Why I Won’t Be Going to See The Hunger Games

Now, I adored the novels, even parts of the ending. I loved Katniss and rooted for her as much as anyone. And I’ll take a craze centered around her over one around Edward Cullen any day. But the part of the novel that enchanted me the most, that made me just fall on the floor in the first book, was its fascinating metaphor for the voyeuristic entertainment experience. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Hunger Games themselves are fully televised. Every moment of them is broadcast across the country, and much like in reality television, fan favorites develop, theories are advanced, and the real people involved become lost in the characters they project.

But the most fascinating part of this is that the things which thrill the grotesque instigators of the games are also the sections that thrill the readers. Everyone who devoured those books like I did (all three in 24 hours—I had a TON of fun) did so for the same reason that the almost cannibalistic, and deeply inhuman masses within the novel did. The twists and turns of the arena, the sudden deaths of non-favorite characters, all designed for the pleasure of the watching public were also designed for the voyeuristic pleasure of the readers.

The main romance of the first novel, between Peeta and Katniss, is deliberately fashioned by Katniss to win the support of the viewing public. “Intimate” moments were televised nationally, and thus, any reader like me who felt at all touched by that relationship was metaphorically part of the audience, the depraved bloodthirsty stooges of the Capitol.

SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH. This is the reason that I was truly upset at the resolution of the central love triangle. The development of the relationship between Peeta and Katniss was constructed by the two of them in order to please the viewing public. Thus, I felt uncomfortable when the book demanded a large emotional investment in them on my part, and when Katniss chose Peeta in the end I was extremely unsettled because this marked the point at which the part Katniss performed, the fake part of her, became the same thing as Katniss herself. Katniss’s decision in that triangle was the point at which the Capitol beat her, because not only her actions were dictated by them, but her self.

Because of this aspect of voyeurism, which I felt was a powerful commentary on modern entertainment and even reading as a rather bloodthirsty voyeuristic experience, I find the idea of making a Hunger Games movie somewhat grotesque. The entire point of the first book is that entertainment focused on the suffering of others, experience emotionally but from a safe distance, is not as harmless as it looks. The experience of watching, the fandom that develops in the capitol, and the decision to turn on the games each day, are the most direct examples the readers get of the inhumanity of the Capitol citizens. So putting that same experience on our television screens, so that we can get voyeuristic pleasure out of it in the same way that they do, except that our version is (this time) fiction, is an ugly example of a meta moment when reality and fiction run headlong into each other. I’m not saying that anyone who goes to see these movies is as bad as the villains, or is a bloodthirsty spectator; what I’m saying is that the entire marketing campaign, the existence of this movie at all, and the anticipation of this movie are all predicated on missing the central voyeuristic theme of the books. The important and fascinating critique is being lost, the metaphor is veering uncomfortably close to the truth, and I don’t want to have anything to do with it.

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4 comments on “Why I Won’t Be Going to See The Hunger Games

  1. Reticula says:

    That’s pretty brilliant. I still haven’t read the books, but you’ve made me want to put them at the top of my list. It will be interesting to read them through your filter of not wanting to see the movie. Thanks for a thoughtful analysis of movie vs book. Best review of the books I’ve read/heard so far.

  2. Ria Megnin says:

    As a survivor of five+ years in corporate news media, I can tell you that:
    – readers clicked on stories of violence, sexual abuse, trauma and death 8x more than “happy” news.
    – those at the controls of news & entertainment and their audiences are collaboratively wired to go for the short-burst adrenaline hits and the superficial, understand-at-a-glance tales, at the cost of deeper truths or truly meaningful connections that require sacrifice or transformation at any level.
    – the real world is far more powerful and engaging, but glowing screens hijack our attention and our lives. I like Daniel Quinn’s declaration that the Antichrist is the television.
    I applaud your ability to notice the irony and make a decision to not support the film version!

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