Gender, Race, and Revolution in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (E01)

We discuss “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” exploring the film’s treatment of race, look at Katniss’s gender dynamics with Peeta, and take a critical look at the different districts, and what we think they represent.

Also discussed: How District 13 are like the Zapatistas, Plutarch as the 5th column, can you repress your way to a revolution, and is the Hunger Games just Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, but times 12?

Music featured on today’s show are the songs “Five Armies” and “The Complex” by Kevin MacLeod, and “Octopussy” by Juanitos.

Writers and Readings mentioned on the show:

  • Karl Marx, “The German Ideology” (Read free online at, Buy a hardcopy at Powells)
  • Manning Marable, “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America” (Powells)
  • Paolo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (Powells)
  • Antonio Gramsci

You can also listen to the episode on YouTube.


  1. I love this. I think we need more of this sort of rigorous intellectual, cultural criticism. It’s a fun and actually useful way to engage with popular culture (which, whether we like it or not, we all do…). I have some questions/comments.

    What is your response to this article which came out a while back? I think your argument is far more nuanced, but at the same time, I think there is a good point here about how the parallels between Pan M and the US are ambiguous enough that they could be easily mistaken or taken as parallels between Pan M and Stalinist socialism. You bring this up briefly about how some right wing folks have attached themselves to the movies for their valorization of rural communities and traditions. But I am less afraid of the right wing embracing this movie, and more afraid that we on the left are misinterpreting what a future authoritarian society will look like.

    Also, I would really like to hear in the next episode about the politics of splitting the book into two movies. I felt so mad and betrayed (which shows how swindled I was to begin with to believe that there was any integrity in Hollywood) by the obvious ploy to make money off of a successful series at the cost of artistic and narrative value. How do we respond to this? It seems particularly ironic that such as “rebellious” movie so unabashedly embraces this stupid move, and we so willingly accept it…

    Anyways, I love this, thank you.

  2. Also I love that LeGuin was mentioned. I just finished the Dispossessed, an amazingly prophetic book from 1974. I would love to hear a discussion of it on this podcast.

  3. This was so interesting. The more I listened and thought about it, the more I feel that Panem doesn’t represent a future America; it represents the current one. I learned a lot – can’t wait for the next episode!

  4. Forget about The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, they’re “adult” and “complicated” and fine, whatever, (meaning, I suspect, that they’re more sci-fi than fantasy and therefore more respectable, even though iirc their “science” is a thin veneer that just barely allows the author to write what she wants to write anyway), but what you need to read to understand LeGuin is the Earthsea trilogy and The Tombs of Atuan. These books deliver LeGuin’s take on darkness and light and rightness and natural patterns, death, thresholds, and explore different ways of being technically alive but without vitality–without certain qualities of ensouledness? And therefore the value of being fully ensouled. Look, just read the damn things. They’re short, and you’ll be glad you did.

    And, since I was raised on memorizing Biblical scripture but have found as an adult that it’s irrelevant at best and actively oppressive the rest of the time, I’ve kind of assembled my own written touchstones. One of them is this passage from The Farthest Shore:

    “The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.”

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