Note: I have not read the books, but my wife has and has talked with me about her thoughts on them. We both caught the midnight showing of HUNGER GAMES tonight.
I have no interest in spoiling you, so instead of reviewing the plot, I’ll just give a few numbered thoughts.
- A Nice Surprise – I expected THE HUNGER GAMES to be more akin to TWILIGHT than real science fiction. Though my wife had explained to me the concepts of the book, which had challenged her to think about a spectator, blood thirsty culture not just in the abstract, but as a reader who was reading and rooting for a character in the book itself, but I didn’t trust the Hollywood machine to crunch out anything with that kind of substance. I was wrong, and Director Gary Ross deserves serious props for herding something with some legitimate depth through the four-quadrant obsessed gates, especially with a property generally aimed at young adults. HUNGER GAMES isn’t Asimov, but it is very good speculative fiction with something very serious to say about a subject that has troubled me for a while.
- A YouTube Culture – We are a culture steadily giving itself over to distant observation. We’re a YouTube people, where bullies post videos of their bullying online (an act itself which is bullying), or backyard fighting, or pornography. We are glad to watch disturbing emotional breakdowns of people and make fun of them because, hey, they posted it. We can hide safely behind the anonymity of calling ourself something else and be savage to one another, and enjoy the brutality, whether physical or emotional, of others. And we love violence. I’m not talking about UFC here, or other physical sports that require rules or skill, that are governed and which are flanked by available medical attention, I’m talking about thuggish violence in our streets and on our computers.
- We Are Killing Childhood – There is a trend of television shows right now where moms trot their barely mobile children out for pageants, where they dress them up like adults and train them to sell themselves. I refuse to watch them, it is banned in my home. It infuriates me. Children are not little adults. As Ken Robinson said in one of his TED talks, “A three-year-old is not half a six-year-old.” Indeed, a three-year-old is not 1/7 of a twenty-one-year-old. They shouldn’t be asked to look like, move like or be anything like something they have never experienced or comprehended. They lack the emotional and psychological development to be anything other than kids, and its a shame on our society that we do things like this. But it doesn’t end with toddlers and their tiaras. Young men and women are bombarded with media, clothing and cultural trends that treat them as if they have the maturity of the adults around them. They do not. And they make terrible, sometimes tragic decisions because of it. Recent studies have indicated that the brain doesn’t really finish maturing until the age of 25. 25! Even college is deeply formative, firming up responsibility and character as 20-somethings finish and emerge into the real world. Our kids deserve better than to be treated as anything other than what they are.
- This is the heart of THE HUNGER GAMES, to me. It is a look at what we could easily become with our violence and our distance, and our disregard for the healthy development of our kids.