Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Hunger Games, Kardashians and Jesus

One of my favorite criteria for judging a movie is how long I think and talk about it afterwards.

If I were judging by that standard alone, "The Hunger Games" would easily be on my top 10 list.

I think any time you tell a story like that you're tapping into baseline human fear and instinct. We all possess the secret knowledge that we may one day be asked, or forced, to shirk this thinly veiled charade we call "civilization" and take up arms so that we may enter into the fray to kill or be killed. So something like "The Hunger Games" is good because it lets us simulate our collective private nightmare.

And let's us take a few notes. Get to high ground. Get people to like you. DON'T go into the mouth of the cornucopia.

There are now simply too many books, movies and stories about civilization giving way to the stomping hoards or irrationality and the worst aspects of human nature taking the reins of the world to keep quiet about the following--we don't trust ourselves. Each of us know that civilization, to a large extent, is just play acting. We've smeared respectability and laws over the surface of the human animal--and we're all paranoid that it will be wiped away sooner rather than later.

"The Hunger Games" joins a long tradition of stories manifesting scripted and regimented barbarity to hold society together. A few examples would be "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" (Ursula Leguin), "The Lottery" (Shirley Jackson), and in the same vein but less violent, "The Giver" (Lois Lowry). I'm not sure why it's a recurrent story--maybe it's God's fault. Whether you believe any or all of what supposedely happened to Jesus, his story is forever entwined with the Western World (maybe the Eastern too, I don't know, never lived in the Eastern World). The One Who Suffered For the Many. That's what you have in all these stories above.

But "The Hunger Games" offers an interesting twist on this genre. I haven't made up my mind yet, and I'm very eager to hear how the story will continue, but one of the things that occurred to me was that in our main character, Katniss Everdeen, we have a Reverse Jesus. Jesus suffered and died so that we might all live; Katniss warred, maimed and murdered . . . so that we might all live. Though, of course, she was properly reluctant and sufficiently honorable in her participation in the horror show. This is not an insult, nor is it a final conclusion, just something that occurred to me.

One other thing I'm left wondering about "The Hunger Games": To what extent, if at all, is it an allegory for television? "What if no one watched?" "you have to get sponsors, you have to get people to like you." I also believe it is impossible to watch this movie and NOT think of "Survivor." The reality television show that is The Hunger Games keeps the masses happy. It's horrific and heart breaking and barbaric . . . and we can't stop watching it. Sound familiar?

Well, I guess it's a fair question: What would happen if we woke up and found ourselves stripped of our Kardashians, our Super Bowl, The Real World, Pawn Stars, In Treatment, Hoarders, Real Housewives et al?

The blood would run red in the streets.

(I found myself exhausted by typing out all of those reality shows, so please behold the extent of the ruination of the human soul that Wikipedia has documented for us: List of Reality Television Shows.)

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