The Hunger Games, and “Being the Change”….part 1 of 3

Ben and I saw The Hunger Games recently. I’d resisted the national obsession with reading the books. Partly because, call me a snob, I didn’t want to read “kids’ books” with my precious, limited reading time. I’m a grownup, and I want grownup challenges from my cerebral functions. Partly because I feel terribly guilty if I read fiction—even on vacation, I invariably read one or more nutrition / health books.

But I was enthralled by the movie. Disturbing premise, but I was moved and fascinated by the two protagonists’ ability to navigate an unthinkably inhumane situation, with humanity and grace and compassion.

I was fascinated by the obvious reflections on our culture—hedonism, haute fashion, reality TV, grand disparities between rich and poor, movement towards government control and away from freedom—I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

So I went home and took the first two books in the trilogy on our trip to Cancun, devoured them. If you’ve not read them or seen the movie, be warned. They are about a reality-TV series where a nation’s Capitol requires its outlying districts to select a boy and a girl by lottery, to go into an arena and fight, with a total of 24 children, to the death.

Right after I finished the first book, I received an email from one of my closest friends from college. Tryn and I were very studious, oldest-child-from-big-Mormon-families English majors. Both of us have continued as writers, and each raised four children—but she has been a homemaker.

The email attached her critique and analysis of The Hunger Games. The story is a dystopia, she says, Panem being of course a desperate, distorted, futuristic North America after much destruction, the capitol reorganized in the Rocky Mountains.

Of course it is. (I confess I’d never heard the word dystopia, but recognize in the Latin prefix that it means the opposite of a Utopia. What else besides a society that’s your worst nightmare, would choose children from a lottery to murder each other in an arena, for everyone’s television entertainment?)

How far are we from Panem’s Capitol’s nauseating excesses are we, really? We certainly have brutal, inhumane reality TV shows.

The cosmetic surgeries, pills, potions, obsession with spa treatments, fashion excesses of the Capitol—think Lady GaGa, and Madonna, Tryn points out.

And food! A society on the decline, Tryn states, is marked by its obsession with gourmet food. Look at our proliferation of restaurants. People eat in them more than they eat at home with their families now.

There is a heavy preoccupation with food in The Hunger Games trilogy—constant feasts for the “tributes” (those who are being prepared for the reality-show competition, to remind the districts that the Capitol will destroy any rebellion).  Even while most of the nation’s districts under the thumb of the totalitarian regime are starving to death.

More this week.