My fellow entrepreneurs: Go see The Hunger Games right away.
Early last year I saw a good little art movie called Winter’s Bone. It starred a fantastic parvenu actress named Jennifer Lawrence. Last Friday I saw she was in a new movie called The Hunger Games, so I skipped out of work early to go see it.
The movie has been marketed as a juvenile adventure entertainment and love story, ala the Twilight series or Spiderman. Lawrence plays the heroine, “Katniss Everdeen.” She is (again) wonderful. But what startled me was that The Hunger Games spoke to my inner entrepreneur.
The story is essentially a dire fairy tale taking place in a futuristic, statist USA that has taken the reality show to its gladiatorial apotheosis. Once a year 24 boys and girls fight to the death on TV in a computer controlled artificial wilderness. There can be only one victor, one survivor.
The world has become a cowed and colorless place, tightly controlled and poverty stricken—a drab place without joy and without freedom. At the top if this Orwellian dystopia is a decadent elite. The movie doesn’t make clear who this garish group is, but to my mind they represent a bureaucratic plutocracy run amok.
For me the movie is a clear cautionary tale about the final destination of a suffocated society with no place for the unfettered, generative spirit that is the animating trope of entrepreneurship, as well as art, religion, and human meaning. The reviews I read see The Hunger Games more as a satire on the cosmic emptiness of the reality show format and its dumbing down effect on an enthralled and voyeuristic public. Which it is. But its philosophic underpinnings are, to my eye, unquestionably libertarian. Think of it as a mesmerizing crossbreed entertainment somewhere between Lord of the Flies, Atlas Shrugged, and a febrile Roman spectacle.
As an observing small businessman who has found both salvation and succor in entrepreneurship, the mounting statism of the last three years is more than alarming. It feels like a first, but irrevocable, step into a brave new world of iron-fisted, top-down authoritarianism, that is inimical to the chaotic free enterprise witches’ brew which has nurtured and enabled the emergence of the Steve Jobses, the John Mackeys, the Henry Fords, the Howard Schultzes, the Bill Gates, et. al.—not to mention the plethora of bit players that constitute the vast multitude of creative small businessmen.
For me, The Hunger Games is a potent moral fable warning of the danger of fascism and totalitarianism in its faceless, oligarchic form: the anonymous tyranny of seemingly benign, but unaccountable, bureaucrats. The implication of the current US government’s voracious attempt to gather more and more power unto itself by way of “Czars” and appointive panels, who know better what is good for us all than we ourselves, could be a first step on the road to a well-intended but ultimately malevolent future. The philosophic underpinnings of ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank are not too disparate from the assumptions of The Capitol, the make-believe locale where Katnis Everdeen is taken to prepare for her Hunger Games ordeal.
At any rate, as an entrepreneur, I found The Hunger Games to be thought provoking as well as entertaining.
As Katnis’ friend Peeta says, defining his motivation to fight in the contest, “[I fight] to show them they don’t own me.” I’m not sure that is too far from the motivation of many entrepreneurs.
Thank you, Katnis and Peeta. Thank you, Hunger Games.