide that we see in our country today, in our politics and in our geography, kind of in reverse in the movie, because the capital in the movie is in the center of the country, and then everybody comes into it, right. But we have this, it’s just extremely common to discuss the kind of coastal elites versus Heartland, whatever conservatives or kind of divide in politics today, and there is… And that the movie captures that, amplifies that and then turns it into a literal kind of a war game right between them, where their politics and their news media have fused, and there’s not really much difference between them, they’re kind of the same thing. And then, politics and news media have become almost entirely, because we don’t see a huge amount of other bureaucratic machinations outside of some of the security forces.
0:06:47 Peter Suderman: They’ve become almost entirely about a literal blood lust and about turning everyone against each other for a combination of entertainment and propaganda and reminder of the capital’s dominance and control. And it’s really… It’s a powerful metaphor in a lot of ways, in part because it feels like the world we live in without people killing each other in exactly the same way, and without the… We don’t have that kind of game, and yet, sometimes Twitter feels a little bit like that. Sometimes cable news feels a little bit like that, sometimes political interactions feel a little bit like they’re just a senseless game in which people have been pointlessly pitted against each other, expected to kill and win for everyone else’s entertainment.
0:07:51 Landry Ayres: I think it is really interesting that you bring up that point, Peter, that we don’t have a game like this, but I think one of the ideas that both you and Marianne hit upon when we were preparing for this discussion was the themes of wealth disparity that you highlighted previously between the outer districts and the capital, initially it made me think, some people I think very easily could take this as a metaphor for the system that we do have, that we do have in economic… And I don’t necessarily feel this to the same extent that others might feel that, but that there is a sort of pitting one another against each other in a capitalist society where people have to compete for resources and do things like that, and the state sort of encourages this, in a way that pits people against one another. Do you think that’s a fair representation of both our society and what the film does?
0:08:58 Marianne March: Well, I think that Panem is eerily familiar, and I think it would come as no surprise to anybody who’s seen the movies or read the books that the author Susan Collins was inspired by Rome, as you mentioned Landry, she seems to pull some of the themes directly out of the USSR and the way that the country is set up and the tools that the institutions use, and a great gap between the haves and the haves‐nots in this society, and it harkens to the districts that were very similar to the USSR satellite states that were kind of suppressed and kept in dire straits. There is occupation of the military, the peace keepers, just like the USSR experienced, and I think Snow is a direct parallel to Stalin, with the way he politically maneuvers with attacks on family members, use of public executions and harsh punishments for law breaking as well as some pretty blatant civil liberties violations like freedom of speech.
0:10:00 Landry Ayres: It is interesting that you saw more of that historical comparison as opposed to what some people might be like, “Oh, this is a metaphor for us today and the road we are going down,” where in reality, to me it’s not… It’s definitely not trying to exemplify the United States today. Sure, you could take certain readings of it that way, but you could also… I very easily see exactly what you are trying to say, Marianne, for instance, the orchestrated famine that happened in the Ukraine with the USSR is very, very similar to the… What we can kind of see as a man‐made control of resources in Panem amongst the districts as well, it harkens back to a totalitarian state handbook that a lot of these different actors, while they might have different aims or methods, there are ways that they operate that are rather universal, across time. There is a use of control and control of resources and fear of other people and propagandising fear in a way that even Snow says outright in the first movie, I think, is that… Or maybe it’s the second, Catching Fire is that fear is extremely powerful and that the only thing perhaps more powerful than fear is hope, which is what Katniss Everdeen is supposed to embody as well.
0:11:35 Peter Suderman: I think that part of what makes this series so powerful is that it’s not just obviously working at one and only one metaphorical level, and…
0:11:46 Natalie Dowzicky: Yes.
0:11:46 Peter Suderman: The movies and the books draw a lot from history, they draw a lot from contemporary economics and culture and politics, and it’s a collage of elements that don’t all go together in the real world, but all feel like they fit together in this fictional world. And that’s a big part of what makes it so compelling is that there’s just… There’s all of these different aspects to it, I do think it’s probably important to kind of dwell just a little bit on like, “Is this an extended critique of American capitalism?” And I actually think that while the movie supports a lot of readings, that’s not one of them, it is a critique in some ways of American and of Western inequality, but it is…
0:12:32 Natalie Dowzicky: Yes.
0:12:33 Peter Suderman: Inequality that is taking place in the context, as you said, Landry, of an explicitly authoritarian and totalitarian society, one in which people do not have individual rights, in which individuals are just… And individual wills are just crushed on a regular basis, and this… And again, part of what I think attracts libertarians to this movie, part of my… What I find powerful about it, about the series is that it always goes back to this… The tension and the conflict between the individual and the collective. And the collective is nearly always represented by the state explicitly, not by some big corporation, not by society at large, although there’s some elements of that, it is the state and the state collective that is dis‐empowering individuals and Katniss represents… We as viewers and as readers are supposed to cheer for her because she is someone who wants to be… Who has individual desires that we can relate to and who wants to liberate people from control of the state, which is the direction the trilogy goes in the long run.
0:13:45 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah, and I think kind of relating to Peter’s point and Landry’s point from earlier, the way the state is controlling their districts is through controlling the resources, creating famines and making this a basically being the government is overbearing and interventionist into… And it’s… Obviously has greedy hands into what the districts are doing, because what happens is the districts have one or two goods that they focus on, so to speak, so each district is known for whatever good or crop either grows best there or they’re best at producing and they actually send portions of it to the capital. And this is the whole idea that Peter was just hitting on, this idea of the better for the collective, but this idea of creating a food scarcity through unnatural ways, like a man made food scarcity is basically the easiest way for politicians to make sure that the citizens are divided amongst each other, so it creates a false sense of who the enemy is. And I think that is a common theme throughout the entire saga, because even towards the end, I think it was in the last Hunger Games, the last actual Hunger Games in the Quarter Quell, the whole theme throughout that movie is, “Remember who the enemy is. Remember who the enemy is.” And so we’re not going against the districts, we shouldn’t be pitted against each other, we should be angry at the government or those who represent the state, primarily president Snow.
0:15:21 Landry Ayres: Well, Natalie brings up I think a very interesting point, and one that we haven’t really hit on very, very much. We’ve mostly been talking about Panem and the districts of Panem, but we haven’t really talked about the actual namesake of the series, which is The Hunger Games themselves. And there’s some really interesting choices that they make in figuring out who is going to be a part of this sort of a blood bath annual competition, which is that, it’s teenagers, people between the ages of I believe 12 or 13 and 18 that are chosen at random, one boy and one girl from each district, which must then fight to the death in an arena which is live‐streamed or packaged as some sort of special event to, not people just in the capital, but also to inspire fear amongst all of the districts and remind them of what rebellion can do. Why do you think they choose children to do this, of all people?
0:16:24 Marianne March: Well, I know that the author of Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, wanted Katniss to be sort of a modern day Theseus. Theseus from the ancient Greek myth, Theseus and the Minotaur. And I’m sure a lot of listeners are familiar with this myth, but I’ll summarize it briefly, where the myth goes that King Minos, King of Crete, had a vendetta against Athens for the death of his only son. And so he basically made a deal with Athens not to attack them and in return, every nine years, they would send seven boys and seven girls to get eaten by the Minotaur, which is a monster of half man, half bull, that was trapped in a maze called the Labyrinth. And after several years of seven boys and seven girls routinely being sent to be eaten by this monster, Theseus, a man in Athens decides to volunteer and he plans to go and kill the Minotaur and kind of alleviate this problem for future generations. And how the story ends is that the daughter of King Minos, Ariadne helps Theseus and gives him a sword and a ball of string, and Theseus uses the ball of string to make his way through the maze, he finds the Minotaur, kills him, makes his way back out, collects all the children and off they sail. And that is very much an influence on Suzanne Collins in writing the Hunger Games.
0:17:48 Peter Suderman: I think that’s clearly an inspiration and part of where Collins comes from, but it’s also, again, to go back to kind of the many metaphors, contemporary and historical here, it’s also kind of about the college arms race, right? It is about the sense that we’ve had in the last 20 to 40 years, that being… That the expectations for American teenagers as they graduate from high school have just been ratcheted up, and ratcheted up, and ratcheted up, and that they’ve become kind of impossible that they are sort of pitted in a war against each other. That they are… And that these are our best and our brightest in many ways. The Ivy League is of course the center of this, but it has spread out to other colleges as well, and it is about what David Brooks called once like the activity kids, and just sort of this expectation that children, the teenagers in particular, will just always have to be doing something and doing more, and more, and more, and more to please the people above them. And they… The teenagers in our… Elite teenagers in particular are in our world, our tributes, and that we kind of look to them, to be…
0:19:14 Peter Suderman: To sacrifice and to be symbolic sacrifices in our society. And so the movie and the book series, sort of pick up that, and because they are YA books and are targeted at a YA market, they’re trying to reflect and then metaphorically refract the experience of being a teenager in the United States, in the 21st century.
0:19:40 Landry Ayres: And I think it’s important that you note that is that it’s specifically kids that are considered elite or high achieving, that students are considered the tributes. Whereas people that aren’t put in that category and may not be invested in as many things are largely forgotten and ignored and not considered important members of society, which is… There’s not respect for people that choose not to attend college or to go and learn a trade or something. So I think that’s a really, really apt description and sort of metaphor.
0:20:12 Marianne March: That’s a good point, and I think that also speaks to the cop‐ability of adults in society, where this arms race amongst young people isn’t being driven just by them. And we saw this recently with Felicity Huffman and Aunt Becky from Full House, that was [chuckle] heartbreaking for a lot of people who loved her. And we see that these parents and starting at a very young age, often, as young as Pre‐school, maybe even earlier, are putting kids into this arena of sorts and making them compete against each other with high expectations.
0:20:46 Peter Suderman: And I guess one of the things I love about this, is the way that it just so fully captures teenage rage against all forms of authority. How the state and parents and all old people in general and age, and how it just sort of… It really kind of gets… And Jennifer Lawrence does such a good job of just being brutally resentful in the best sullen teenager who you can still completely relate to sorta way, that the world has just asked too much from her, and you know what? She’s done it. But that doesn’t mean that she thinks that it’s good, that she wants to continue doing it. And part of what I think, something that I’d forgotten about is that it instills in her a drive not to try and reform this project, but to break the system, and you see that even in the opening moments of the first movie where she says, one of the things she… She doesn’t ever wanna have children. And that is a drive to break the system of parental state authority that she sees as being the problem in her, that she has to fix. That she is not somebody who is like, “I wanna rally everybody behind me and have a cause and all of that”, she’s just like, “I just want out.” And she doesn’t get to get out, and she does end up becoming a symbol that people rally behind. But what she wants fundamentally, from the beginning, is just to break the system and not have to be a cog in the machine herself.
0:22:39 Natalie Dowzicky: Well, I think there’s two interesting points that you touch on there, I think for one, Katniss didn’t choose to be that symbol. And had always flown under the radar, enjoyed being in the quiet, hunting in the woods, and just never wanted to be a part of this greater system. And I think another thing that comes to mind when we’re talking about Katniss’s character in particular, and kind of her rebuking the status quo, is how the movie decided to show gender roles, I think it’s very interesting, I know Marianne had pointed this out in her notes, but I think it’s very interesting that not only that Katniss is a female, but also that they portray her in such a way that in comparison to Peeta, that her personality is much more rugged and much more against the system as Peter was just saying, and Peeta is the character you look at with more feminine qualities in terms of, he’s very caring, he’s very emotional, and Katniss is kind of the opposite. So I thought that definitely that comparison, since those two are obviously have a lot of screen time and book time, was interesting how Katniss is perceived as a tougher character of the two and the one that’s more willing to go all the way to stop the cause, but she recognizes that this was never something she wanted to do and tried to get out of it quite a few times, she never wanted to be the mocking jay.
0:24:11 Marianne March: Yeah, she was definitely an unwilling symbol and is ultimately kind of thrust into the position. And I think it’s interesting because although she resisted entering to the Hunger Games, it’s also somewhat understandable why other people would volunteer the tributes from, especially Districts One and Two. In the society, the only way to find glory and in a lot of case, riches is to become a victor, is to win in the Hunger Games, there’s not really many other alternatives for people. And so, I think that, that is a parallel also to what we see throughout history and even today in child soldiers, where a lot of children are abducted and indoctrinated in as child soldiers, but sometimes they’re just lured in with the promises of money and status, education and security, and that’s still coercion. But I think it’s worth pointing out that this is happened throughout history in 1814, and the Napoleonic wars and World War 1 and 2. And today, we see children being used as soldiers in places like Myanmar and Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and they suffer devastating consequences, just like the so‐called winners in the Hunger Games.
0:25:31 Landry Ayres: Well, it also is interesting ’cause my immediate thought was, if we’re trying to reflect back on us to think critically at ourselves as well instead of just looking outward, is that there’s also this idea of being victorious and being a champion for good in the depiction of police in society. And that’s also reflected not in the children, but in the Peacekeepers, which I believe in the movies and the books, you have to remain not married and serve something like 20 years, but a lot of them reside either in the Capital or are given positions of power of very, very forceful violent authority in the districts. And there’s a very, very similar dynamic but still a sort of admiration that people have for police in this country as well today that our state bestows on citizens, not just people. So it’s interesting to look outward, but also look inward to see how this is… It’s also being done by our own state.
0:26:44 Peter Suderman: Panem is obviously a total police state, and when you watch this, we work at institutions that are deeply concerned with the fine‐grained particulars of public policy, and the only policy that you see in these movies is related to the use of police, the use of force and the maintenance of state power. You never see any kind of other policy decisions really being made, there’s no health care policy, there’s not even… There’s sort of taxation in that the outer districts have to pay into the Capital, but there’s not the kind of policy decisions that get made even in Soviet Russia. It’s just a sort of pure power dynamic, and it has reduced in a totalitarian society to a single aspect or two, which is you’ve got your head, Dictator Snow and his police force, and then you’ve got the tool that he uses to oppress people, the other tool that he uses to oppress people, which is the game and the media that surrounds it. And it’s really an interesting depiction of a world in which government has just completely given up on any sort of… And anything that looks like governing, on anything that looks like meaningful governance at all, and instead become entirely about the perpetuation of power by keeping the rabbled out.
0:28:19 Natalie Dowzicky: Well, it’s also interesting that you bring up something like healthcare or those kinds of things. We do see policing through the Peacekeepers, which is an incredibly ironic name, considering they do public whippings and shoot people and we do get kind of hints to… The Capital is way advanced in terms of technology, and they’re clearly harboring that knowledge from the districts in the sense that they’re not sharing it or they’re purposely making sure the districts are poor enough that they can’t advance to these technological levels, but I believe Katniss’ mother and her sister are like nurses or they do a lot of natural healing, that kind of stuff, because you do see quite a few times when someone gets injured or Prim is an emergency nurse at the end when she dies, but you see things like that that make it interesting in comparison to…
0:29:15 Natalie Dowzicky: They’re using herbal medicines to help Gale after he has these whipping scars, and then you compare that to the technology they’re using to put on The Hunger Games, all of these different predators that they put into The Hunger Games, basically, this whole made up world that they put all the tributes in this arena, and then you wonder, okay, so why is there so much disparity and that also also goes back to the wealth inequality. But I do think it’s interesting that we don’t necessarily get glimpses of other parts of society or other parts of governance other than that it’s completely controlled by Snow, and he’s obviously very sadistic and terrible to everyone that lives there, but I just thought that comparison again is interesting.
0:30:12 Landry Ayres: Peter, you brought something up a little bit earlier, specifically mentioning that these books are Yeah novels, they’re marketed towards the young adults, and I think that’s obviously, like you said specifically, because the subject matter is concerning teenagers. But these movies are shockingly violent and dark. Do you think that that sort of label is appropriate? And if so, why do you think that this type of rather graphic content is necessary or worth showing to audiences of very young people?
0:30:52 Peter Suderman: Well, they’re YA books that have transcended the YA genre and in part through the use of metaphor that we’ve been talking about in part because of the seriousness with which they treat adolescents and teenage psyches and lives and interests and desires, and in part because of the violence. And that violence is there because… I don’t know. We’ve all been teenagers, and it feels difficult, it feels like that it’s a time of life for people throughout history has always felt especially brutal; it is the time of proving where you become an adult, you were a child and you’ve gotta go through something to get to the other side. And I think it draws something we haven’t mentioned, but it draws on a history of a type of book, and I’m specifically thinking of Ender’s Game here, which is…
0:32:00 Natalie Dowzicky: Ah, good book.
0:32:01 Peter Suderman: The first version of that was written in the ‘70s, and then the novel came out in the 1980s, and it’s not technically a YA novel, but it’s a novel about children who are incredibly violent to each other as they are training to fight off an alien invasion. And you can go back to stuff like the… Oh, I’m now just completely forgot… Lord of the Flies, right? And this idea that being a teenager is a violent time, at least psychologically, and then what these stories do is they literalize that psychological violence, turning it into actual violence that serves as a metaphor for what it feels like to be 14 or 16, and trying to get to the other side of adolescence and become an adult. And so I think it’s totally appropriate. It certainly appeals to a lot of people, it captures a lot of that feeling. And if you… Gosh, if you look back at the last 50 years of pop culture, it’s a story that’s all over, even something like Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, it’s not quite as gory, it’s quite as grim or bleak, but that story of, “You’re a young person. You need to grow up and that’s gonna require violent trials that pit you against your peers,” is a story that we have seen over and over and over again, and I think that it’s not an accident.
0:33:39 Marianne March: I think that this series, while it has a lot of mass appeal, it’s definitely not for everyone. I think a lot of people are turned off by the barbarism and the violence amongst children. I think the reason it resonates with young people and people of all age demographics is because, especially for teenagers, the tight control they live under, the regiments of their days with going to school and participating in activities and being on kind of a conveyor belt of going through different levels of education and then out into the working world, and I think there’s a natural desire to fight against that control, like we were speaking of earlier. But I think also for teenagers, they reach a point when they have an understanding that they have the physical and the mental strength to inflict real damage on the world, that if they choose to do so, they could be very violent and cause a lot of destruction in their communities and beyond. And I think that these books, and similar books like Ender’s Game reckon with that, and they provide a story for young people that shows that there’s a choice, that we can choose between indulging in our lizard brains and rising above them and living with integrity.
0:34:53 Natalie Dowzicky: Well, I think also a big element that both of you were hinting at was that while you’re a teenager, there’s this sense of your questioning authority, so when… Obviously, when you’re in adolescence like your parents and your teachers, in most cases, many kids respect them and listen to them. And I think a common theme throughout this whole movie was Katniss was trying to understand not only who to trust, but also questioning the power of authority or the abuse of that power, because you could see an internal struggle with her trying to decide once they had taken down Snow if the rebellion had actually turned in basically to the new Panem, and I think she… And you can obviously see it at the end of the last movie, this isn’t a spoiler alert, this movie has been out forever, where she shoots an arrow into the rebellion’s leader instead of killing Snow because she didn’t wanna perpetuate or repeat history for Panem. She wanted freedom for their country, and she could foresee that the authority or the power that the rebellion had gotten was turning the rebellion into what the Capital had been, and that abuse of power.
0:36:12 Natalie Dowzicky: And I think this whole story having kids… Not kids, having teenagers at the center of it really helps young adults understand that kind of internal struggle of not only who to trust, but the authority you should give value to. And you can obviously see that throughout the whole story that Katniss didn’t wanna trust anyone, not even Peeta, to some extent, once he was brainwashed by the capital, but just was out of struggle the whole time until she learns like, “Oh, this is… Freedom’s gonna come out of cost here, whatever it is, and I just wanna make sure that we don’t repeat our mistakes.” Which is obviously always comes up in today’s politics and discussions about not making the same mistakes we made 30 years ago or not repeating history, and I think that theme is also really big, especially towards the end of the last movie.
0:37:11 Peter Suderman: Yeah, she’s a system breaker and she’s not just in favor of getting better people in power, she’s in favor of… She always ends up making the choice to try and stop people from having too much power rather than trying to get them to exercise it in a more just way.
0:37:31 Marianne March: It was such a shock to me when I first read the books years ago when at the end of the final book, when President Coin, the leader of District 13, when she suggests that they have one last Hunger Games with children from the capital.
0:37:45 Natalie Dowzicky: Right. [laughter]
0:37:46 Marianne March: I was blown away. I did not see that coming, and then I was blown away yet again when Katniss, who we were all expecting to kill President Snow, although he was already kind of dying, it’s implied by his method of using poison against enemies and drinking it himself, but when she actually shoots Coin in the end, it’s such a validation. And it brought a relief as a reader and as a watcher of the movies when… ’cause Katniss agrees, she agrees that, “Yeah, we’ll have one last Hunger Games and put this to bed,” and I felt so betrayed, but then she came around in the end and got me.
0:38:22 Natalie Dowzicky: I think throughout this whole film, there’s this assumption… This is kind of related, but there’s this assumption that humans have this impulse or this thirst for war and destruction, and I don’t know if this is just prevalent amongst those in the Capitol who enjoy watching The Hunger Games, it’s not something they despise. You saw the big crowds and the big cheers for the news that introduced all the new tributes, and they follow it like we would follow reality TV. They follow Peeta and Katniss’ love story and I just think it’s so… Like Landry was saying earlier, it’s so dark, and I think it does have a negative outlook on the fact that humans prefer war and destruction. Do you think that was an intention of the film? Or do you think that was just a side effect after they made this film so, like Landry was saying earlier, so violent?
0:39:19 Marianne March: I think that Suzanne Collins was speaking to human nature and also speaking to how people behave when put in duress. Evolutionary biologists largely agree that the human brain has three main parts. There’s the lizard brain, the brain stem and the cerebellum that guides thirst and hunger and procreation and territorial behavior, the limbic part of the brain, which is the social and the tribal part that guides people’s emotions, and then there’s the neocortex, which is where we find language and abstract thought and reasoning. And I think the problem in Panem that prevents people from using their neocortex, and even the limbic part of their brain that would make them care more about their neighbors and other people, is that the parts of our brain that prevents us from behaving in anti‐social ways is suppressed because the social system is set up to make children into gladiators where the anti‐social behavior of killing other people has been corrupted for us to condone violence against innocent people.
0:40:26 Landry Ayres: One last question, and it’s possibly, I think one of the most important questions is, are you Team Gale or Team Peeta?
0:40:35 Marianne March: Do you have to ask?
0:40:38 Landry Ayres: There is more disagreement amongst the fan base than I was expecting.
0:40:43 Marianne March: Oh, well, I’m Team Peeta all day. [chuckle]
0:40:45 Landry Ayres: I agree. I’m all for the baker’s boy. I don’t get Gale. I don’t understand why people love him. I don’t care. Yeah, sure, he was there from the beginning, but there is nothing about him.
0:41:00 Marianne March: But in the very beginning, he prevents Katniss from killing a deer. He was already getting in the way. [chuckle]
0:41:04 Landry Ayres: It’s very true. He was always in the way.
0:41:07 Natalie Dowzicky: All I’m gonna say on this note is that I typically give preference to any Hemsworth brother, whether they’re in The Hunger Games or if they’re Thor and the like.
0:41:17 Peter Suderman: Boo.
0:41:20 Natalie Dowzicky: So I guess I’m against you guys on this one. But that question strikes me as a Twilight‐esque question as well, Landry.
0:41:26 Landry Ayres: We’re doing it. That’s the next episode.
0:41:29 Peter Suderman: I’m Team Gale for the same reason. I think every movie should be required to have a Hemsworth.
0:41:34 Natalie Dowzicky: Thank you! [laughter]
0:41:35 Peter Suderman: I mean… And there are enough of them, right? Like we need just… There’s a Hemsworth in Westworld.
0:41:43 Natalie Dowzicky: Yes.
0:41:43 Peter Suderman: I swear I went through a six‐week period here earlier this year where nearly every movie I saw had a Hemsworth in it, and it’s just…
0:41:55 Marianne March: They should all be in one movie.
0:41:56 Peter Suderman: There’s just… We just… At this point, why not just lean into the all‐Hemsworth expanded universe? Everything should be Hemsworths. We should get rid of actors entirely, just clone Hemsworths and have digital Hemsworths. Even if you’re not a Hemsworth, you should be required to put on a Hemsworth body suit so you look like one. I think that they should be the only actors in Hollywood.
0:42:24 Landry Ayres: Except for our other favorite Hunger Games‐Westworld crossover, Jeffrey Wright, who also I think should be in a lot of more movies, ’cause I love Jeffrey Wright.
0:42:35 Natalie Dowzicky: When I was re‐watching these movies Landry, that was one of the first things I noticed. I was like “Oh my gosh, it’s Bernard!” ‘Cause I completely forgot he was in this movie.
0:42:45 Peter Suderman: Jeffery Wright is so good and has been so good for so long there’s a story about when he was… Played one of the two bad guys in the movie Shaft with Samuel L. Jackson, which came out almost…
0:43:01 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh, yeah!
0:43:01 Peter Suderman: And the other bad guy was played by Christian Bale, pre‐Batman, and they test screened this movie and Christian Bale was the final villain in the original version and it sort of came down to a conflict between Samuel L. Jackson and Christian Bale and the audience was like “Wait, why is he going after Christian Bale? Jeffrey Wright is obviously the real main villain here.” And they rewrote and re‐shot the movie around Jeffrey Wright being the main villain at the end because the audience, even though he had had a much smaller role and the whole movie had been structured to resolve into a conflict between Sam Jackson and Christian Bale, Jeff Wright just owned his couple of scenes so much that viewers were like “He’s the actual guy we wanna see more of here at the end.” And he’s been doing that for 20 years or so. He’s just fantastic in everything he’s in.
0:43:56 Natalie Dowzicky: He’s so good. And he… I think, at least from what I’ve seen of him, he is in a very similar role, he’s always like a very analytical actor, which I appreciate.
0:44:07 Peter Suderman: You should watch Shaft, which…
0:44:08 Natalie Dowzicky: I know, I have to put it on the list.
0:44:09 Peter Suderman: Just features a scene of him barking insults and orders from a bathroom, and I won’t describe it any more than that. It is not cold, reserved, analytical Jeff Wright, it is absolutely scene‐chewing, crazy, much younger but still sort of has this sense of like middle‐aged weariness, even though it’s a much more energetic role. But yeah, he brings such life to everything. And in this movie, in this series here, it’s interesting to see him because we’ve been thinking of him as kind of a little more of a leading man in Westworld where he is a more central character, especially in the first two seasons, and he’s just a supporting player here and it just kind of speaks to the depth of the casting in The Hunger Games films, which I think was really a big part of the reason that they hit so well and that they worked so well, is that just about every role, and there’s so many kind of little characters but they all stand out, they’re so distinct, they’re also well cast and well played. And not always in ways that you would expect. Even Stanley Tucci as our reality TV show host is playing a little bit of a different role than he often plays or doesn’t feel like, “Oh he’s just playing Stanley Tucci again.”
0:45:38 Peter Suderman: And this… It is a big science fiction blockbuster that actually placed a surprising amount of importance and put a lot of thought into the casting and into the characters, and it made it feel a little bit different, a little more like a character piece than just a kind of an action movie that moved through the beats.
0:46:03 Natalie Dowzicky: And I believe this was the last film that Philip Seymour Hoffman was in ’cause he passed away before the production of the last film…
0:46:16 Marianne March: I think that’s right.
0:46:18 Natalie Dowzicky: If I’m correct? So they actually had to remake him from previous filming they had of him for the last movie, like Leia style that they did in Star Wars. ‘Cause I believe he passed away at some point during filming of the last film, so they actually had to take previous cuts of things he said in the previous films and kind of bring them back in to make it flow, which I think they did an awesome job. You would have no idea they did that. But yeah, he’s also a great character in this as well.
0:46:51 Marianne March: Yeah and I love the supporting characters of Johanna and Effie. They are probably my two favorites throughout the entire series.
0:46:58 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah, Effie is so good. What actress is that?
0:47:01 Marianne March: I think Elizabeth Snow? Is that right?
0:47:03 Peter Suderman: Effie Trinket is played by Elizabeth Banks.
0:47:05 Marianne March: Banks.
0:47:06 Natalie Dowzicky: What?
0:47:07 Marianne March: Yep! And again…
0:47:07 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh, I did not know that.
0:47:08 Peter Suderman: Yeah.
0:47:08 Natalie Dowzicky: Wow, okay.
0:47:09 Peter Suderman: Again, the depth of the supporting casting here is…
0:47:13 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah, cool.
0:47:13 Peter Suderman: Phenomenal. Is just incredible, and in some cases, casting against type, right?
0:47:19 Natalie Dowzicky: Right.
0:47:22 Peter Suderman: This is a movie with Lenny Kravitz and Woody Harrelson, right?
0:47:26 Marianne March: Oh yes! So good!
0:47:27 Peter Suderman: And don’t forget that Lenny Kravitz is just like such a… He’s a great… He does a great job in this, but he’s also just such an interesting person to look at. And…
0:47:37 Natalie Dowzicky: Yes! [laughter]
0:47:38 Peter Suderman: And even beyond the costuming and the great hair and make‐up and all the great production work on this movie, he’s just like… He has a super interesting face. Whereas Wes Bentley is just sort of… He’s a little more conventionally like just an attractive guy. And then they just do this like… He has the greatest, craziest beard, I think, I’ve ever seen, and I’m so, so jealous of it. And every time I watch, I’m just like, “Maybe I should Seneca Crane my beard.”
0:48:07 Marianne March: Get a cool beard?
0:48:12 Landry Ayres: And they just keep throwing more at you. They’re like, “You want more? Mahershala Ali, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman. We got ‘em all.”
0:48:19 Marianne March: Star‐studded. Yeah, they did such an awesome job on that.
0:48:24 Marianne March: But still none of them are as good as any Hemsworth, I wanna be clear.
0:48:27 Natalie Dowzicky: Right.
0:48:29 Natalie Dowzicky: For the record, the Hemsworth brothers win. [laughter]
0:48:32 Marianne March: The odds are ever in their favor.
0:48:37 Natalie Dowzicky: So now for the time where we tell you about the other things that we are enjoying, this is Locked In. Marianne, Landry, Peter, what other things are you watching while we’re still in quarantine over 150 days later?
0:48:51 Marianne March: I recently watched The King of Staten Island with Pete Davidson and Bill Burr, and I really enjoyed it. It was very funny, kind of loosely based on Pete Davidson’s life, who I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of before this movie. But it was really well cast with Marisa Tomei who plays Pete’s mom, and I recommend it, it was definitely watchable, and who doesn’t love Bill Burr? And other than that, the movie that I recently watched is Knives Out, which is streaming on Amazon Prime. I definitely recommend. It’s a twist on a who‐dunnit, and again, it’s a star set of cast with Christopher Plummer and so many that need not even be mentioned by me right now, but I definitely recommend that as well. And I recently read Brave New World, which actually had some interesting, interesting parallels, I thought, with Hunger Games, as we talked about throughout this discussion. There’s so many parallels that we could draw to fiction into real life from The Hunger Games, and I think that’s an interesting one.
0:49:49 Peter Suderman: Have you started watching the TV show version of Brave New World, which is airing on Peacock, the new streaming series, new streaming app?
0:50:00 Marianne March: I had no idea but I guess maybe I have to.
0:50:01 Natalie Dowzicky: Is that NBC? Is that NBC streaming app?
0:50:05 Peter Suderman: Yes. If you have Comcast, you get it as part of the package, but it’s actually free for everyone. So anybody who has any internet service can get an ad‐supported version completely for free.
0:50:17 Natalie Dowzicky: That’s awesome. What have you been watching/reading?
0:50:20 Peter Suderman: What I’ve actually been watching is me play a video game, The Last of Us Part II.
0:50:28 Landry Ayres: Oh, also featuring Jeffrey Wright in a voice role, I believe, right?
0:50:33 Peter Suderman: Yes, so he has a… It’s a notable role, though maybe not a huge one, but it’s the sequel to a 2013 game, The Last of Us, both are by Naughty Dog Studios, which is a game company that aims to produce really cinematic, story‐driven video games that are not so much about player choice, but are instead about character and about narrative and about… Often, you are forced as a player, there’s no option to do something else at a pivotal point, whereas many games are about, oh, you get to a point and there’s a big choice. In these games, you’re playing as a character who is a distinct and specific person, not just a kind of blank, who you fill in with your own choices, and that person makes choices and you get to know these people and their community. Often these characters will have close friends, confidants who will run around with you in the games.
0:51:31 Peter Suderman: The first game was one of the best games I’ve ever played, one of the best stories in a video game that I’ve ever encountered and it has, I think the best ending of any video game. And I don’t wanna say too much about it, but it’s a post‐apocalyptic game in which the world has been collapsed after a pandemic, a little too real, but the pandemic turns most people into basically zombies, they’re not called zombies, but they’re zombies in this game. And the hero that you play as is a smuggler who has to ferry a young woman across the United States or across part of the United States to a sort of rebel group, because this young woman appears to be immune to the virus, and so she gets bit, she doesn’t turn. And the idea is that this rebel group called the Fireflies is gonna use her and her biology to create a cure, but of course, we get there and there’s some big choices that get made, not by the player but by the character at the very end, and it’s a sort of fascinating exercise in the kind of trolley problem, it’s also just a super well‐produced game.
0:52:43 Peter Suderman: But the second one takes the ending of the first game and does some really, just really phenomenal stuff with extrapolating how that might play out years later. And again, I don’t wanna spoil this too much, but what’s really interesting about this game is that, in some ways, it’s sorta super woke. It turns out that our main character, who is the young woman from the first game, that’s who you spend at least the first part of the game playing as, we find out she’s a lesbian, and then there’s a major trans character later in the game. There’s one of the other major characters is a woman who has a super built body type, which has caused all sorts of controversy, but then the game itself, the big idea of the game is one that is not maybe super en vogue right now, which is that you should really try to understand the people who you think are your enemies, and that the people you think who are your enemies, they have good reasons, often good reasons and motivations for doing the things that they’re doing.
0:54:02 Peter Suderman: And because this game puts you in the perspective of other people, it forces you to identify with your enemies, to think through, “Wait, these people who I thought were just sort of like, they’re faceless, their nameless, I just need to kill them,” actually what it says is, “Actually, they’re doing what they’re doing for a reason, and you need to think about that and you need to understand that, and if you don’t have that, it’s gonna make you kind of soulless and awful.” And so, it’s just a fascinating kind of a… It’s a great, super well‐produced, super engaging video game, it’s very bleak also, and some people have said it’s so bleak that it’s maybe not quite fun, but it’s a really great exercise in using the form to make a point and to explore an idea that is kind of interesting and powerful.
0:54:57 Natalie Dowzicky: Very cool.
0:55:00 Landry Ayres: It’s really interesting you bring that up Peter, ’cause I’ve talked about this on our show before, but it’s worth bringing up again, I’m a big fan of Critical Role, which is a Dungeons and Dragons actual play, live streaming show and podcast, and I actually would have brought it up already because they had… They produced it all together in a studio in Los Angeles, and because of the pandemic, they ceased production and decided not to do it and record remotely as a lot of different shows are doing. They wanted to preserve the production standards that they have set before. So for four months, the show that was going on live every single week was not being played and it has a extremely, somewhat, and sometimes a little bit more than it needs to be devoted fan base, such that they hold, I think like the third or fourth highest grossing kick‐starter project of all time for an animated TV series that eventually got picked up by Amazon Studios. And they recently, just two weeks ago, came back and began production again. So I have been catching up and watching some episodes of that as well because I really love it.
0:56:16 Landry Ayres: But, almost the entire cast, if not the entire cast of that show, Critical Role, plays roles in The Last Of Us Part Two, and two of them happen to be two of the leads in the game. So I have been following that game as well because a lot of people that are around their circle are involved with it as well, so it’s kind of interesting. But yes, Ashley Johnson, who plays the lead in the first game and who’s also in the second, as well as Laura Bailey, who is in the second game as well, and maybe partially in the first one, though I haven’t played it myself, they are cast members on the show as well. So I’m a very, very big fan of them as performers, and though I don’t have a PlayStation, I have been looking for ways to acquire one so that I can indulge that game at some point and also punish myself by playing Dark Souls, ’cause I’m fascinated by the art in that game as well.
0:57:17 Landry Ayres: Another D&D podcast that I’ve been getting into recently is produced by College Humor. It is on their streaming service, but I’ve been watching it on YouTube. But their streaming service, Dropout, has a series called Dimension 20. It is hosted and created by a College Humor producer named Brennan Lee Mulligan, who you might have seen in other College Humor shows like Adam Ruins’ “Everything”, or he did some viral videos where he played the Tide CEO and told people not to eat Tide Pods anymore or to inject bleach.
0:57:53 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh my gosh. [laughter]
0:57:55 Landry Ayres: And he’s just a hilarious performer with a… And they’ve got lots of comedians like Siobhan Thompson, who is a writer for Rick and Morty, and Zac Oyama, and a lot of people in that sort of College Humor, Upright Citizens Brigade circle, are all players in a much more comedy, sort of improvised‐focused series. The one that I’ve been watching is called Fantasy High, and it is sort of… The thrust of the series is, “What if John Hughes directed a Dungeons and Dragons campaign?”
0:58:30 Landry Ayres: So, they are all teenagers that go to a high school and also happen to live in a fantasy world where the school is for adventurers and they’re learning magic and swordplay skills, and there’s demons and angels and monsters and stuff like that, but they’re also going through puberty and having religious crises of faith, and they have tough home lives, and one of them doesn’t know who his father is, and another has a rude sister or something like that. So it’s very, very funny while also kind of nerdy in that aspect. So if you’re interested in that, I also highly recommend it. And then finally, I have really, really, really been enjoying and have actually blasted through all of the episodes on Netflix of Supermarket Sweep.
0:59:22 Natalie Dowzicky: I need to watch that.
0:59:22 Landry Ayres: Hosted by a former California Libertarian Party, I believe Executive Director David Ruprecht, [chuckle] so a little bit of odd link there, but it is the perfect thing to put on in the background while I am working and not editing a podcast, because I can look up and see glorious 1980s to early 2000s style and brand names. And I was like, “Kudos, I haven’t had a Kudo in I don’t know how long.” But I really wanted a Kudo after I watched it. So a wonderful bit of relaxing nostalgia, if you’re interested in that. I highly recommend Supermarket Sweep, and it’s on Netflix now.
1:00:04 Natalie Dowzicky: I’ll have to check that one out. So I guess I should stick with the Hemsworth brother trend. I finally got around to watching Extraction on Netflix. I thought it was alright. It was one of those typical action movies where he is like the hunky spy basically. Well, actually, I guess he’s more of like, whatever they call the person that goes in to help someone capture them and brings them out to safety, or extracts them up for the title. The other stuff I’ve been watching, I did see Knives Out, I thought that was very good. I’m also a huge fan of the Clue‐esque movies, so that hit right there. I also thought it was pretty similar to Murder on the Orient Express. That movie came out recently as well within the last two years or so maybe.
1:01:00 Natalie Dowzicky: And then finally, I just finished The Outsider on HBO. It’s a show based off of the Stephen King novel. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it ’cause I wasn’t… The first few episodes, I didn’t like, it was hard for me to get into, but I liked the darker turn it took, and it got much more sci‐fi‐y than the previous episode. So I really enjoyed that. I hope to read the book soon, but I reserved it on Arlington’s Public Library to do an e‐book, but it could be a few weeks till I get that. And I’m also hoping that I can get my hands on a copy of The Hunger Games prequel that Suzanne Collins wrote. It’s proving difficult to find a copy, especially since I’m a big library person. But I’m hoping to read that. Suzanne Collins came out with it in May, I believe. And it’s supposed to be, like I said, the prequel to The Hunger Games saga, and it’s supposed to give us more background on President Snow and how he came to be President Snow.
1:02:01 Natalie Dowzicky: So I’m interested to read that. Again, I think it’s true to form in the sense that it’s a young adult novel. I don’t think they are gonna make it any more complicated, the story line any more complicated or anything like that. But yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to, that, and this is, I guess just more so a game, but me and all my house‐mates got a cornhole set, so we’ve been playing that outside a lot when we can.
1:02:25 Peter Suderman: Classic.
1:02:27 Natalie Dowzicky: Yep.
1:02:30 Natalie Dowzicky: Thanks for listening. If we were to host The Hunger Games, would you volunteer as tribute? Let us know on Twitter @PopnLockePod. That’s Pop, the letter N, Locke with an E, Pod. Make sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. We look forward to unravelling your favorite show or movie next time. Pop & Locke is produced by Landry Ayres as a project of libertarianism.org. To learn more, visit us on the web at www.libertarianism.org.