The latest installment of the epic "Hunger Games" series hit theaters this Friday, and it promises to be the year's biggest blockbuster yet.
You can chalk up a lot of these films' popularity to the star power of leading actress Jennifer Lawrence. Certainly, the great action scenes and special effects do not hurt, either. But the real reason "Hunger Games" has captured public imagination is that its fictional world of Panem is, in so many ways, an extreme version of our own America.
For those who have not seen the movies or read the books, the "Hunger Games" tells the story of a young woman -- Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen -- and her defiance of her society's wealthy, exploitative ruling elite. These elite, the dastardly "Capitol," reinforce their power by making the children of oppressed regions battle to the death in what are called "Hunger Games."
It is a far-fetched fairy tale. But if you get caught up in the details of the story, you might miss themes -- crushing inequality, unaccountable governance, violence against children -- that resonate with the daily lives of millions of Americans.
These books and films are not popular because we want to escape to Katniss Everdeen's world. They are a phenomenon because we suspect her world is our own. Click here to read more.