Throughout the first two installments of The Hunger Games series — which will continue this fall with the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 — Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has led viewers through the dystopian world of Panem where the upper classes indulge in extravagance while the lower working classes struggle to survive. However, when Katniss competes in the yearly Hunger Games tournament and breaks the rules to keep herself and fellow competitor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) alive, she puts a crack in the Capitol’s control over the country that leads to rebellion.
In the Hunger Games franchise, Donald Sutherland plays President Coriolanus Snow, the leader of Panem, who attempts to thwart the rebellion Katniss has inspired. His methods are, for the most part, rather ruthless. In promos for Mockingjay – Part 1, Katniss’s home of District 12 has been completely destroyed and President Snow uses Peeta as a propaganda tool.
While speaking to Screen Rant Editor in Chief Kofi Outlaw at the New York press junket for Mockingjay – Part 1, Sutherland admitted the political storyline of The Hunger Games — and its possible influence on modern culture — is what drew him to the series.
Read Sutherland’s full quote:
“I believe there is a comparison to the United States, and when I first read the script [For ‘The Hunger Games’] I truly wanted to be a part of this project, so that I could look back at the end of my life — which is pretty close — and say, ‘I was a piece of this.’ Because for me, she [Suzanne Collins] presented this villain to young people, and demanded from them a resolution — demanded from them participation that could change things.
“Because the world that my generation is leaving everyone is a disaster, in every respect. Environmentally, socially, economically… So when I read it [the script for ‘The Hunger Games’] I just begged to be a part of it. So that, in the hope it would be a catalyst for young people to get them off the seat of their pants that they’ve been sitting on for at least two generations. That somebody from somewhere — “Occupy” or whomever — might use these films to generate for young people an energy that will take them into the booths in the United States in 2016, and make people responsible — politicians responsible for their words and their actions. To represent them, I guess. I hope, somehow…”
Though Sutherland’s hopes for The Hunger Games may seem lofty given the franchise’s source material — a YA series — there has been plenty of discussion in recent years about the intellectual value of young adult novels. In a time when theaters have become inundated with YA adaptations, many viewers have begun to point out that just because media is geared toward a younger demographic doesn’t mean it can’t offer serious political or cultural commentary.
That being said, it’s unlikely The Hunger Games could alone inspire serious social change in the U.S., at least, in terms of voting in the 2016 elections as Sutherland suggests. However, The Hunger Games series isn’t solely available to U.S. residents, it has become a worldwide phenomenon.
So, while The Hunger Games may not have had much of an influence on U.S. voter turnout among Millennials in the 2012 elections (which saw a decrease from 2008) and 2016 remains uncertain, the franchise’s influence was seen this summer in Thailand when the country banned the three-fingered salute from The Hunger Games because protesters began using it as a form of silent resistance. Perhaps Sutherland is on to something.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens in U.S. theaters on November 21st, 2014.