Science fiction is an inkblot test for the collective anxieties of the present, especially when it comes to stories about dystopian hellholes. Consider The Hunger Games, that beloved coming-of-age tale about kids murdering each other for sport.
Sure, The Hunger Games has made so much goddamn money that it's going to become a theme park, but when you look beyond the marketing hoopla, you'll find some surprising insights into our society's hopes and fears. And no, I don't mean "You can make huge amounts of money ripping off Japanese movies." (Everybody knows that already.) I'm talking about stuff like ...
6Climate Change Is The New Robot Apocalypse
Remember when Terminator, Logan's Run, Alien, Westworld, and THX 1138 all unanimously shat runny fear over the possibility that robots would eventually turn us into pink mulch? Those films all came out in the '70s and '80s -- which happened to be the era in which computers were becoming a thing. Little did we know that the mechanized rapture would come in the form of affable Japanese robo-mannequins instead of a meadows of skulls.
"I'm going with the skull meadows, thanks."
It's kind of like how every modern apocalyptic hellscape involves famine, overpopulation, or the good ol' unsurvivable scorch. Even Roland Emmerich went from moonsaulting the world with dinosaurs and aliens to realizing that the world was plenty capable of KO'ing itself.
Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox
Further evidence of the planet's self-loathing: It produced Roland Emmerich.
I'm not the only person who noticed this: The Guardian recently pointed out that every modern dystopian story more or less originates in climate change. Elysium, Snowpiercer, Interstellar, and Maze Runner are all scenarios in which the spark of destitution is weather-related. In almost all of these cases, humanity is first forced to live amongst its own fumes in a bunkered society before forming an oppression-tastic government as a side effect -- much like how robots and war created the fictional dystopias of the pre-2000s. "A bunch of dust" is the new Skynet.
The Hunger Games, specifically, takes place in the nation of Panem ... which, in case you never noticed, is merely the US with a shitload more beaches.
Canada remains unchanged, according to the text in this map.
In both Logan's Run and THX 1138, the heroes emerge from their totalitarian bio-cage to find a perfectly habitable world outside -- all because yesterday's writers never envisioned a wasteland so stupid that our proclivities toward freight shipping and plastic bottles would mark our demise. That's why, even when we did acknowledge our negative effect on the environment, we never focused on it as a catalyst. The world of Blade Runner might be smog-filled and nearly bereft of non-synthetic animals, but the real concern was getting your head twisted off by Daryl Hannah's robo-legs. The irony now is that instead of enslaving us, modern fictional robots, like Interstellar's TARS, are helping us un-fuck the world. And on that thought ...
5No One Cares About Automation Or Surveillance Anymore
20th Century Fox
Movies like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brazil, and THX 1138 made it seem like technology would doom us to live and die on a perpetually-monitored conveyor of soulless existence, like 7-Eleven hot dogs. The '70s and '80s thought that cameras and microphones would be as common as Bo Derek braids, allowing the impersonal dominating bureaucracy to dictate your most intimate moments.
Now cut to today, and we're ordering pizza by bellowing at an all-seeing game box that never stops listening to you. And we love it!
Shouting "I hate myself!" works, too.
I'm not disparaging today's less-privacy-concerned world, but rather pointing out what a tremendous wad of nothing Big Brother turned out to be. Instead of silently eradicating us for thoughtcrime, technology's meaty clasp on our personal identity culminated in selling custom T-shirts on Facebook. This would explain why newer dystopias like Maze Runner and The Hunger Games don't nearly demonize technology and surveillance as much as older films. Katniss might live in a world in which it's implied that the Capitol is always watching, but that surveillance is a secondary annoyance. For the most part, all she has to do is stay indoors or walk outside the boundary, and no one is the wiser.
The "no hunting" law is apparently enforced by an honor system.
Not to mention how the all-seeing cameras are actually utilized by the heroes, as Katniss uses her reality TV persona to gain public support. It's hard to paint cameras as an evil entity now that everyone has one on their phones. As the media gets more and more of its information from Twitter and Reddit, the sad truth is that Big Brother doesn't need to watch us; we crowdsourced that ourselves.
Hell, other dystopian films will even flat-out glorify otherwise terrifying inventions. Elysium ends with (spoilers: you don't care) the heroes bestowing magic ailment-curing machines on the common folk on Earth ... which is really gonna fuck with the already-overpopulated, resource-lacking planet. And yet these genie beds get featured as inconsequentially as the amazing robots that no one in this society cares about. Because, again, robots aren't the main aggressor anymore.
They've gone from "EXTERMINATE" to "please take away that sharpie."
Even The Matrix ends with an amicable truce between humans and their robot overlords, implying that being harvested in an automated factory isn't the worst thing in the world. But that is by far not the weirdest precedent this series set for us ...