Why “Hope” Is the Worst Answer Ever

When The Hunger Games – the movie – was coming out, my husband and I scrambled to read the book beforehand. so it was very fresh in my head when we saw the movie with my family. In the movie, one of their addendum scenes includes President Snow speaking with Crane, and in this conversation, Snow asks him a question. I’ve now finished reading t’other two books so I know the question had no place, that it was fabricated by the movie directors. It was a terrible thing to add, especially because they made Snow give the most wrong, most stupid answer to his own question anyone ever could have given.

The question was something along the lines of, “Why do we have the Hunger Games instead of just lining up two children from every district and executing them?”

The answer?

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“Hope.”

NO. NO, President Snow. NO, movie directors. NO NO NO. (that’s stupidly cliche anyway)

Not only is that not a correct answer, it’s a very incorrect, erroneous, bad answer.

The WHOLE POINT of the Hunger Games is the lack of hope. Hope is dangerous to a ruling power in Snow’s position. Hope is what allowed the rebellions to spark. Hope is what pushed on a full-fledged revolution. You don’t want hope in a totalitarian government because if the people have hope, they have hope for something better, and something better is always going to mean getting rid of the old regime. If there is no hope of winning, no hope of succeeding, there is no rebellion!

So what should his answer have been?

As I understand it, the hunger games are about complete and utter domination over the other districts. “We do not just execute your children, we force them to fight to the death and we force you to like it. This is how much power we have over you. You are utterly depraved without us, powerless against us, you have no choice – we will make you cheer for your own child’s murderer and hail them as a hero. We can do this, we will and we do and you will bow before us because you have. no. choice.” This is not a message of hope.

Book Snow is, at least, a much better villain since he confronts Katniss for giving the other districts hope – for understanding hope is bad – right at the start of Catching Fire. And then with the quarter quell, the very thing he seeks is to quell is the hope that started the rebellions with his choice of using previous champions! THE WHOLE POINT IS TO KILL HOPE COMPLETELY. Auuugh, hope is not a thing for true villains! Not to give to others.

People may argue that the hope for something better, to keep fighting, can be necessary for oppression, to keep the oppressed from laying down and dying. If the oppression isn’t tremendous, trust me, that’s not a problem. Consider the amount of hope in concentration camps and the variety of reactions from the various prisoners there. There was threat of death by the hand of guards, starvation, disease – the ultimate goal for the prisoners was death. Not so for the people of Panem. Could there be a time and place for hope? Perhaps, but think carefully about it before just spouting out that stupid, overused answer.

If your villain is wanting to allow hope to survive, he better have a good reason to do it – after all, truly and utterly killing hope is actually pretty hard. Even if a person says they have no hope of survival, no hope of escape, no hope of something better – if that person continues to strive to survive anyway, they do still have some sort of hope. Survival instincts are all a part of a hope to live another day. Perhaps that day will bring something good. Hope is so hard to kill, so why would you breed it? More than the basic instincts, hope means thought for what one wants and in your oppressed population, in your protagonist, in your hero, that’s going to be very dangerous for your villain.

So no, “hope” is a terrible answer. The worst possible answer. It’s the answer that actually works against your antagonist. Don’t pick hope – pick something that’s actually sinister.
Something that, say, makes sense?

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About Rii the Wordsmith

An aspiring author, artist, avid consumer of storytelling medium, gamer, psychologist (insomuch as one with her bachelor's is a psychologist), wife, mother, DM, Christian, a friend to many, and, most importantly, an evil overlord.
This entry was posted in Making Villains (Making Villains la-la-la!) and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Why “Hope” Is the Worst Answer Ever

  1. LoopTheLup says:

    I’m reminded of Final Fantasy X, in which
    (spoilers, even though the game is more than a decade old)
    Yunalesca reveals that the whole idea of sending summoners on a pilgrimage to defeat Sin briefly is nothing more than a ruse to instill false hope in the populace – which does, in their case, make it easier for the Church of Yevon to control them.

    Like

    • A church is very different from a(n undisguised) tyrant; the point of a faith is to instil hope. They can’t pretend to be a church and not a tyranny if they don’t at least act like a church. So you’re right, in this case “hope” is a good answer.

      I just hope I never see a tyrant confusing an expression of brutal dominance with an “I let you survive ‘cuz hope” tactic ever again.

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  2. I swallowed Snow’s answer without thinking about it, but you make a great point. Thanks for making me think!

    Like

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