In 2003, allies led by the US and the UK invaded Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction, the invasion was televised… live. We watched it, we watched it in our home, the television in the corner, the kids (then aged eleven and thirteen) on the sofa. We watched for a while as truck after truck, tank after tank rolled down the empty highways of Baghdad, conducting what appeared to be a bloodless liberation. Accompanying them were embedded journalists who described the “action” and in the studios of television channels, anchor men and women connected images and commentary via the wonders of live satellite broadcasts. It was, for the most part, a boring curiosity: soldiers smiling and waving at the cameras, apparently encountering no resistance. It looked like it would be a walkover, a genuinely popular liberation from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, until one jeep, the camera was embedded with, came across a car containing unidentifiable local passengers who, seeing the tank column, attempted to turn round and get away. I think someone got out, I think that someone was armed, the jeep drew closer, weapons were levelled and the excitement amongst the US soldiers grew so we switched over. I have no idea what happened that day to those people or those soldiers: whether there was a peaceful surrender or a bloody shoot out; nor do I know how much of what followed was broadcast. It could be that they switched back to the studio when the executive producer sensed oncoming violence, or maybe they followed through in the name of public interest and ratings. The truth is I did not want to know, more to the point I did not want our children to witness live, the first slaughters of the Iraq war. On that day in 2003, at some point in the viewing of that event, we all grew uncomfortable. It was beginning to look like shooting fish in a barrel, it was beginning to look like watching live warfare for entertainment.
Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, (Dir: Gary Ross, 2012) and writer of the film’s screenplay, had much the same experience. She too was channel surfing on that day and switched from a TV reality game show to live coverage of the invasion “I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way” She told Publishers’ Weekly1. It was that blurring of the lines between serious reportage and entertainment that gave her the idea for The Hunger Games.