Trauma and The Hunger Games: How it really is.

I want to talk about trauma. The conversation about trauma is becoming more popular in mainstream media. People are slowly accepting that it is not just veterans of a war that experience trauma but individuals who have experienced abuse, rape, natural disasters, illness, and oppression. Overall, I believe we are having the wrong conversation about trauma. As with much of our discussion of poor mental wellness, we spend a lot of time focusing on how trauma destroys the lives of those who experienced the trauma. There is no denying this is true. My experience with trauma caused by emotionally abusive relationships/friendships sometimes brings me to my knees with pain. I see how my fear of the trauma reoccurring my life leaves me in a constant state of fear which manifests as anger and thoughts that I am unsafe and the people I love are out to hurt me. What we seem to talk so little about it how despite the pain that leaves us on the floor we manage to stand back up and that despite the fear we continue with our relationships. People who have experienced trauma are some of the most resilient people I know. My own resilience often amazes me.

Image: Katniss crouched on the ground, looking off into the distance, wearing a black coat and quiver of arrows on her back.

I first realized that society had a skewed view of trauma when I read through Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (the third book in The Hunger Games Trilogy) for a second time. To briefly summarize, The Hunger Games Trilogy is about an older teen named Katniss who lives in a dystopian version of the USA (called Panem) where the homes of its citizens are divided into 13 Districts and the main city called the Capitol. The Capitol is extremely wealthy and the Districts become increasingly poor and oppressed as you count from 1-13. To keep control over the Districts the President of Panem declared that every year, each District will give 1 young girl and 1 young boy as Tribute to The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death, with the Victor (the last person left alive) is rewarded with a life of wealth. Katniss goes through The Hunger Games not once but twice and then goes on to lead the rebellion against the Capitol. Throughout the trilogy, Katniss experiences overwhelming oppression, violence, and loss. The trilogy ends with Katniss explaining to her youngest child that she still suffers from the memories of the Games and the rebellion but that she keeps going regardless of that pain. The first time I read Mockingjay, I remember being so disappointed that Katniss didn’t come out unscathed. I couldn’t understand why the main character of a book wasn’t living happily ever after. A few years later, when I read the book again, I finally understood. The author was showing real trauma. Collins didn’t want to give us a happily ever after because that is not how life works. Trauma can stay with you, show it’s face in your everyday life, and it does not have to completely consume you. No matter what Katniss went through, she dealt with the dreams and the memories. She married, raised her children and carried on with her life. In the final movie, she explains to her infant that she survives by remembering all of the good things that happen in the world. This is what many trauma survivors do, find ways to keep going.

We need to talk about the Katniss’ of the world. We need to talk about how we survive.

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12 thoughts on “Trauma and The Hunger Games: How it really is.

  1. I agree completely. I hate the notion that those who’ve experienced trauma have had their lives completely, irreparably destroyed by default–that because trauma is something that stays with us, that our lives can never truly be happy and fulfilling. Undoubtedly, there are people who’ve experienced trauma and that ended up being the case, but more often than not the survivors I know continue on with their lives and manage their pain as best they can. Some of them (like yourself) even turn their trauma into a positive thing by using their own experiences to educate others and stand up against stigma and abuse.
    Writing off those who’ve experienced traumatic events as eternal victims is not only dismissive and inaccurate, but it’s downright dangerous. If someone goes through a trauma and the only representations they see of other in similar situations are people who are broken and beaten, that person may not see any point in trying to keep going and give up, when really they are likely much stronger than they think.

    • Yes! It is dangerous to write off trauma survivors! I think overall the more we see people succeeding after experiencing a variety of different life altering circumstances, potentially the less trauma will affect our lives. If we are treated as victims then that is what we will be. If we are treated with compassion and seen as capable then that is what we will be. Thanks for your comment!

  2. I also love the fact that Katniss is depicted as struggling with PTSD in the book Mockingjay, and spends a huge amount of time sitting in corners, forcing her to really push herself through training at the last minute, which was taken out of the film.

    • Books always give you more than the movies lol I guess she had to keep it together more to keep the plot moving in the few hours they had to tell the story 😛 She was even given medication a bunch of times in the book while in 13. That part I found to be very relatable.

  3. I haven’t read the books but that was one element of the story in the films that I found felt really authentic. Many of the things Katniss experiences are extremely traumatic, so the fact that there is space in the story to allow for her reactions within that trauma seemed really important to me. I am a survivor of several kinds of trauma and when I started experiencing symptoms of PTSD I wasn’t prepared for them, I didn’t know why they were happening exactly or where they were coming from (the reaction was delayed several years for me). Allowing youth to encounter these situations and emotions and remind us that even someone as strong as this amazing female heroine is human and has emotions too was the most powerful part of the series for me.

    • The books, of course, go into more detail. Katniss makes it very clear that she wants nothing to do with being the Mockingjay.

      How can we be prepared for the physical and emotional reactions that trauma can cause? I am still surprised sometimes when my body or mind does something because of a trigger! I hope that young people got the message from the books and/or the movies that bad things can leave their mark.

      It was understanding Katniss that made me love the trilogy more! I also love it when people come together to fight for a cause!

  4. Pingback: Mad Pride Toronto 2016: There is nothing wrong with me. Something happened to me. | Pride in Madness

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