After the Mockingjay led her oppressed people to victory, it seemed as if The Hunger Games had burned out as a franchise—but there could be more catching fire.
“There are a lot more stories to be told, and we’re ready to tell them when our creators are ready to tell those stories,” said Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer during yesterday's quarterly earnings call.
Just as J.K. Rowling swore she would never add another installment of Harry Potter, then caved to expand on the magical world with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the universe of Collins’ dystopian society has the potential to unfold even further. Fan films such as The Second Quarter Quell and Finnick Odair: A Hunger Games Story that have been made by fans, for fans, only prove that. There is still a wealth of material to mine from District 12 and many other sources, from the pasts of the victors and districts (which have only been hinted at) to psychological autopsies on what injected such malice into President Snow.
Feltheimer is also trying to get more out of certain sparkly vampires, but whether or not he sinks his teeth into an expansion of the Twilight franchise is something best left in the dark for now.
While we still don’t know if anything will rise out of the ashes, Feltheimer wants to explore more facets of the series if author Suzanne Collins also believes it will burn brightly. So read on for nine compelling and sometimes controversial backstories we'd want to see from the nation of Panem.
The First Rebellion
Every Reaping, Effie shows that compulsory vomit-worthy patriotic video which briefly glosses over the First Rebellion, but all we know of the dystopian society that is Panem is that the people of the thirteen districts supposedly tried to vaporize it with a mushroom cloud after they tired of killing each other. The manufactured triumph of this Capitol-approved film reel is pure propaganda. What really happened? I’m just not buying that the Capitol magically swooped in with its high-tech zeppelins to rescue the surrounding districts from chaos and then everything was golden and shining after that. If that was actually the case, there would be no Hunger Games and top-secret episodes of torture behind pristine white doors. Someone was forced to submit. Thirteen districts were brainwashed into avoiding imminent death. Panem was forged of blood, not gold, and we want to know the grisly history Effie’s projector refuses to reveal.
An exposé of Capitol punishment
The games aren’t the only way the Capitol exacts its revenge on anyone who was not fortunate enough to be born within its shining walls. If some rogue reporter was sly enough to infiltrate the Capitol without getting apprehended, what would she gasp at in horror as she struggled to hold on to her camera and her disguise? The ghostly presence of Avoxes who are permanently silent from having their tongues cut out—surely without anesthesia—is chilling enough. Now think back to the psychological torture that had Peeta howling in psychotic spasms brought on by injections of hallucinogenic tracker jacker venom. And how that poison pulsing in his veins made him homicidal. For the tormentors in white coats to almost succeed at obliterating what was left of Peeta Mellark means one thing: they’ve done this before. I’m positive there is an entire Torture Museum’s worth of evidence to give you nightmares.
President Snow’s descent into evil
Did President Snow, played to brilliantly malicious perfection by Donald Sutherland, emerge from the womb not only bloody and shrieking, but also thirsty for blood? From Sauron to Vader, seems that every Big Bad in genre novels and films wasn’t exactly demon spawn, but experienced some sort of fall from grace. Despite the fact that he reeks of evil (and roses), there is a sort of pain behind Snow’s warped psyche that can be picked up in the nuances of Sutherland’s performance, and in the unasked questions that lurk between his motives. Brainwashed loyalty doesn’t seem substantial enough an answer. Snow takes sadistic pleasure in overseeing the Gamemakers as they set traps with the swipe of a finger on that holo screen, as if the only consequence will be blowing up someone’s character in a video game instead of sending a fireball straight towards a terrified teenager. What twisted him into such a tyrant is questionable. Was he a victim of trauma, or did he always enjoy inflicting it?
Trials and traumas of past victors
There is a reason why Haymitch’s bottle of moonshine is his best friend. What he witnessed is something hard enough to stomach on a movie screen, let alone in the flesh. With his innards literally falling out, he manages to lure the girl who hacked him with her axe to the edge of a cliff, where he’d earlier discovered the force field containing the arena. He tricked her into thinking he was a willing target until the axe boomeranged straight into her skull. His victor’s glory came at the price of President Snow exacting murderous revenge for the stunt. It didn’t exactly help that every tribute he trained after that ended up returning to District 12 in a coffin. With Haymitch’s memories horrific as they are, you can only imagine how the other victors just barely survived. Finnick endured years of sexual abuse after his win with an electric trident, and how amateur scientist Beetee wasn’t electrocuted the first time around remains a mystery.
How did a bubblehead like Effie Trinket get her designer heels into such a vicious political campaign? Someone with limited brains is unlikely to have been predisposed towards malice, but it’s hard to tell what lies behind all that garish makeup and haute couture. She was probably one of those privileged brats born into the luxe trappings and mind-cleansing techniques of the Capitol. It’s also probably much easier when all you have to do is ride around on first-class trains, sipping champagne, and showing off your newest coif along with that propaganda reel. But there must have been a glitch in Effie’s brainwashing. Guilt flutters behind those false lashes as her involvement with the District 12 team morphs the gravity of the Games into something she actually feels could stain her silk dresses. Somehow she became a blissfully ignorant walking circus before she could realize this. What is all that pink really hiding?
District culture from 1 to 13
We get glimpses of district culture throughout the novels and movies—from the victory tour, the lavish costume parade representing their industries, and the fragments remembered by tributes—but the backstories of these remarkably resilient people who have kept their traditions throughout decades of slaughter are vague. We are obviously familiar with the sooty faces and bootprints in the dust of District 12, but scenes from places beyond its electrified fence make you wonder. Finnick and Annie’s mermaid-ish wedding is just floating on the surface of the rich seafaring culture of District 4. Johanna’s sick skill with an axe implies that you’re all but born holding one in District 7, and Beetee’s spark for invention brings to mind a futuristic District 3 that is plugged into all sorts of contraptions. Such a history could be something like the Hunger Games equivalent of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Why District 13 disappeared
What we do know about the mysterious District 13, which must not be spoken of if you want to keep your head on, is that it was thought to have been vaporized by the Capitol during the First Rebellion. Of course it would be, since its leaders were the brains behind the districts’ mass uprising against the oppressive government that terrorized everyone from their cushy chairs in the epicenter of Panem. That government then sent more fear coursing through the Districts by editing a grainy propaganda video to make it appear as if 13 was ashes, still smoldering from destruction, almost as if they were trying to convey the message that this is what would happen to rebels in their own arena. While 13 did strike a covert deal with the Capitol to secede from Panem and use graphite mining to cover up their main industry of nuclear science, what we don’t know is how that deal was reached and how much blood paid for it. Tyrannical governments don’t just shake hands with their victims.
How the Hunger Games evolved
After seeing glimpses of scenes involving one tribute smashing the other’s brains out with a brick in an arena that mirrored an ancient, broken city, you can only wonder out of what wreckage the Hunger Games evolved. What we do know from that propaganda video is that twelve (and possibly once thirteen) tributes are required to fight to the death as a grisly sort of payment for the Capitol’s so-called altruism after the war. What politically sanctioned films don’t show us exactly is the history of brutality splattered on Panem like a bloodstain. Were the Games even more brutal at their inception? Was there a time before TV and projector screens when Captiol residents watched the horror show perched on seats in something of a coliseum? Were the arenas even more difficult to navigate, or did the advancement of technology and those creepy holographic computer screens make the carnage even more “entertaining”?
So we do get to see the somewhat clichéd happily-ever-after of Katniss and Peeta after the smoke clears and the bones of their scorched district are buried, and Haymitch remains married to his moonshine, but what of the other districts? Does the Capitol ever rise from the marble dust it’s become? How did the other districts rebuild? And who took over nuclear power after 13 was demolished (my guess would be 3), unless anything nuclear was considered too dangerous to experiment with anymore? Then there is the unimaginable trauma to be considered from what began as opposition and turned into a full-scale Hunger Games of its own with Panem as the arena. Some districts may have also never recovered in terms of industry. District 1’s main purpose was making sure the Capitol oozed with excess luxury goods, but in a postwar world that just lost myriad lives, it’s hard to see anyone caring much about gold and furs and diamonds anymore, even Effie.