The Hunger Games is already breaking box office records. It's the new heir to the young adult fiction throne. Katniss has completely kicked Bella's ass in the teen heroine department. To use an old Sheenism, Suzanne Collins probably has her feet up on a solid gold ottoman and is yelling "WINNNNNINGGG".
Or maybe not.
What Suzanne Collins has done with The Hunger Games is something subtle, remarkable, and hopefully, intentional. She has created and executed one of the most exquisitely crafted, mass entertainment social commentaries in recent years. She has shattered the invisible force field and broken out of the arena. The question is, who is going to follow her?
Those of you who have not read the book are probably wondering what the hell I am talking about. Those of you who have read it might be wondering the same thing.
Either way, let's quickly recap what happened.
First Collins wrote us a world that in many not so distant ways echoes our own. But she changed all the names, gave us an unusually kick ass female heroine, and put the book in the young adult section to throw us off the trail.
But regardless of what you call the places or the people, the themes were the same.
- Class inequity
- Food shortages
- Insufficient education + training
- Population control through imports/exports
- Threat of nuclear war
- People from other districts, or maybe we should call them ethnic groups, fighting to survive
Then she wrapped these themes up in a story about a shining Capitol filled with silly people who only concern themselves with frivolous things. They never have to worry about their children starving or having to make unthinkable decisions in order to survive. These Capitol people even turn the sufferings of others into entertainment.
Finally, with the perfect environment created, Collins stepped back because she knew that we would automatically do the rest. Take this story about suffering for entertainment and turn it into into further entertainment. A movie and a franchise that will earn millions of dollars while people around the world play hunger games every day to survive.
The question is would we notice? Like some of her characters would we just keep playing the game as if the rules were unchangeable or like Peeta would we see things for what they were and rebel. How far would we go to emulate Katniss and the other heroes of the books? How much of the meaning would we acknowledge?
Let's hope that this will become something more than people flocking to learn archery and visit North Carolina. That people will realize that to emulate Katniss it isn't enough to be as strong or as smart as the boys. That to really be like her, you have to fight for people who don't have what you have and refuse to play into an unjust and broken system.
The majority of the people who can afford to read the book and see the movie will probably never experience chronic hunger or the life and death choices that Katniss is forced to make. However, what we don't experience we can at least understand. This is no fantasy story, this is real. Every day people around the world are forced make the choices that Katniss makes. Many of them are her age and younger, making it all the more tragic. Children and young teenagers must fight like Katniss fights and die like her friends die.
We can't change all these people's circumstances, at least not immediately. However, we can effect some of them and what we can't effect we can witness. Their choices and their lives can remind us that there are greater tragedies than being left off birthday invitation lists and not getting to go to prom with the boy that you like. We can continuously remember that The Hunger Games are real and we all play them every day, some as citizens and some as district members. We can believe that change is possible if we are willing to risk the status quo.
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