Friday, April 06, 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is based on the first in a series of young adult books by Suzanne Collins.  I have not read this series and must admit that I was a bit turned off by a storyline that features teenagers slaughtering one another.  My grandson has read the books, however, so I accepted the invitation to see the movie with him and his mother.

The young actors (and the older ones as well) portray interesting characters and many deal with moral dilemmas that I have never encountered.  As you probably know, the story is set in the future after some social upheaval has changed the political landscape of North America.  The key characters are Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who represent their district in a nationally televised contest pitting 24 young people between the ages of 12 and 18 in a fight to the death where there can be only one victor.  Although most of these “tributes” are chosen by lottery, Katniss has voluntarily taken the place of her younger sister.

The journey from Katniss’ home in Appalachia (much of the movie was filmed in North Carolina) to the Capitol (somewhere in the Rockies) provides an engaging and ironic look at the great divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” in this future world.  Though set in the future, the disparity between these two segments of society reflects some of the growing divisions within our own society.  Once the televised death match began, I became very uncomfortable.  As the writer certainly intended, I realized that this “program” was just a short step from the “reality TV” that has taken over much of today’s televised programming.  I am not a fan of “Survivor”, “America Idol”, or “Dancing with the Stars” but I have seen enough of the genre to know that television programmers realize that it is hard not to slow down and see the results of an accident—personal or physical. 

My sources tell me, however, that the original book suggests that both Katniss and Peeta are pretty media savvy, although this is a bit hard to pick up in the film.  Both quickly learn that everything they do— including both killing and kissing — is being televised and their actions can be used to manipulate the program’s producers and the public.  The clear implication is that some of those growing up in our current media age have become pretty savvy about using media for their own ends.  They can either use or abuse social media, so they may need some guidance in how to handle these powerful tools

There are themes of social injustice, sacrifice, and loss of privacy here, but I would imagine that they are more fully developed on the written page.  To get the most out of this film, I suggest reading the book first.  I wish that I had.

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