A few weeks ago we got a babysitter and went out to see The Hunger Games. We so rarely go to the movies, I hadn’t read the books and I am disinclined to believe that mass popularity should in any way recommend things so I was a bit resistant and, once it was determined we were going, sulky.
It turned out that I enjoyed the movie and got pulled right in. Much of the time that the heroine, Katniss Everdeen was in “the game” my legs were literally shaking with adrenaline.
So, since I enjoyed the movie, I went ahead and used the kindle app on my phone for the first time ever to download the books. I enjoyed the books even more. I don’t need to give a rundown of the premise (one need only read one of the gazillions of reviews already out there to do that).
Although the book is not high literature, there is some pretty heavy and well-conceived (if not subtle) symbolism in The Hunger Games Trilogy, some powerful condemnations of contemporary society disguised as some future humanity that is literally on the edge of extinction. In general, the trilogy follows a few years in the life of teenaged Katniss Everdeen who competes in the Hunger Games and is drawn into a world of politicking, repression and revolution. One of the things I particularly enjoy about the books (particularly in books 1 and 2) is that the story is narrated in the first person by Katniss herself. The movie does a completely inadequate job of conveying the extent to which Katniss and the other contestants are very aware that their life or death struggle is taking place in front of the cameras – that there is an additional disturbing layer of reality to their unfortunate circumstances. It is the reality of reality TV and news commentary. Young people battling for their lives are also performers and representatives of their starving and oppressed home communities. Their performance will make the difference between life and death for themselves and the people they love. It is a televised reality in which the young people’s own vitality, history and being become indistinguishable (even for themselves) from the media spin, expert commentary, and popularity with the audience (who can purchase their favorite “players” advantages in the arena). It is a world in which youthful energy and creativity become tools in the hands of those who seek to maintain their power over the people. Even for those who manage to survive, there is no emerging whole and unscathed from the trials they must face.
In other words, the books really are a powerful condemnation of all things adult and a cautionary tale about the world young people are growing up in. I particularly liked this quote:
“… something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences. You can spin it any way you like… But in the end, who does it benefit? No one. The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen.”
So, yeah, The Hunger Games Trilogy. Not to be missed. The movie is no substitute.