‘The Hunger Games’ – A Telling Sign of the Times? – Ryan’s Review
I make it quite clear to anyone who will listen that I am not a “reader”. I’ve heard from too many people time and time again that the movie version of whatever book didn’t live up to the expectations they had. A major part of the story was left out, or an actor portraying one of the characters wasn’t how they pictured it, there’s always something. By not reading the hot book of the moment, I can enjoy the movie free of any preconceived expectations, just like I did during a trip to the theater to see The Hunger Games last Saturday.
I would assume by this point in time that you know the premise of the film, but we all know the old saying about what happens when you “assume” something so I’ll give you a brief synopsis.
The fictional country of Panem has been broken up into 12 districts and a centralized capitol city after a failed citizen uprising against the government 74 years ago. The capitol city is home to the country’s wealthiest citizens (the 1% by today’s standards) while the districts are home to the working class (the 99%). Each district serves a purpose to the capitol. For example, District 12, home of main character, Katniss Everdeen, is the coal mining district. There’s also an agricultural district, a textiles district, and a lumber district to name a few. As penance for the uprising, two children are chosen at random from each district once a year during a process called “the reaping”. These children (referred to as “tributes”) are sent to the capitol to participate in the annual “Hunger Games”, where they are forced to fight to the death until only one is left standing. The winner gets to return home while their district receives a reward from the capitol (usually food).
The annual event is treated like the Super Bowl with the week leading up to the games including a tribute parade, interviews on a popular capitol city talk show, as well as highlights and analysis of past games. The event itself is broadcast live on television for the enjoyment of the 1%.
I’ll be honest, I spent part of the movie trying to decide whether or not Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Katniss) was hot (I decided she was pretty…and yes there is a difference which can be discussed at a later time). Once I got that out of the way, I focused on the overall story. While I agree with a majority of fans who see it as a reflection of current times (the 1% getting richer while the 99% do all the work with little to no reward), I also see it in a different way.
I would like to think the idea of a television show in which children between the ages of 12-18 fight to the death not only for the chance to bring their respective hometowns much needed aid, but as entertainment for those who live in the lap of luxury would disgust most people. However, I would argue that based on our addiction to reality TV, we’re not that far away from fiction becoming reality.
For example, take last week’s promo for Survivor. While it promoted the routine tribal council vote along with other you-won’t-believe-what-happens moments, it alluded to the fact that something happens to one contestant that requires medical attention by showing paramedics entering the scene with a stretcher. As I found out from a co-worker who watches the show, one of the contestants gets hit with appendicitis and has to be rushed to a hospital for surgery.
So why didn’t they just say that’s what happened from the start? Because appendicitis isn’t “sexy”. If viewers would have known ahead of time that’s what happened, they may not have watched. But position it in a way to make viewers think someone might die, and you increase the opportunity of people tuning in to see what happens.
Whether you choose to believe it or not, we are all capable of some amount of “blood lust”. It’s why we can’t look away from a car wreck. While we can say that we’re looking to make sure no one is seriously hurt, which I think is true, I think there’s a small part of our subconscious that wants to see “something” and that’s what the networks are trying to tap into when they try to make it seem like the next episode of <insert show title here> will be the one that finally break into that forbidden territory.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to come off like some kind of prude. I like action movies and TV shows, my favorite show, Sons of Anarchy on FX shows someone dying in some fashion (usually violently) nearly every week. But I think it’s different with scripted shows, we know the people are actors, the story is fictional, and as soon as the director yelled “Cut!” everyone had a good laugh and went home at the end of the day safe and sound.
Perhaps I’m overthinking it, or perhaps I’m spot on. Either way, I suggest you check out The Hunger Games and judge for yourself. At the risk of overhyping it, as a person who hasn’t read the book, the ending was enough for me to look forward to the next film. But was it enough for me to read the books? You’ll have to tune in at a later date to find out.