Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is life and death a game?


On a long drive yesterday I listened to a lot of NPR, including an interview with Gary Ross, the director of The Hunger Games, a movie opening on March 23 with a lot of hoopla. Since I didn’t know about it – it’s geared to teenagers and adapted from a young adult novel series by Suzanne Collins in which she explores the effects of war and violence on those coming of age – I decided to Google the book when I got home. I wasn’t pleased with what I found.


The Hunger Games is about youngsters as young as twelve and as old as eighteen fighting each other – I understand there has been a rebirth of bows and arrows as a result – until the last one is standing. Also the people who live in the surrounding area are commanded to watch this war on television.

That the game of life and death is so revered in this story appalls me. Must be my age.

Still with all the very young men and women killed in real wars, the gang-related youth killings, and suicides by children as young as nine because of bullying these days, I’d think we could make movies for them with better messages – that life and death is not a game. It is for real. We only have one chance at it. We cannot click a button and make all this gratuitous violence go away. And I wonder if the children as young as twelve who read Collins’ books and who are clamoring to see the movie know the difference.


Collins claims that the deaths of the young characters in her books were the hardest parts to write. Why am I not surprised?

6 comments:

The Drifting Bookworm said...

She has made such a great point in her books, though. We are so desensitized to violence through video games and movies and the internet, that we hardly bat an eye when we see something that should be considered appalling. There is a huge difference between how my grandmother reacts to things and how I react and I don't think that it's a good thing.

You are writing a novel set in Poland!? How funny is that? I am very excited for it. I love your writing style :)

Madeline Sharples said...

Thanks for clarifying her point to me. I had lunch with a friend today who loves the books, but still worries about the message to her children.

I'm probably reacting like your grandmother. I don't play video games, but I am very much in tune with the internet and other tech toys.

Yes, my novel starts in Poland but then moves to the United States. I can't wait for you to read and review it. I loved your review of Leaving the Hall Light On. xoxo

Greg said...

I found the Hunger Games books to be the opposite of exploitative; there is a powerful meta-narrative in which the audience is recognized as part of the problem. It shows that evil acts are sometimes sustained by people who are do not look evil in the usual cartoon sense, but instead by their indifference facilitate the commission of evil. A pretty gutsy position for a novelist to take with respect to her readers.

Greg said...

I felt that the Hunger Games books were the opposite of exploitative. Collins shows how evil acts are not only committed by cartoon villains, but also that an audience focused on spectacle and entertainment can be participants in the crime. And that's a fairly radical position for an author to take in presenting what ostensibly is an adventure story. Katniss is as damaged by the violence that she commits as she is by that which he is subject to.

Madeline Sharples said...

Thanks, Greg. I appreciate your commenting and point of view. I understand there are all sorts of interpretations about what these books are about. My main concern is the younger readers and what they will get out of them.

Madeline Sharples said...

The Hunger Games follows a long history of barbarous treatment of children in our literature.
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-et-hunger-games-heritage-20120326,0,1569396.story