How is The Hunger Games a critique of media?
There is an element of "Wag the Dog" occurring in the portrayal of the Hunger Games themselves as a media event. In other words, actual events are manipulated and exaggerated for maximum drama, and various conflicts are created to provoke reactions among the participants. These methods are very similar to what is seen in so-called "reality television" programming (which the Hunger Games are clearly modeled on, even as the stakes are much higher than the prize money or other perks reality TV participants are usually clamoring for). However, interestingly, in reality TV the events are often manipulated because the participants themselves, being "real people" (as opposed to actors) are not always compelling enough to keep audiences interested. In the case of The Hunger Games, the manipulation is part of a wider political and social backdrop that contextualizes the events. Reality TV performers are often selected for their looks and glamour; whereas in The Hunger Games, the participants are "glammed up" by designers and coaches, in order to make them more appealing to visual media audiences.
As well, the series of books and films become increasingly political with each new film being released, and there is a great deal of speculation as to what sort of commentary the story makes upon contemporary politics, particularly the ways in which right and left wing viewpoints are branded via various news media and the non-stop punditry that takes place in news analysis shows on TV networks with what some viewers would consider clearly-biased political leanings.
The basis of The Hunger Games trilogy lies in the Hunger Games, a “sporting” spectacle that pits (generally) 24 individuals against one another in gory fights to the death. It was mentioned throughout the series that a core reason for the necessary brutality in the Games is because the Games serve as entertainment for the eclectic Capitol crowd. This is a critique on the media, exaggerating the idea that the media will do whatever so long as it pleases the viewers. In the Hunger Games example, the “media” (Gamemakers), are wiling to pull out all the stops to make the Games as heartbreaking, gruesome, and quite frankly evil as necessary in order to keep a demographic happy. Rather than reporting “real stories”, the media in The Hunger Games ignores the difficulties of humanity and only focuses on the frivolous entertainment. This serves as a scathing critique of todays media.
Even though in the Hunger Games series, one only sees things through Katniss' eyes, the reader can see and interpret how the capital and the people who are involved in the actual game shape, mold, and even manipulate the people in the districts and other areas. The biggest way the game makers and the government subtly influence people is by advertising and making a game where kids fight to the death just to keep their families alive seem fun and exciting.
This can be interpreted to today's media and advertising, as companies attempt to manipulate and influence people. People who advertise smoking, fatty fast food or even religious ads try to tell people that the advertisement is good and if they don't follow it then they are bad. I believe that the Hunger Games critiques media in this way.