Hunger Games as Social Commentary

In my last blog, I discussed the things I don’t like about the Hunger Games. What I do like about the Hunger Games is the sort-of social commentary on society’s obsession with media, fame and image.

In the Hunger Games, children ages 12 to 18 are forced to compete to the death in a huge outdoor arena. The whole event is televised, and the lead-up to the event is highly publicized, with contestants getting into costume, being interviewed and parading around for audiences. In addition to its political aims (to keep the 12 districts outside the Capital in their place), the entire Hunger Games event is one big reality-TV extravaganza.

Apparently, Suzanne Collins was inspired to write the books after channel surfing and seeing reality TV on one channel and war coverage (the Iraq invasion) on another, and “the two began to blur in this very unsettling way.”

The result of her ruminations is equally disturbing, but she does leave a reader with some interesting insight, if you’re looking for the reality behind the art. The books shine a light on our obsession with entertainment, particularly reality television.

The books also point out the phoniness of celebrity and fame. In the Hunger Games, the contestants are adored by audiences during the lead-up to the event, but then the audiences are just as happy to see the contestants killed in the arena. In a less violent way, we do this to celebrities all the time – build them up and tear them down.

 

Hunger Games too Violent

I’ll admit – I read the entire Hunger Games series in a matter of a few weeks, and I thoroughly enjoyed the books from a pure entertainment standpoint. They’re well-written and fast-paced with great characters.

At the end of the last book in the series, however, I was left with a sickening feeling – someone deliberately put this out into the world for kids? The violence, gore and horrifying scenarios in the book disturbed me – and I’m a full-grown adult. I can’t imagine what they do for teens, pre-teens and – heaven forbid – even younger children. A violent, gory video game in book form (and now in movie form) – that’s what the Hunger Games series is.

As an author myself, I feel some responsibility (well, actually, I feel a lot of responsibility) for what I “birth” and put out into the world. Do other authors not feel the same way? Especially when they’re targeting young people?

If you’re not convinced of the gratuitous horror and violence and deeply disturbing scenes in this series, just read the last book and note what happens to the main character’s sister and other children. Yikes. I’m still bothered by what I read.

 

Remember when you were a kid…

I went for a walk along the reservoir in Calgary the other day, and I passed a young girl and her father. Dad was sitting on a bench, and his daughter (probably age three) was crouched in the dirt next to him, playing in the mud. About 30 minutes later, I passed them again. The girl was still playing in the mud, and was noticeably dirtier. Her Dad was still on the bench, watching her with a look that said, “When will you get tired of this and we can go home?”

I remember playing in the mud as a young kid. I used to spend hours in the backyard, collecting worms and snails. Funny, I can’t stand getting dirt under my nails now. I don’t even particularly like gardening….

It is amazing the things we find fascinating as children. Seeing my own young son and how enthralled he is with the simplest things – a nail clipper, a scrap piece of paper, a Tupperware container – makes me look at things with fresh eyes. Sometimes. For a fleeting moment.