“The Hunger Games” by Imani Cezanne

The Hunger Games films draw from a range of discussions, ideas, data, and myths about social stratification. A fan of the series would experience this poem at a more intimate level than someone who has simply watched the films. Imani Cezanne consistently draws parallels between the location and events in the film with locations and events in the United States.Yet even with little or no experience with The Hunger Games, this piece offers an insightful commentary about class and race in society.

This poem invites a discussion of representation, particularly how poverty is fictionalized in popular media. Imani observes, “I can’t help but notice how painting poverty in white face makes it fantasy, makes it fiction, makes a number one selling novel number one at the box office.” Here, the poet makes explicit the erasure of race and ethnicity from how social stratification operates in the United States. “I guess being brown and hungry ain’t that entertaining.” As Cezanne continues to describe the historical and routine effects of poverty on African-American communities, she demonstrates how the concept of The Hunger Games is a fantastical reproduction of some folks’ reality. However, when the racialized experiences are absent in representation, Imani suggests that African-American people in poverty become forgotten.

More than anything, I enjoy the poet’s ability to enjoy the film while providing such a thorough critique. She reminds us, “Don’t get me wrong, The Hunger Games is my shit.” While we do not know how this can be an enjoyable film with its appropriation and erasure of experiences in poverty, the admission is refreshing. It is also a point of interrogation, as many folks consume media and products that challenge or may contradict our values. Rather than asking “Hollywood” to take responsibility for accurate representation, Imani Cezanne demonstrates how to use popular culture to discuss what is actually happening.

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Imani’s poem asks audiences to consider how the film’s representation of poverty erases some of the experiences of poverty, particularly as it relates to race in certain cities in the United States. She asks audiences to consider how the experiences of life in poverty can be considered entertainment in one realm and ignored in other. This is certainly a poem about African-Americans in dealing with socio-economic status and impoverished communities, but it is also about the production and consumption of entertainment which is more sympathetic to narratives about the dominant group.

 

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