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Discuss the Power of the Media in the Hunger Games. How Does It Manipulate the Truth in Order to Control Its Citizens?

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The Hunger Games, not only refers to the literal hunger of the Districts, it also refers to the metaphorical hunger for political freedom, freedom from the Capitol’s control. The totalitarian government of the Capitol dominates all aspects of the people living in its Districts. This power is often achieved through the manipulation of the media which plays on the emotions of its population with the use of propaganda. Censorship also contributes to the Capitol maintaining its position with the manipulation of truth. Both the Capitol and Katniss Everdeen use reality television to maintain and obtain power in various ways.

Propaganda is used to establish a sense of fear and a sense of hopelessness which stops the districts from acting against their leaders. The media helps the Capitol to appear powerful and unchallengeable, as if they have a “god” like power over everyone and everything. The Capitol uses a variety of approaches to instil fear in the general population – fear of destruction shown through the peacekeepers, fear of another war such as when District 13 rebelled, and fear of not being able to provide for their families shown through the tesserae. The Capitol restricts food in the Districts, but in exchange for extra rations of food and oil, called tesserae, the children eligible for the Hunger Games can enter their names into the reaping additional times. This is done to make the Districts feel helpless and as if they would not survive without the Capitol.

The Games are the ultimate symbol of power, designed to warn the population against rebellion. They are to remind the Districts how weak they are and that their deaths are televised for entertainment. In the Games, the citizens of Panem become nothing more than a piece in an elaborate puzzle of life or death. Katniss says, “The message is clear, look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you.” The Capitol makes viewing of the Games and attending the reaping, “mandatory unless you are on death’s door.” By making it required for all citizens to watch the Games, the Capitol has manipulated its viewers to accept their ultimate authority and have brainwashed the Districts into feeling powerless.

Even within the arena, the Capitol controls the outcome showing that they still, ultimately are the most powerful. This is shown when the Gamemakers release a pack of genetically mutated wolves into the arena which represent the dead tributes. The government has dehumanized the tributes that have been killed and turned them into bloodthirsty animals. The Gamemakers can alter the conditions the tributes face such as weather conditions or access to supplies, showing that they can even manipulate “reality television” to suit its own agendas.

Power is gained by the Capitol through censorship of the media. The Capitol controls all information and monitors the Districts, strictly banning all forms of communication between them. Knowledge is restricted by the Capitol in hope of diminishing the risk of another uprising. Katniss says,

“I know there must be more than they're telling us, an actual account of what happened during the rebellion.”

By introducing the Games and restricting all communication between Districts, the Capitol has successfully prevented its civilians from uniting and rebelling. The killing of the tributes keeps the Districts divided and fighting among themselves, unable to work together to overthrow its totalitarian government. While in the Games, Katniss deliberates,

"I wonder if the Gamemakers are blocking out our conversation, because even though the information seems harmless, they don't want people in different districts to know about one another.”

This censorship stops the different districts from realising that they are not that different from one another. Together the Districts would be strong; however the Capitol has divided them making them powerless. The Capitol shows their power by manipulating the Districts, making them feel weak and helpless without them.

Throughout the novel, a power shift occurs as Katniss manipulates the viewers to gain more control. She learns to play on the elements of reality television and knows what to do stay alive. Those who have been victors such as Haymitch, have used the media to survive. He warns Katniss saying,

“... some water, a knife or even some matches can make a difference between life and death. And those things only come from sponsors. And to get sponsors, you have to make people like you.”

Initially, Katniss manipulates the media to survive; however overtime, she does this to challenge the Capitol and become more powerful. She uses the ‘girl on fire’ persona, a confident yet ‘girly’ personality. Although she is unsure of herself; she tries to use sex appeal to win over viewers, which she believes will make her popular. Katniss creates a love story with Peeta to manipulate the viewer’s into seeing them as ‘star- crossed lovers’ and therefore investing in their lives. She says,

“I’m about to leave when I remember the importance of sustaining the star-crossed lover routine and I lean over and give Peeta a long, lingering kiss. I imagine the teary sighs emanating from the Capitol and pretend to brush away a tear of my own.”

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