Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Hunger Games: a book and movie review.

Today in my teenage angst, I am not okay.

I went to the Hunger Games tonight. That about sums it all up. I jest; but only sort of.

I started reading the first book on New Year's Eve. I finished it twenty-six hours later. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and worrying about the characters. My heart hurt at the idea of such an abhorrent measure of injustice. I read the second book within a week of the first after having to wait for it to come in the Library. That too I devoured in less than forty-eight hours. After finishing it, my anxiety over the state of the world of Panem was higher than I had experienced in a while. I had to go online and read the synopsis of the third book.

Right in line with my experience of the books, my anxiety leading up to the movie was high. I had this sense of foreboding dread following me around all day. This sense was instilled by a fight with my sister, several imaginary conversations and the redoing of my hair seven times. By the time I got home from work, I was in a frenzy. My adrenaline was high, I hardly sat to eat dinner. I started connecting everything I did with District 12 and the Capitol. I called Shaina to talk about how anxious I was and greeted her for the second time that day with "Happy Hunger Games." She wasn't the only one. Then, finally, it was time.

We were an hour early. This would have been appropriate a week ago; aka, opening weekend. While our theatre was full, being that early was simply unnecessary. Then it started. I brought with me a full box of kleenex because I assured myself that that too was necessary.
Shaina blessed us all by dressing up a little as Effie.

Here's my deal. These are amazing stories. They are outrageously well written and the characters are well conceptualized and developed. They are perfectly paced; just so they never move too fast, but you also never want to stop reading. And that's a literal statement. But we need to understand something about the world the Suzanne Collins has created for her readers. But first please understand that I'm not sure if this was her original intention. I am however, willing to take it that way.

The world of Panem is a Dystopian one. This stands as the direct antithesis of a Utopian or perfect society. It is the personification of a completely unjust and immoral world. It represents an severe imbalance of wealth, health and freedom. It is wrong. This isn't the way it was meant to be. And we get that.

The Hunger Games, as is explained early in the novel, the retribution for revolt. Because they turned against their leaders, 23 of their young die, every year, forever. We see them accept this so called game as a part of their existence. By the time we get there, it's been going on for nearly three quarters of a century. We see parts of them not only accept it but prepare for it; career for it.

The thing that I think we don't understand or at least readily see in this text, is the warning involved. Dystopian societies, as awful as they seem, readily exist, all over the world. Syria, Egypt, Libya, just to name a few. These books give us a glimpse into life like that. It is awful. It is unjust. It is nauseating and we are not far from it.

The thing that I want us to take away from this is that it's not like Harry Potter. It's not a fantastical world where good and evil exist and battle and it's always clear who is going to win, no matter how increasingly powerful the evil seems to become. It's not clear. It's a life dominated by fear and injustice and peace is not easily created or found. I want us to admit that this is real. I want us to admit that our first world reality isn't the norm and actually do something about that.

In other news, I read this quote regarding Jennifer Lawrence's performance. He states that "so much of what the novel expertly examines is the fraught relationship between viewers and the viewed in a world dominated by screens. But in fact I thought the movie did a really good job of this, largely because Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was to my mind so intricate and complex and nuanced and just good." And it's so true. While Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and every other noteworthy name, carries an exceptional presence, it is Jennifer Lawrence that embodies Katniss' character so completely and made the page come alive on screen; figuratively and literally. 

Tonight in my teenage angst, I'm not okay. I fall asleep with a heavy heart, sad and discouraged because of the reality of this story, though fiction, that cannot be avoided. 


chrissy said...

people think it is strange when i try to explain that i have not read past the first novel, although i loved it. they don't understand that for now the first book is feeding my brain... i can't stop THINKING.

the student said...

"I jest; but only sort of" is the new "JK; but seriously"