Don't get me wrong -- I have little sympathy for the 1%. But when it comes to revolution, there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. The wrong way being, to chop off the head of anyone who can afford to eat three meals a day. Although Suzanne Collins's best-selling trilogy The Hunger Games eventually shows what's wrong with class warfare, she certainly takes a long time to get there. And along the way, well... she's pretty brutal in her portrayal of city folk, who are the 1% in the world of Panem.
In The Hunger Games, the wealthy people who live in "The Capitol" are set in stark contrast to the noble plebeians from the rural districts. The Capitol residents are shown at every turn to be affected, privileged and effete. Their accents are ridiculous -- a common subject of ridicule by the hardy rural folk. The "ends of their sentences go up" like they're constantly asking a question, and they pronounce the letter 's' with an unnatural hiss.
What's more, the city residents in The Hunger Games are described as being so unlike people that they might as well be "a species of rare bird." Their mouths barely open when they speak. They're described as oddly dressed and as having "bizarre hair and painted faces." They have "blown up lips" and are surgically altered to make them look younger and thinner. The trilogy's protagonist, Katniss, a simple girl from a coal-mining town, is shocked they don't understand "how freakish they appear" to the "rest of us."
Even worse than being a bunch of pretentious boobs, though, is the portrayal of the city people as gluttonous perverts. None of them have ever missed a meal, unlike the lionhearted peasants who are forced to spend hours every day "combing the woods for sustenance." While the valiant plebs struggle to feed their children, the Capitol citizens sit on their couches, cheering on the shocking cruelty and violence of the televised gladiator event. They loudly demand more bloodshed when they become bored. Among the adjectives Collins uses to describe the Capitol residents are: "hideous," "grotesque," "rotten," "disgusting," and "despicable."
Is it just me, or does this feel a little sanctimonious? And besides that, just unnecessary? Couldn't Collins have simply made the government the bad guys, and left the city people themselves alone? Why does anyone who doesn't forage for his dinner every night have to be a hateful, sadistic human being?
Obviously for a young-adult audience, a certain amount of generalizing is necessary. And I enjoyed all three books of The Hunger Games, and the movie, too. I have tremendous respect for Collins's attempt to teach young people about the horrors of war. But still, it's obvious that a less-simplistic portrayal of good vs. evil and rich vs. poor would have made for a more interesting, compelling story.
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