I asked my husband Curtis to write a guest post for me. I like him, he’s smart (went to an Ivy League school that shall remain nameless but may or may not be in Cambridge, MA and start with an ‘H’) and funny (if you ever get to see his angry chihuahua impression, it will kill you) and just all around great. He reads a whole lot from all sorts of genres, and since I have not read the book and will not see the film, I commissioned his thoughts on the Hunger Games.
Hunger Games fever is sweeping the nation. Teens, adults, and everyone in between are lining up in front of theaters to see the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novel, which may end up being the biggest box-office smash of 2012.
But before we go any further, I need to come clean – I only read the first book of the trilogy and then Cliffs’ Notes versions of the other two. Why? Because I didn’t enjoy reading it. The Hunger Games was brutal and painful to read, and not only because it’s about teenagers murdering each other while a whole nation watches, rapt.
Collins chose to narrate the story from Katniss’ point of view, and when you write a story from the first-person perspective of an emotionally stunted 15-year-old girl, you get brutal, painful writing, devoid of introspection and character development. By the end, I found that the only thing keeping me going was, and this I share with the legions of fans out there, a desperate desire to know what happens next. The narrative does suck you in, even if it isn’t particularly enjoyable.
But now we have a film, something that could potentially make up for a lack of literary interest with visual interest. But I’m not going to see the movie. Why? Sorry, something about watching teenagers kill each other on the big screen with intensely epic music playing in my ears doesn’t get my blood rushing.
Here’s the thing – I get what Suzanne Collins was trying to do in exposing and satirizing the reality TV saturated, war-obsessed culture we are increasingly becoming. I get that she was writing a story about the logical extension of some of the trends she sees around her, like any good satirist does. I get that the brutal style and intense, driving, stripped-bare plot are all in service of that larger goal. I get it.
But the reality is this – many, if not most, of the people that are sooooo excited to see this movie aren’t thinking about the effective satire that calls into question our military ambitions and intrusive obsessions with “reality” stars; they’re drawn by a plot that sucks you in and won’t let you go.
In other words, they’re going for entertainment, not political or cultural messages. And you know what that means? They’re watching children kill each other on the big screen for the fun of it. Which, when you think of it, sounds an awful lot like what the Capitol was doing in the book. How ironic that in the very act of making this story into a movie, Suzanne Collins has undermined the whole point of the books, and moved us one step closer to the dystopia she envisions. The medium is the message indeed. Welcome to the Capitol.