Monday, March 12, 2012

I want to start this post off by saying that I have complete respect in the rights of others to make choices in what their conscience will and won't allow them to see, listen to, or do. This comes up because recently I had an experience where someone was expressing an extremely negative (and not completely informed) point of view on something I was interested in seeing, and even though I never got a chance to speak up at all, it really made me feel attacked personally. It did make me think however, about how publicly interested I've been in this movie up till this point and I wondered, what if there's other people who share her views, or at least don't have a full picture of what's going on and are leaning towards the conclusions she's drawn and I've possibly been offending them?

I don't want to open things up for debate over who is right or wrong, because in areas like this it's all a bit grey and open to people's individual feelings of what they're comfortable with. I guess I'm writing this particular entry because I feel like, if given half a chance, or if I'd perceived she'd have an open mind there's a lot I could have explained to her. I was never given that opportunity, so I'm making it for myself now.

So I imagine if any of you have been reading my wall on Facebook or have talked to me in person at all within the past few months, you've heard me talk about The Hunger Games at some point.  If you take a cursory look at what the book is about you've likely gleaned that it's a story that takes place in a dystopic  future where what remains of the United States is now broken into twelve districts. Annually those twelve districts are required to select one boy and one girl, aged 12-18, at random to go to the Capitol and fight each other to the death and the last one standing 'wins.'

Understandably this is a disturbing concept. What makes this story any different, you might ask, than say the gladiatorial games of Ancient Rome?  And if this was all there was to the story and it was a celebration of violence and slaughtering children I would completely agree. But there were a lot of things this sister didn't appreciate about the bigger picture of what was going on, and which I will now explain.

The first important thing to recognize about Panem, which is what the nation is now called, is that many years prior there was a rebellion against the Capitol. This rebellion was crushed and from that point on the Hunger Games were instituted as a way of reinforcing the power the of the Captiol over it's subjects. Oh the President is all smiles as he welcomes all the boys and girls on the day of 'the reaping', as the day the tributes are selected by lottery is called, but everyone really understands this is yet another act of oppression and there's absolutely no honor in what's being forced upon them. I think that the fact it's even called the 'reaping' day tells you everything you need to know about how the Captiol views the common people.

It seems to me that I would have an easier time drawing the parallel to something like the gladiatorial games if this story were more about glorifying the violence. It seems like those games were all about satisfying a blood thirsty crowd who were eager for a good 'show.' And many people of the Capitol are that way. In a way you could also see this as a cautionary tale of the dark places reality television might lead us. (Yes, it could get much much worse than Snooki, horrifying I know, but true.) Which by the way many of the poorer districts don't even have running electricity throughout most of the year, except during the Hunger Games. The Capitol wants to make absolutely sure everyone is able to watch what happens. For these people it's not entertainment, it's persecution. But many people even in the Capitol are starting to become very disenchanted despite their luxurious lifestyles and seeds are very much sewn throughout the story of the first book, indicating that a major shake-up in how things are done could be in store.

Also I appreciated that the books are entirely from the first person perspective of Katniss, a girl from one of the poorest districts, who has to poach in the forest just to provide for her family. As you likely have seen in the trailer, her little sister's name is called at the reaping and she immediately volunteers to take her place. So everything you read is filtered through Katniss' opinions and biases and so that tends to affect how you see things. And in her mind the Hunger Games are completely abhorrent. She goes into them with the mindset of not wanting to have to kill anybody but also needing to survive so that she can get back to her family, who would likely die of starvation without her.

They are called Hunger Games because the Capitol tends to suck the districts dry of what they produce and only give back the barest people need to survive and all too frequently that isn't enough. However the winner of the Hunger Games is compensated with a fancy new house and as many provisions as they could need for the rest of their lives.

So I guess what I'm trying to say in all this, is that I've never gotten the feeling that these stories are a celebration of violence. Yes it does happen, you can't get through hardly any story of conflict on this level without it, but it's not promoted as a positive. And to me personally that matters. Over-all the story is so much more than this one particular Hunger Game. Big picture it's about bringing about a much needed change to people who have been suffering for so many years, and getting them out from under this oppressive regime where people might get whipped nearly to death just for going into the forest to try to find food. More narrow focused view it's the story of a girl whose primary focus in her life is protecting and providing for her widowed mother and little sister.

So if any of this has helped clear things up for those of you who didn't know much about it, then I'm glad. If you have any further questions I'm open to them. But yeah I just really needed to get all of that out, and I hope it was as informative for y'all as it was therapeutic for me. :)