Althusser’s The Hunger Games

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Terry Eagleton identified at least six general functions of ideology: unification, actualization, rationalization, legitimization, universalization, and naturalization. In the first The Hunger Games film we encounter various manifestations of these functions. One key carrier of legitimization of the annual Hunger Games themselves is the cluster of myth/history/tradition. As Caesar Flickerman and Game Master Seneca Crane discuss the “meaning” of the Hunger Games in the opening scene, we see how the transformative power of ideological memory can create what was once a punishment into a tradition and then a kind of healing process that “knits us all together.”

Louis Althusser formulated the perhaps more subtle but nonetheless powerful function that institutions play in the dissemination of ideology: Ideological State Apparatuses. For Althusser, conventional State Apparatuses function mainly through repression, most often through physical violence, whereas Ideological State Apparatuses function mainly through ideology. The former thus, according to Althusser, tend to belong to the public realm, the latter tend to articulate its functions through the private realm.

Examples of Ideological State Apparatuses are families, churches, schools, and unions. But do we have Ideological State Apparatuses in The Hunger Games, or is the media the Ideological State Apparatus?

This begs the question of our contemporary world where, perhaps, Ideological State Apparatuses have been homogenized into a conglomerate Ideological State Media Apparatus. It could be that by studying the manifestation of subjectivity in The Hunger Games we can analyze whether the public realm and the private have been coalesced into mass spectacle where individual fantasy and collective tradition become one and the same. What kind of mechanism of subjectivity (individual or collective) is embodied in Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark? In this mise en abyme “game” does Haymitch Abernathy’s historical memory give him an advantage? And is not Effie Trinket perhaps the wisest of them all?

Taking into account the reality of various structures and systems of distribution (economies) invariably at work in any and all societies and states, what is the structure of the economies of power and violence in The Hunger Games? Moreover, given our study of ideology, what are the ideological state apparatuses in The Hunger Games and how do they operate ideologically? How does interpellation manifest itself in The Hunger Games? Are repressive state apparatuses functioning in The Hunger Games?

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