Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Hunger Games in real life?

Whoever thought of the Hunger Games or any other films in real life? They're just a fictional form of entertainment, right? Think again. Many movies have subtle or obvious moral messages that actually relate to some real life situations. If we sympathise for fictional characters in these films then why can't we feel the same about the suffering caused by similar situations in reality? I personally don't understand how anybody can watch these films and not feel the need to be active in conserving the environment and speaking out against the corruption and exploitation that really do exist in the world.

1. The Hunger Games

Plot summary: In the post-apocalyptic future, the nation of Panem consists of a wealthy Capitol ruling twelve poorer districts. As punishment for a past rebellion, each district must provide two 'tributes' - one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 selected by lottery to compete in the annual Hunger Games. They must fight to the death in an arena, with the sole survivor rewarded with fame and wealth. Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place in the games. Joined by her district's male tribute Peeta Mellark, Katniss travels to the Capitol to train for the 74th annual Hunger Games. 

During the Games every other tribute dies leaving Peeta and Katniss alone. Only one person can win, therefore Katniss and Peeta decide to commit suicide together through eating poisonous berries. Before they can commit suicide, the couple are hastily proclaimed the victors. The notion of the suicide is considered by some as an act of rebellion against the Capitol and by others as an act of love. The Capitol makes every effort to maintain the portrayal of the eating of the poisonous berries as an act of love in order to uphold their power over the districts. This forces Katniss and Peeta to continute portraying their love in the pubic media, despite their actual separation. Katniss and Peeta later voice their opinions of the fallen tributes in other districts, which sparks a rebellion and threatens the lives and families of Katniss and Peeta.

Relation to reality: 
The Capitol tries to silence the population through violence in order to uphold their power. This occurs in many corrupt countries in today's world, one of the most notorious being Zimbabwe. In some African countries, children are kidnapped by rebel groups and trained as soldiers. In some cases they are forced to kill their own families.

Moral message: Say what you think is right and try to change what you think is wrong. Don't let your gender, appearance or love interest stop you.

2. Wall-E

Plot summary: In a distant, but not so unrealistic, future mankind has abandoned earth because it has become covered with rubbish from products sold by the powerful multinational Buy N Large corporation. WALL-E, a garbage collecting robot has been left alone to clean up the mess. One day, EVE, another robot, is sent to Earth to find proof that life is once again sustainable. WALL-E rescues EVE from a dust storm and shows her a living plant he found amongst the rubble. Consistent with her 'directive', EVE takes the plant and automatically enters a deactivated state. A ship comes to reclaim EVE and travels back to a larger space cruise ship, which is carrying all of the humans who evacuated Earth 700 years earlier. The people of Earth ride around this space resort on hovering chairs which give them a constant feed of TV and video chatting. They drink all of their meals through a straw out of laziness and are all so fat that they can barely move. When the auto-pilot computer, acting on hastily-given instructions sent many centuries before, tries to prevent the people of Earth from returning by stealing the plant, WALL-E, EVE, the portly captain, and a band of broken robots stage a mutiny.

Relation to reality: The earth cannot sustain the lifestyle that some of us live today. The population of the earth is 7 billion and growing. Eventually we will run out of living and landfill space and the earth will become uninhabitable due to extreme weather caused by global warming. Contrary to public opinion, the effects of general global warming are not simply hot weather.

Moral message: Consider the environment and waste when you make choices in life in order to avoid negative consequences in the future. Recycling and reusing, controlling consumption, limiting electricity and water usage and using public transport instead of personal transport can all make a difference. Do not let greed, selfishness and laziness stand in your away.

3. The Lorax

Plot summary: In the walled city of Thneed-Ville, where everything is artificial and even the air is a commodity, a boy named Ted hopes to win the heart of his dream girl, Audrey. When he learns of her wish to see a real tree, Ted seeks out the Once-ler, a ruined old businessman outside of town who lives in a stark wasteland. Upon hearing of how the hermit gave into his greed for profits and devastated the land over the protests of the Lorax, Ted is inspired to undo the disaster. However, the greedy Mayor of Thneed-Ville, Aloysius O'Hare, has made his fortune exploiting the environmental collapse and is determined to stop the boy from undermining his business.

Relation to reality: Some corporations deny ethical issues in order to maintain their business and increase profit.  An example is the situation Foxconn, the world's largest electronics manufacturer for Apple, Samsung, Sony and Dell, where workers try to commit suicide in protest at their working conditions. The company's solution is to put up safety nets to catch them as they jump.

Moral message: Don't let business plans and consumption create unnecessary human suffering. We can carefully choose the products which we buy, limit our consumption, and demand ethical justice.

4. Avatar

Plot summary: When his brother is killed in a robbery, Marine Jake Sully decides to take his place in a mission on the distant world of Pandora. There he learns of greedy corporate figurehead Parker Selfridge's intentions of driving off the native humanoid "Na'vi" in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland. In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by gung-ho Colonel Quaritch, while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na'vi people with the use of an "avatar" identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri, the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand and fight back in an epic battle for the fate of Pandora.

Relation to reality: People have been forced to flee their homes due to corporations' disregard for the importance of the environment in their livelihoods. An example are the 31 million people living in the Niger Delta who are suffering due to Shell's oil spills.

Moral message: Don't let business plans and consumption limit resources and cause suffering through the destruction of the environment. We can carefully choose the products which we buy, limit our consumption, recycle and demand environmental justice.

5. Slumdog Millionaire

Plot summary:  The story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. However, when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show's questions.

Relation to reality: One scene in the film shows forced begging, which I would like to focus on. This wasn't just something created to make the film more dramatic, it really does happen. Forced begging is when children are kidnapped and forced to work as beggars for organised, mafia-like criminal groups. Disabled child beggars get more money than healthy ones, so criminal groups often increase their profits by purposely injuring the children. To prevent them from running away, traffickers often keep them addicted to opium or other drugs.

Moral message: Giving money to beggars doesn't always do good. A better option would be to donate to charity or volunteer to help the homeless directly.

6. Taken

Plot summary: Seventeen-year-old Kim is the pride and joy of her father Bryan Mills. Bryan is a retired agent who left the Central Intelligence Agency to be near Kim in California. Kim lives with her mother Lenore and her wealthy stepfather Stuart. Kim manages to convince her reluctant father to allow her to travel to Paris with her friend Amanda. When the girls arrive in Paris they share a cab with a stranger named Peter, and Amanda lets it slip that they are alone in Paris. Using this information an Albanian gang of human traffickers kidnaps the girls. Kim barely has time to call her father and give him information. Her father gets to speak briefly to one of the kidnappers and he promises to kill the kidnappers if they do not let his daughter go free. He then rushes to Paris to search for his daughter and her friend.

Relation to reality: This isn't just a horror story. Trafficking is the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery or forced labour. There are 21-30 million slaves in the world today. That's around half of the population of the UK. The majority are trafficked from developing countries to developed countries because they are the most vulnerable and desperate. In many cases poor people are given false hope by being offered jobs and then held somewhere against their will to work as slaves. Of the 30 million people trapped in slavery around the world, only 140,000 of them come from Europe.

Moral message: Just because you don't see something, doesn't mean it isn't happening. Chances are something like this is happening near where you live.

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