Children of Men, due 4/13/14

The 2006 Alfonso Cuaron film, Children of Men is set in Britain in a dystopian near future in which the human race has been struck with infertility and society has largely collapsed. Immigrants are hunted like animals and deported, killed, or confined to refugee camps, and rebel groups fight for equal rights. The film follows Theo, an Englishman who was once a revolutionary but settled into quiet discontent after the death of his son. Theo resolves to help Keye, a young woman pregnant with the first child to be born in over eighteen years, flee to refuge for her and her child. While at first the two may seem only superficially related, Children of Men is in fact a close parallel to Suzanne Collins’ series.

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The protagonists of the two stories, Theo and Katniss, are quite similar in character. Both oppose the ruling regime but ultimately want to avoid making trouble, preferring to retain their own safety rather than fight for idealistic action. Both characters have suffered loss and conceal their pain from others. Katniss remains strong for Prim after the Reaping and cries for Rue only when alone. She misses her father terribly and keeps his memory close but never seeks solace in others for the grief that she still carries from his death. Similarly, Theo breaks down and cries after the gruesome and unnecessary death of his ex-wife in his arms, but only for a moment and only after physically distancing himself from the rest of his party. He also remains haunted by the death of his son, Dylan, of whom he doesn’t speak. When others bring up Dylan to him, Theo does not reply or changes the subject.

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Both characters are also more familiar and comfortable with marginalized sectors of society than they are around wealthier people and areas. Katniss is at home in District 12 but feels awkward and false in her Capitol makeup and attire. Theo visits often with his friend Jasper, who lives pastorally in the woods, but is visibly out of place in his wealthy cousin’s opulent home.

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Society itself bears striking similarities in the worlds of Children of Men and the Hunger Games. Xenophobia is rampant, visible in the war against immigration and heavy racism in Theo’s world. In Panem, the people of different districts know little about each other except that there are differences that alienate them. The animosity between the outer districts and the near districts is even greater. Those that live in the Capitol and near districts deal with the stark inequality in Panem by either real or feigned ignorance. Similarly, when Theo asks his cousin how he stands to see the world the way it is, the cousin responds, “I just don’t think about it,” much to Theo’s astonishment.

Diversion abounds in both worlds, as we often see in tales of the darkest of times. Drinking is popular in both stories; Haymitch in the Hunger Games is a well-known drunk, drowning the demons of his past life, and Theo carries a bottle of brown liquor with him everywhere he goes that only disappears as he becomes more and more involved with saving Keye. Gambling is available in the form of betting on greyhound races, which serve the same purpose of mindless distraction from reality as the Hunger Games do to the Capitol in Collins’ books.

The governments in both societies are oppressive. Propaganda is seen in the Hunger Games in the form of the country’s founding story. In COM, commercials in the metro blare the nationalistic message, “The world has collapsed. Only Britain soldiers on.” Citizens are forced in both worlds to submit to the government’s invasive demands. For the people of Panem, this means offering their children to the Hunger Games every year. In an eerily close parallel, the citizens of Britain in COM must submit to mandatory fertility testing, offering up their very potential to have children to the government.

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Rebel groups exist in both worlds. In the Hunger Games, the District 13 resistance fights (ostensibly) for equal rights for marginalized districts. In COM, the “Fishes” fight for equal rights for immigrants. Both groups are subject to corruption. The Fishes use violence amongst themselves to keep order and are willing to sacrifice the wellbeing of Keye and her child for the good of their mission. In Panem’s rebel group, individual wellbeing is set aside for the good of the cause, leading to bombings and mass killings in which innocent citizens are frequently caught in the crossfire.

In both stories, marginalized people become figureheads of a revolution. In the Hunger Games, it is Katniss herself, who is unwillingly pulled into the cause by her love for her family, seen when she volunteers in the first book to save Prim. In COM, Keye is this figurehead–an immigrant who is otherwise abused by society but becomes a commodity as she falls pregnant. Much like Katniss, Theo becomes involved in a greater cause unwillingly: he agrees to play a small part to help his ex-wife Julian, whom he loves, and becomes committed when Keye tells him that Julian told her to trust no one but Theo.

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Perhaps the most over-arching of the similarities between the two stories is the horrific way in which total war is portrayed. In COM, long, un-cut scenes of gunfire, blood spatter, and wailing wounded underscore the severity of Theo’s situation just as bombings in District 8 and the user of children as a human shield in Mockingjay showcase the horror that Katniss endures. The two both live in a world where life is brutal and pain is everyday and the future is uncertain, and they both must play a role to ensure the survival of humanity as they know it.

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