Israel-Palestine war: Why fans are comparing the new Hunger Games film to the war in Gaza
The latest installment of The Hunger Games franchise has fans talking for reasons besides its storyline.
On TikTok and X, formerly known as Twitter, fans are drawing comparisons between the dystopian thriller’s political themes and the ongoing Israel-Palestine war.
The Hunger Games series was a global sensation, with four films released between 2012 and 2015, and now a prequel, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, has hit cinemas.
The series depicts a fictional nation, Panem, implied to be a future version of the United States, which is governed by a wealthy city, the Capitol, that receives its resources from 12 impoverished districts held under military rule.
Officials from the Capitol punish the districts each year for a failed violent uprising by making children from the districts fight to the death in a gladiatorial TV show.
Based on novels by American writer Suzanne Collins, the original series depicted the creation and outbreak of a rebellion against the Capitol.
The new prequel, based on a 2020 novel by Collins, examines how the Hunger Games were designed as a form of collective punishment inflicted on the districts.
Capitol citizens are shown dehumanising people from the districts, referring to them as “animals” - reminding some fans of Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant's comments describing Palestinians as “human animals” last month.
In one scene, wealthy Capitol residents are horrified by district children desecrating the national flag - but not by them being forced to fight to the death.
Collins says she conceived of the Hunger Games series after watching television coverage of the Iraq war interspersed with footage from a reality television show.
Collins explained in 2018: “The citizens of the districts have no basic human rights, are treated as slave labour, and are subjected to the Hunger Games annually. I believe the majority of today’s audience would define that as grounds for revolution. They have just cause but the nature of the conflict raises a lot of questions.”
Multiple film reviews have noted the prominent political themes in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
A recent article in Time Magazine compares characters from the districts trying to make the Capitol’s citizens see them as humans to how “Palestinians are forced to package themselves as worthy of attention, even on the brink of death”.
On social media, fans have drawn parallels between the film and the war in Gaza.
“I’m calling it now, the Hunger Games movie is going to result in a huge uptick of protests in support of Palestine in the younger generations in America,” one TikTok user said in a video that now has over 78,000 likes.
“You know what’s crazy? The eerie similarities between the Hunger Games and Palestine,” another posted.
Users of social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, made similar comments.
Others followed suit, pointing to specific scenes in the film that reminded them of the war.
A clip from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014), set just after the Capitol bombed a hospital, has also been circulating online, with references made to Israel’s attacks on hospitals in Gaza.
Previous Hunger Games films, discussed online in light of the prequel's release, explored themes of oppression and the ethics of violent resistance.
In Mockingjay - Part 1, for example, rebels blow up a Capitol hydroelectric dam in a suicide mission.
A prominent theme in Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015) is the debate over killing Capitol civilians as part of the rebellion. One of the teenage protagonists, Gale, justifies doing so - while the main character Katniss opposes it as immoral.
But while many fans have compared the Capitol to Israel, no one involved in producing the new film has done so publicly.
In fact, actress Viola Davis, who stars as the villainous Volumnia Gaul, issued a statement saying, “I pray for the safe return of all hostages and peace” on 9 October. She criticised people who “reacted to this violence [on 7 October] with justification, not empathy”.
Director Francis Lawrence, who also directed three earlier Hunger Games films, joined more than 700 other notable Hollywood figures in signing a letter in support of Israel on 12 October.
The letter stated: “We in the Hollywood community and around the world must stand with Israel as it defends itself against a terrorist regime in Gaza that seeks Israel’s destruction.”
On 7 October Palestinian fighters launched attacks in southern Israel that killed more than 1,100 people.
More than 14,000 people have been killed as part of Israel's retaliatory bombardment and invasion, and more than 6,800 are missing or buried under rubble, according to Palestinian officials.
Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day truce early on Wednesday, as part of an agreement that will see the Palestinian group release 50 Israeli women and child hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails.
The temporary pause in fighting is set to commence at midday on Thursday.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.