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The Hunger Games: A commentary on our reality TV habit?

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I finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins the other day. I began the book by listening to it on audio cd on a road trip last weekend and finished it up via the book I bought at the Borders clearance sale. The audio version is really good and pretty nice to listen to. My only complaint is the way the reader says the name Haymitch. It sounds more like “Haymish.”

Looking at the reviews on Amazon, I know there are a lot of complaints that this book borrows a bit too much from the Japanese Battle Royale. That series also has teens fighting to the death in a dystopian society. Beyond that I can’t really comment because I haven’t seen it (although I will). I wouldn’t say Collins plagiarized. Doesn’t a lot of Sci Fi and Fantasy borrow from each other? The plot of the Hunger Games doesn’t have identical characters to Battle Royale as far as anyone has said, just a similar plot. Fighting to the death, fighting for survival, controlling overlords who pull our strings in a post-apocalyptic world are not new themes in this type of literature. So therefore we have to look at The Hunger Games on its own.

I liked Katniss as a character. But then again I’m a sucker for a strong female character. And a strong female character that teens can look up to? Fantastic! She isn’t likable 100% of the time, but no character is. She isn’t even liked by all the characters in the book. Haymitch is meant to be on her side (and he is in his own way), but the two of them are like two strange cats shoved into a closed room. The problem with Katniss is her manipulation of Peeta. You either hate her for it because you can’t understand how she could be so oblivious to his real feelings or you admire how she has such determination and intelligence to play to the audience. I have the feeling this problem, this manipulation, will play out into the next book. Will Katniss come to really love Peeta? Will she have played at loving him that she fools herself into actually doing it? Or was it all just for show after all?

At the heart of the matter is the fact that all of The Hunger Games was played out in front of an audience. I feel like Suzanne Collins was making a statement on how we, as a modern day audience reading her book, also watch lives unfolding in front of us on TV day in and day out. And that has a real effect on the people who are being filmed. Case in point? Russel Armstrong, the estranged husband of one of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” wives committed suicide recently. Keeping up with the extravagant lifestyle of a Beverly Hills family got to him. When he went into debt it was too much and he felt that the show was going to portray him in a negative light. We gobble up these “reality” shows. J”ersey Shore”, “16 and Pregnant”, “Real Housewives”, etc. It’s our new entertainment. I really kind of wish Collins had expanded on the conversations people were having after the survivors came out of the arena. She touched on something there. Katniss went through an ordeal. But to everyone else all they could remember was where they were and what they were doing when they saw her brush death, or lose a friend. Kind of like us now. I wish this fueled Katniss to anger.

Maybe it will. I haven’t read the second book (no spoilers, please!). I hope she gets ripping pissed at The Capitol. I would be!

The Hunger Games will be a movie pretty soon. Entertainment Weekly posted some pictures not that long ago.

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