I would like to take a moment to comment on the propaganda video shown annually at the reapings in The Hunger Games. First, watch it for yourself.
Such a touching speech from the president of a beautiful nation. While you may think I am being sarcastic, there were absolutely members of Panem who thought just that. Effie Trinket, for one, was moved to tears. Even among the districts, tributes from 1, 2, and 4 likely use this video as justification for training and volunteering to participate in the games. They see it as an honor. Only the districts for whom the games almost never provide benefits see this video as disgusting.
What makes the video disgusting to the poorer districts? This propaganda mostly contains laughing families and images of good health. Perhaps the eldest among the districts remember a time before the war, or when the Capitol was not quite so heavy-handed. Or maybe it is the actual image of well-fed families that keeps the people angrily silent. Whatever each individual’s reason, it is obvious from the books and the movies that no one in the poorer districts appreciates the Capitol’s propaganda. In fact, they seem to see right through it. So why does it work?
Propaganda videos such as this one have the ability to serve multiple purposes. People among the Capitol and richer districts essentially buy into the upbeat and forward-looking parts of the message wholeheartedly. However, those in the poorer districts are simply reminded of the Capitol’s power over them. Those who are well-off but into the second half of the video, in which the Capitol promises riches and generosity to all who submit. Those in District 12, however, relate much more to the first half of Snow’s voice over. Here he talks about war and all the hardships it brought upon both the Capitol and the people. Yet District 12 still experiences many of these terrible aspects of life. Widows and orphans are likely common sightings within the poorer districts. Snow mentions that the Capitol is the one feeding the districts, reminding the poor and hungry that with a war, they would be even poorer and hungrier. The thoughts of life getting even worse than it already is are just as powerful a deterrent as brainwashing.
Even within this display of power, the Capitol refrains from disclosing too much information. There is no exact talk about the reason why the districts rebelled, only that they were defeated. As the victor, the Capitol has the freedom to choose which pieces of history the districts are allowed to know. They are allowed to understand that their defeat took place, and as punishment they must endure the Hunger Games. Without any other information, it becomes nearly impossible for anyone in any district to oppose the idea of the games, as it has become a norm. Add in brainwashing or an elimination of all hope, and the Capitol has the districts pinned under its thumb.