Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hungering for Meaning or Money?

"The Hunger Games" are about to begin -- in a theatre near you.  When the book by Suzanne Collins first came out, my granddaughter said I had to read it.  I did -- read it straight through.  I found it well-written, riveting, and most of all, meaningful.  When the two sequels, "Catching Fire," and "The Mockingjay" came out, I read through them with equal speed and appreciation.

While the Harry Potter series mesmerized millions with detailed, clever characterizations, and the Twilight series drew readers fascinated by vampires, "The Hunger Games," and its two sequels have critical, relevant warnings about our society.   Where do ideas for plots come to writers?  Suzanne Collins found her inspiration for the trilogy by flipping tv channels between reality shows and the news about war in Iraq.    In her skillful pen, reality and fiction combined to shake us into looking deeply at our own society's flaws and dangerous directions.

In fact, Ray Bradbury's brilliant "Fahrenheit 451," first published in 1951, is an eery prequel to the trilogy of "The Hunger Games."  When I recently went with some friends to see some newly built fashionable homes, some of the walls actually had very large screens on which something was constantly being played.  In Ray Bradbury's depiction, the homes in his story have walls that constantly entertain the occupants.  Fiction predicts, and becomes non-fiction.

Montag, the fireman who sets books and homes on fire, would most likely understand today's reality tv and onward to the inescapable media spectacle of the cruelest reality show called the hunger games.  The wise Faber whispers in Montag's ear, "They don't know that this is all one huge big blazing meteor that makes a pretty fire in space, but that some day it'll have to hit.  They see only the blaze, the pretty fire, as you saw it."

Bradbury and Collins' interweave intricate stories around the same general theme, "All isn't well with the world" - the fictional worlds they created, or the world we live in today.  And there are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances who become heroes and heroines in these books - art mirroring life.  But, as the stories so eloquently tell us, media hype often trumps meaning.

I don't plan to see the movies because I usually find the books more satisfying.  I was quite happy reading The Hunger Games trilogy where I could imagine the outrageous costumes, the starving children, the brave Katniss who wouldn't give up no matter what horrors were thrown at her.  All the hype about the movie is not about the meaning, but about the money.  They used to tell us how many people went to particular movies.  Now they tell us how much money is taken in at the box office.

After all that the character Katniss and her friends endure to give meaning to their suffering, what will sadly be remembered after the movies end is how beautiful Katniss was, the great special effects that gave a "you are there" feeling to the games, the mind-boggling plot, and all the money the movies made.  But I shout Hurray for Katniss, and Hurray for authors who care about meaning!

Suellen Zima

1 comment:

  1. I watched the film yesterday and I have to say one of the best films of a novel I have seen. this is of course just my humble opinion.