Hunger Games media frenzy distorts true intent of series
Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 13:04
Suzanne Collins’ popular dystopian novel and recent blockbuster “The Hunger Games” has, ironically, suffered from being labeled a phenomenon. Upon its release, the bestselling book series conquered a principally young readership of middle- and high-schoolers in addition to college students and older adults. But the profitability of the series doesn’t smart from its rabid popularity among its young readership. The book addresses difficult issues such as the nature of popular violence and the disconnectedness of entertainment. Unfortunately for the book’s actually relevant and compelling content, the Internet craze and huge viewership of the recent film adaptation has transformed the series’ commentary on the gritty future of our generation’s realities into something approximating a Twilight-like fad.
The Internet is a domain where books and movies can become movements, and the general youth of Internet-users characterize these popular waves as youth movements. Collins’ books are not necessarily belittled by their characterization as a young adult book—consider Harry Potter. But the forum in which it gained its popularity apparently places “The Hunger Games” on the same level as Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, so much so that outsiders not having read the books would be likely to assume that the books and movies lie in a similar echelon of quality.
Cheapening “The Hunger Games” down to the level of a paranormal teen romance love triangle is unjustified to say the least. The books describe a bloody futuristic gladiator competition among children, televised to entertain political powers and intimidate the subjugated Districts. These poignant plot points are far loftier and far more haunting than the infamously poor writing of Meyer’s supernatural romantic drama. The level of writing in “The Hunger Games” cannot legitimately be compared to the repetitive, grammatically-challenged and frankly sub-par writing of the Twilight series.
Dystopian novels have a distinguished history that includes classics like “Brave New World,” “1984” and “Atlas Shrugged.” And while “The Hunger Games” novels are not precisely works of literary greatness, they are certainly works of merit. Collins was inspired to write the books while flipping back and forth between reality TV programs and a documentary on ancient Roman gladiators. The books, according to Collins, were intended as a statement on the relationship of violence and the viewer. She used the prevalence of reality programs and increasing war violence to explore the boundaries of entertainment and of the mindlessness of society when reality appears too distant.
The film rendition of “The Hunger Games” has been popularized in the same frantic online race that made Twilight’s movies a fad. The environment created by the Twilight craze seems to have established an unspoken assumption that teen crazes must be as without merit as Meyer’s work. The same media channels opened up the floodgates for both phenomena. The opening weekend saw an ensuing online flood of “Team Peeta” Facebook ads and other Twilight-esque flares. “Twilight” benefited immensely since its enormous viewership belongs to a dedicated, Internet-based fandom. “The Hunger Games,” unfortunately, has found itself overlapping with Twilight’s fans.
The rampant popularization of the book through noisy, Twilight-like fan posts does not actually affect the worth of the books themselves. “The Hunger Games” retains its message and merit as an earnest and entertaining dystopian warning. What potential audiences can take away from the transformation of Collins’ story into a phenomenon is, quite simply, not to judge a book by its Internet-rage cover. Rather, readers should pick up the book and judge its worth for themselves.