14 May 2012

The Hunger Games

I don’t know whether it is a result of the persistence of my cough or my recent screening of The Hunger Games, but I am certainly in a horrid frame of mind. Though the day is warm and sun-filled, I feel in cold shadow; the cawing of the crows and the chirping of the crickets grates on my sensibilities.
As for the cough: I had bragged to Gary that I had survived the winter without a cold and the very next day the gods punished my hubris with a cold. These days (referring to my age-ing) the cold sends me to bed for several days and then seems to disappear, but surreptitiously it descends into my chest, lodges deep in my lungs and produces a hacking dry cough that lingers for weeks. I tolerate it for only so long and then move to antibiotics, but really these serve only as placebos because the cough must simply run its course, as the common wisdom suggests.
As for the film: The Hunger Games angered me. I have not read the books and so I didn’t know completely what to expect, though I have been more than privy to the hype that has preceded the film’s opening. And my children read and loved at least the first volume of the trilogy.  So did Katha Pollitt. Stuart Klawans liked the movie. I respect the opinions of both these scholars.  I left the movie incensed.
For me this movie portrayed a world that hates children. What is to be gained by this spectacle? But perhaps the book and the film could only have been created in a world that hates children, and the film’s spectacle permits the viewer to enact our hatred without guilt. No matter who wins the hunger games, the children lose. I have spent most of my adult life in a world that hates children: at present we are fighting two wars in which the children die, and before that there was the first Gulf War and before that there was Vietnam and before that there was the Korean War . . . the list is unending and hardly specific to the United States. Having spent my adult life in the schools I do not need to be reminded how vulnerable the children are and how little adults actually do care for their welfare. Every cut in social programs and education murders another child while the adults prance conspiratorially about in the control room directing the action to increase the danger to the children. In The Hunger Games the adults may be portrayed as buffoons, but it is the children who die. As in the fictional world of the film, in our very real world the adults organize the slaughter from the comfort of their secure offices, manipulate the action to maximize the show, and express little remorse at the consequences of their actions. Unlike Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwell’s 1984, The Hunger Games does not portray an inevitable dystopic end of our present policies, but depicts a realistic portrayal of the current practice of those policies. This is a film in which we watch children kill each other and at which we actually cheer on the slaughter and favor one set of hunters over another. We in the audience are the adults organizing the hunger games to satisfy our lust for blood.
Twenty-two children die in this filmkill each other, actually, for the pleasure of the adults. Twenty-four children are forced to hunt and kill each other to make amends for the adults who had once rebelled against the horrid conditions in which they had been forced to live by the white-haired, soft-spoken politicians who now organize the hunger games as a means to punish the rebels and maintain control over the populace. To ensure the participation of the masses screens placed everywhere allow the citizens to follow the slaughter from their homes. This is not a world of cruel fantasy: this is our world in costume.
Only in a society that hated children could such a book and film become popular. In “A Modest Proposal” Jonathan Swift suggested that the population growth in Ireland could be contained if the impoverished Irish would sell their children for food. Ah, a few idiots took him at his word, but the piece served its purpose. The Hunger Games offers not a solution to real social problems but portrays a contemporary solution to those problems: to organize the murder of children and call it a social good.


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