They are not barbaric. They are not sadists. And yet, they seem to enjoy the Hunger Games year after year. Were they never moved, in seven long decades, by the misfortune of the Districts who had been made to pay a heavy price for an uprising which in itself was nothing but an outcry for equality and freedom?

We see in the "Catching Fire" segment, during Peeta's interview where he reveals Katniss' pregnancy, that some people in the audience express their shock over Katniss having to participate in the Games despite her pregnancy and shout slogans against the Games. While that makes some sense, I think, that is quite paradoxical. They let children like Rue get brutally killed in the Games but find it shocking that a pregnant Katniss had to be sent into the Arena?

I don't know if the author, Suzanne Collins, intentionally incorporated this contradiction in the novels or if it appears so only in the films, but considering the way the Capitol has been portrayed, one would wonder why the people never tried to put an end to the Hunger Games.

  • 31
    "They are not barbaric. They are not sadists. And yet, they seem to enjoy the Hunger Games year after year." I submit that their thorough enjoyment and continue patronage of the Games, and fascination and support of the tributes, indicates that they are, in fact, at least sadists if not barbaric. Also: "I don't know if the author ... intentionally incorporated this contradiction..." Yes. The whole series is about what people are willing to idly accept because it isn't happening to them. What does it take to get an individual (or a people) to say "no more"?
    – brichins
    Feb 27, 2014 at 19:12
  • 5
    Because there'd be no books otherwise? Feb 27, 2014 at 19:56
  • 2
    It is very easy to point to things done by modern governments and say they are "as bad as the Hunger Games". IMO this is missing the point; Collins deliberately imagined the Hunger Games to be different from anything in the modern world. Also, specific modern examples are likely to be highly controversial and sidetrack this question into a debate on [insert government policy here], so they should be used with extreme caution. Feb 28, 2014 at 10:46
  • 7
    You mistake wealth, education, political leanings, and city-dwelling for morality.
    – Wayne
    Mar 2, 2014 at 0:11
  • 2
    But doesn't the paradox exist in our real world too? I mean irony got drone-ed the day Nobel Peace prize was awarded for making war. Mar 4, 2014 at 6:45

11 Answers 11


enter image description here Because nobody in Panem gets a vote

Panem is not a democracy in any sense of the word. Don't let the term president fool you, there is no evidence anyone ever cast a vote for Snow:

Coriolanus Snow is a native of the Capitol and is the tyrannical President of Panem. Although carrying the title of President, it is unknown if he was elected to the position democratically. Snow possesses total power in Panem's government and has proven to be a cruel and manipulative dictator, ruling over the Capitol and its contained districts.

The Hunger Games are meant as a reminder to everyone in Panem as what happens to rebels. They're not contestants, they are tributes. While it is meant as a source of entertainment to Capitol citizens that does not make any less of a reminder to them as well. Considering the detached and self-involved culture of The Capitol, it makes sense that they would rather live a life of luxury and leisure than become another tribute.

  • 2
    It is unclear whether President Snow was elected, but that's almost beside the point. Even if people do have a vote, changing government policy is difficult. (Consider how long it took for public opinion to stop the Vietnam War.) The original question points out that the citizens of the Capitol have at least some freedom of expression, so why did no one bother to protest? As you say, part of the explanation is that they don't want to risk their lives of ease and comfort, but I don't think that's the whole story. Feb 28, 2014 at 10:36
  • Yeah, I think you are right in saying that people's votes don't count in Panem as Snow is more of a dictator than an elected President.
    – Elzee
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:52
  • 1
    @RoyalCanadianBandit Because protest = rebel, which equals becoming a tribute. Or death/disappearance (ie Crane). The voting phrase is partially to keep it in the same grammar as the question, but the main point is that even The Capitol lives under brutal dictatorship.
    – joshbirk
    Feb 28, 2014 at 16:07
  • 2
    Why would the term president fool anyone? He presides over Panem. There's nothing about president that implies that who you preside over had a say in it.
    – corsiKa
    Mar 1, 2014 at 5:24
  • 1
    Being elected and being elected by general elections are two different things. The Pope is elected, by a congregation of Cardinals who themselves are not elected. The European Commission is elected, by themselves basically (the commission elects future members from among candidates submitted by the member countries). The high chamber of the Dutch parliament is elected, by the provincial governments, again not by general elections. The president of the USA is elected, not by the population but by the electoral college which may or may not follow the outcome of the general elections...
    – jwenting
    Mar 3, 2014 at 14:42

I think this is completely intentional on the part of Suzanne Collins. From the interview at: http://www.thehungergames.co.uk/about_the_author

In keeping with the classical roots, I send my tributes into an updated version of the Roman gladiator games, which entails a ruthless government forcing people to fight to the death as popular entertainment. The world of Panem, particularly the Capitol, is loaded with Roman references. Panem itself comes from the expression “Panem et Circenses” which translates into “Bread and Circuses.”

It's important to remember that Panem is not a direct continuation of the modern USA. Between our time and the events of The Hunger Games, war and environmental disaster have depopulated much of the world and caused untold social disruption.

Panem is a futuristic society with some similarities to ancient Rome. Their values and morals differ from ours. The ancient Romans thought it was perfectly acceptable to force people to fight to the death for entertainment, and so do the citizens of Panem. Indeed, the arenas of the Roman Empire killed about 8,000 gladiators each year, as opposed to only twenty-four in the Hunger Games. 1

So, it appears that the Hunger Games take place with at least the passive acceptance of an overwhelming majority of the Capitol's citizens.

Furthermore, modern, "civilized", democratic governments have imposed punishments on enemy nations which were far more destructive than the Hunger Games. In the same interview, Collins says:

[My father] was career Air Force, a military specialist, a historian, and a doctor of political science. When I was a kid, he was gone for a year in Viet Nam. It was very important to him that we understood about certain aspects of life.

The Hunger Games lasted for 75 years and killed fewer than two thousand children. Modern wars have killed that many children in a matter of hours. The people who fought those wars would say it was necessary to prevent more people from being killed.

The citizens of the Capitol might believe the same thing. After all, from their point of view the Hunger Games have brought 75 years of peace and prosperity, so perhaps they believe it to be a price worth paying.

  • 4
    The parallels between the Capitol and the "decadent" view of Rome are pretty clear within the books and the movies.
    – HorusKol
    Feb 27, 2014 at 23:02
  • 3
    I think your final point is the most important one. It was stated many times throughout the books and movies that the point of the games was to remind everyone of the horrors of war, and to prevent people from beginning another war. "One small sacrifice to prevent a greater disaster" if you will.
    – Doc
    Feb 28, 2014 at 22:03
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    @Manu343726: Two tributes per district, 1 boy and 1 girl, and 12 districts. 2*12*75 = 1800, rounded up to 2000. Mar 2, 2014 at 0:13
  • 1
    I'd put the exact number of children killed during participation in the Hunger Games at 1725. The second Quarter Quell (the Games that Haymitch won) had twice as many tributes, so we get 1800 Tributes in the first 74 Games (we'll ignore the 75th because nobody who died in that was a child at that point in time, as far as I know). Then subtract one winner for the first 73 Games, and two winners for the 74th Games. That's considerably less than the population of even the smallest districts killed over the course of 74 years; not as bad as you might think. Mar 3, 2014 at 14:56
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    @Royal Canadian Bandit: The exact number would be 73 * 23 (1 survivor for every game including democratic 1st Quarter Quell) + 47 (2nd Quarter Quell) + 21 (supposedly 3 survivors) = 1747
    – too
    Mar 4, 2014 at 9:59

There's a fundamental difference between the first seventy-four Hunger Games and the seventy-fifth one: the third Quarter Quell had all of its Tributes reaped from each districts past winners.

In any other year the Tributes are people the Capitol barely know, having been plucked from obscurity in the far off Districts to fight for their entertainment. They get to know them briefly during the opening ceremony, training, then the interviews, but they still don't know them very well. The Capitol likely wouldn't care at all for many of the Tributes.

The victors, on the other hand, are different. The Capitol has gotten to know them through the opening ceremony, training, their interviews, then has watched them fight to the death - and come out victorious. In most cases they'll also have had many years to get to know them even better when they acted as mentors. In the case of Katniss and Peeta, they have that absolutely tragic star-crossed lovers scenario in their favour; the Capitol absolutely loves them.

Katniss, despite not really being all that likeable, has managed to fake it well enough - aided largely by Peeta's very genuine love and adoration - to become the Capitol's darling. Even so, her fake pregnancy is really just the tipping point during the pre-interviews for the seventy-fifth Hunger Games. The tension and the outrage was building prior to that.

The Capitol citizens are portrayed as being totally self-absorbed, and seemingly oblivious to what's really happening in the Districts. That's not entirely unsurprising considering that all the exposure Capitol citizens do have to the Districts is carefully controlled and highly propagandized by the Capitol.

Ultimately, they just don't understand. They see these children taken from their homes, forced to fight to the death to entertain them, but they don't really know what that means. They don't know what life is like in the Districts, they don't know how much these people suffer on a daily basis. The seventy-fifth games is, I think, the first time that a lot of them have really understood what it felt like for all the families who lost people they cared about in the Games before.

  • 11
    It's all about dehumanization. Citizens don't consider people from the district to be as much of a "person", because their access to them is restricted as Anthony says. The citizens may not even know how bad it is in the Districts. The victors, though - the citizens know them, they've met them, and therefore they are more "people" in the Capitol's eyes.
    – Nathan
    Feb 27, 2014 at 15:59
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    I think this answer falls flat without @Nathan’s comment. “They see these children… forced to fight to the death… but they don't really know what that means.” It takes a sociopathic lack of empathy not to be disturbed by the death of eleven children. The only way the Capitol residents’ attitude is believable to me is if there had been a significant effort to dehumanize the District residents.
    – bdesham
    Feb 27, 2014 at 17:24

The book is modeled on Rome. Did some Romans object to the games in the coliseum? Probably, but there weren't enough of them to make a difference. The games went on.


Collins says that her book is as much about the nature of reality TV as it is about politics (http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/qa-hunger-games-author-suzanne-collins). It should be disturbing when the people we identify with watch violence on TV without question but then we have to ask ourselves why/whether we laugh at the pain and misfortune of real people when we're insulated by a TV.


You could ask why people historically tended to cheer on and gather to watch grotesque death sentences such as drawing and quartering, or burning at stake, or earlier - gladiator fights.

It's as if normal non-sadistic people still perceive brutality as entertainment, as long as there is enough "othering", i.e. perceiving the others as "them" instead of empathising together with them.

  • 3
    This answer could be improved with historical or sociological research references. Feb 27, 2014 at 18:36

Because in different times and places, "civilized" means different things. Values change, morals change. Moral progress is not inevitable, nor is the prevention of moral decay. There is nothing inherent in the technological advance of of our society that ensures humaneness as we know it today.

The Romans did all this, and they had the greatest "civilization" at the time. We practically act this way now -- we enjoy our wars on TV, Survivor, etc.

I believe this is the primary social commentary of the books and movies.


I do not have a reference to back my claims. Below is just my analysis of the stories I've read or watched about Rome and the Gladiator concept.

Gladiators were slaves(war soldiers or people condemned to punishment in their lands). They could choose (debatable) to be trained as Gladiator and fight to death in the arena or work their way to death in mines and other such hard labor. When you have death on both sides, you will tend to choose a glorious one.

If you go by this narrative, Gladiator games were gory but not barbaric Barbaric would be culling the men in cold blood. The Gladiator had a ray of hope that one day, if they pleased the crowds and kings beyond measure, they can hope to gain freedom. If not, they were already living a better life then they were condemned too.

If I was a Roman citizen at that time, with the widest perspective, I would be repulsed by the concept of slavery, but with a normal perspective, shared by most of the common people, I would welcome the games because of the above perspective.

So I dont think a consensus would be achieved from the common people to moot out the games. If somebody from position of power showed them the wider perspective of slavery, then yes, common people will gather to stop the games. Another perspective is that these games were portrayed as a means to please the Gods, specifically the offerings of blood. This perspective was shared by every Roman & faith is irrational. So how could they oppose the games from this perspective?

Coming to Hunger Games, Districts rebelled against the Capitol and hence were punished through Hunger Games as a reminder. But the tributes were never slaughtered. It was gory but not barbaric (applying previous logic). The common people of the Capitol (assuming that they forgave the districts for their rebellion on the perspective of it being a fight for their freedom and independence rather than a rebellion to annihilate the Capitol), with a normal perspective, would view the games in the same sense as Gladiatorial games. The people of the other districts (slaves of the Capitol) were condemned to a hostile journey to their inevitable death. Here is a chance where one from all the 12 districts could stand alone in the arena and finally live a life of free(ish)dom with ample food and aesthetic pleasures.

Mind you, people from the higher districts trained their tributes for the games (career tributes). So some districts viewed it as games and a way to amend the ties with the Capitol. That was the case before Katnip was the winner. The people of the Capitol were so impressed with her and Pita and their relationship of love that they demanded and cherished her freedom (in the sense of a Gladiator being granted freedom in the arena). She was the one person the Capitol people never wanted harmed. She became an object of admiration and affection to the people of the Capitol.

Talking about the people from 12 districts, she became a "beacon of hope" for them. The one they could rally around. Since the question is about the Capitol people this narrative doesn't matter.

When she was re-selected for the Games, many people would have been heart broken. But there was always a sense of hope that she would stand alone again. But the news of her pregnancy was the blow that knocked the wind of out them. She would never survive and would die with an unborn child.

So, if I am a Capitol citizen, I would view Hunger Games as a means for entertainment, retribution and a means to secure a better future for one of the condemned ones from Districts, a silver lining. But never barbaric.

Considering a wider perspective of slavery, will I vote down the games in the times of Monarchy? NO, and I will live out my lifetime with security and a pang of guilt. YES and I will struggle my (and my family's) way towards a barbaric death with a ray of hope for a better future for all.

Most people would choose NO. Legendary few will choose YES

  • I see a few interesting and authentic perspectives here. You have answered from the point of view of a Capitol citizen as well as that of a Tribute and your assessments are quite plausible. I would agree with almost every point you have made. Good work and thanks.
    – Elzee
    Mar 6, 2014 at 13:40

One of the underlying messages of the series is that "civilization" does not purge humanity of its baser urges. The ancient Romans were not barbarians, but they had their gladiatorial games. So too with the people of the Capitol. Even today, while we prefer our violence-as-entertainment to be simulated, we still eat it up like candy. How much better does that really make us?

  • 2
    Who's the real 7 billion ton robot monster here? Feb 28, 2014 at 7:16

I think that happend over time,

first its's very bad, then when time goes by it's not so bad anymore, then every one enjoys it.

I'm a fan of martial arts, but you see people fighting in mma, like gladiators in rome, but over time it has spread and a lot of us are enjoying it (I don't know it's good or bad?!)

  • You have made a good point. Yes. We tend to abandon all sense of right and wrong when gradually the thrill of violence takes over.
    – Elzee
    Mar 4, 2014 at 4:21
  • yes there should always be some kind of measurement for every action, to see how right or wrong is that.
    – user23454
    Mar 4, 2014 at 11:19
  • And there in lies the root of all problems. It's impossible to introduce such a measurement system. What is right and what is wrong is something that has puzzled us since time immemorial. We have either been forced to accept something as right or we have accepted it because most people have, even when we strongly felt there was something not right. Whether it is the Gladiatorial games of ancient Rome, modern wars, death sentences handed out by judicial bodies, executions carried out by religious sects or fiction like The Hunger Games, the big question of 'right or wrong' continues to haunt us.
    – Elzee
    Mar 4, 2014 at 13:57
  • .... I didn't realize that my question about why the Hunger Games were not stopped by the citizens of Panem wouldn't remain confined to the fictional story, but it would also draw attention to how human mind works in the face of sponsored violence. And I have had very good responses to the question and enjoyed reading them.
    – Elzee
    Mar 4, 2014 at 14:04

Precisely the same reason the people of Rome never voted to stop the Gladiator fights. People would like to claim civilisation, but what you might see as a civilised action could be seen otherwise by a different people. Its all about perception, perception, perception.

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