Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Hunger Games, Yes and No

To many in the Western world, The Hunger Games will be a massive hit and its going to be a trilogy as the author has 3 books out on the subject. As usual, given the horrendous dysfunctional utopian theme, moral issues abound with the books and the movie. For pure entertainment, its very good 9/10. Those who cannot take gore, brutality, senseless killings (who does), ... will find it a turn off. For ethical reasons: its disturbing to say the least.
The Hunger Games - the-hunger-games wallpaper

To me, movies tell stories and make us think, and entertain at the same time. The Hunger Games accomplishes all. The fact is this kind of scenario where the powers to be keep pulling strings to "manufacture" empathy, restore political balance, gain power over the people ... are all evident in various facets of life. You take that scenario and mesh it with the reality TV craze over the past 10 years, you get The Hunger Games. Reality TV intrudes private space, people generally like to watch "others suffer and/or pull through hardships". Reality TV dumbs us all down to the lowest common denominator. I think some were really well planned, such as Survivor and even The Amazing Race, but much of the rest tries too hard and voyeuristic viewing is too cruel and deplorable. Producers "jiggle" with participants emotions, manufacture situations to create conflicts, sensationalise situations all for the viewing public.

What is The Hunger Games? Its a potent mix of The Truman Show, Reality TV, Rambo and copied extensively from the great Japanese movie Battle Royale. Its Big Brother Orwellian gone bad. We needed to go there to know what could happen if we let certain values get out of hand. Too much credit is given to the author, not enough for the blatant plagiarism of Battle Royale.

In Battle Royale, massive unemployment has caused enormous anger stemming from the younger generation. The government passed a Bill to "control" that and to make sure their youth do not get "weak" Every year one junior high class will be selected at random to participate in Battle Royale in a secluded island with only one person allowed to come out alive. They have to kill because all of them have a special necklace cuff which can be activated to blow up if they do not do so. The event is broadcasted like Reality TV.

The Hunger Games, saw many states warring over a long time. After the war, they were classified into Districts 1-12 depending on the line of work/industry they do. Every year one male and one female teenager will be selected to participate in the games, One lone victor emerges, the participants are called Tributes ( to commemorate the war struggle and maintain peace ... go figure).

Its a nasty side of human nature as putting a group in a boxed environment with specific rules, will cause most to work towards that objective. Survival of the fittest, the will to live will almost always win out the morality and ethical aspects. The Hunger Games is good entertainment, bring your teen kids along, not your under 12s though, and make sure you discuss through the issues in the movie. Too many parents are too protective nowadays. If you live in clean streets all the time, you do not understand how people live in poverty. If The Hunger Games is a 9/10, Battle Royale is 11/10.

Sydney Morning herald op piece: The arrival of The Hunger Games on the big screen has sent thrills around the world. Already a publishing blockbuster, Suzanne Collins's sensational trilogy is cleaning up at the box office as well. The first instalment is an enthralling film that keeps audiences spellbound throughout. Or so I hear, for I won't be going. I read all three books in my professional capacity as a reviewer and experienced first-hand their hypnotic quality. But while they may provide gripping entertainment, they carry some worrying ethical messages.

Collins conceived the idea while channel surfing between reality TV shows and news coverage of a war zone. Many are convinced that the trilogy presents a violent, unjust and horrifically dystopian future world as a poignant critique of reality television, totalitarian government and screen violence as entertainment.

But could Collins's skill in turning this critique into pulse-racing entertainment ultimately leave her young audience less sensitive to violence? More importantly, by constantly putting her good protagonists into worst-case scenarios where they must make decisions that under normal circumstances would be wrong, is she gently pressuring her young audience into stretching moral boundaries? I believe so. Here are five reasons why.

Firstly, Collins distorts the meaning of heroic rebellion. The lead character, Katniss Everdeen, clearly has more courage than most people on the planet. In addition, she seems to have no choice but to go along with the Games and try to survive. If she refuses, not only will she die, but her family and friends will also suffer.

But is it real rebellion to allow herself to be trained up for a killer-survivor episode? Could one say no? Other heroes have shown it is possible. Passive resistance was the ''weapon'' of choice for Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and anti-Nazi activists Sophie Scholl and her brother. And may we mention Christian martyrs? In all these cases, even where their protests led to sudden death, their story didn't end. Katniss is courageous, but her ''rebellion'' is a compromise.
"Author Suzanne Collins distorts the meaning of heroic rebellion".
"Author Suzanne Collins distorts the meaning of heroic rebellion". Photo: Getty Images
Secondly, survival justifies killing in this story. By participating in the Games, even the heroes allow themselves to be infected with its kill-or-be-killed ethos. Katniss reluctantly begins by dropping an insect nest on someone's head so they swell up and die ''naturally'', then destroys others' food so they will starve. Later, she has no problem shooting a citizen who blocks her path.

Thirdly, characters are desensitised to sexual exploitation. The reality television framework makes body appearance important: each contestant has a stylist who must first assess them without clothes (Katniss ''bravely'' resists the urge to cover herself), and then a full body wax makes them camera-ready. This is probably normal for reality TV, but don't tell me it's brave.

A fake relationship between Katniss and the male lead, Peeta, is also played up to win sponsorship. So physical affection is given for food, or later because she's ''so desperately lonely [she] can't stand it''. This selfish mockery is all the love that is shown in The Hunger Games.

Fourthly, feelings replace right and wrong. For Katniss, the pattern is repeated over and over: a catastrophic situation is followed by her passionate but often unethical reaction, then a soul-searching analysis of her feelings to deal with her guilt, followed by defiant justification that she had no choice, or that she was confused, which is the fault of those who created the catastrophe. Thus she becomes the victim-hero: they made her do it.

Finally, there is the seductive sensationalism of the storytelling. It is like watching a graphic news story that turns horrific events into entertainment. The screaming, the blood, the broken bodies - and when all this is no longer enough, the slow and graphic death of some poor, innocent character we've come to like. How can this series be a critique of using injury and death for entertainment when it does the same itself?

My argument is not against violence, moral ambivalence or outright wrongdoing in teen literature, but against justifying them and casting them in a heroic light.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/why-ive-lost-my-hunger-for-violent-unethical-games-20120402-1w8pl.html#ixzz1r2KtMTwz