Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Living with a Peeta-file, Part II

A lot of people feel that The Hunger Games is too brutal. They say the book is nothing more than glorified violence, that real people would never let something that horrific happen.

I respectfully agree. And disagree. Here’s why.

In the early 1960s, the United States increased their support of a war that was already in progress halfway across the globe. We didn’t have nearly enough soldiers to make a difference in that war, so in 1969a televised lottery was held. The draft. (Reaping, anyone?) Many of the young men sent to fight in Vietnam were poor; they had no means to avoid the draft. And according to a popular song from the 80s, the average age of those soldiers was 19.

The Vietnam War was the first televised war. Unlike the newsreels sent home from previous wars, the government didn’t get to edit the footage that was released to the American public. Technology had advanced too far and a growing mistrust of our elected leaders made news services all too eager to exercise their freedom of speech.

But here’s where we differ from the people of Panem. Those nightly images served up with a thawed out tray of mystery meat got to be more than Americans could tolerate. Rather than accept that this was our fate, that we had to send more of our children to die, people started protesting the war and demanding that our soldiers come home. It didn’t take twenty-four years for people to start a Rue Riot. Thank goodness.

I know the parallels aren’t exactly the same. But when people say the Hunger Games is too violent, I wonder if they’ve watched the nightly news. Because those smiling hosts are always happy to dish from the scene of the crime and replay the carnage until we’re numb. When people say that we would never let that happen, I say we already did.

And we still do.

Only these days, no one’s forcing us to watch. And I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or not.


Unknown said...

This is a brilliant observation, Sherrie.

One of the points Jennifer made during an interview was that the story reflects how we now view the news and reality shows. We've become numb to what's going on since it's nothing new, so both have to sensationalize it more to get our attention. I thought that was well put.

Laura Pauling said...

Very well said. I have no problem with fiction portraying real life or an exaggerated life. My issues with the series had less to do with the violence but in set up expectations and the author veering from them. Or that's what it seemed like to me. But I've let go of my feelings toward the last book and moved on. :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Agree with Stina - brilliant!

I personally think that kids under 13 probably shouldn't watch the evening news OR read the Hunger Games. Each parent has to decide this on their own, but my 8yo asked yesterday when he would be old enough to read the HG and I said 13, just like his big brother. I figure they have their whole teen years to learn about the carnage the world is capable of.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I third the BRILLIANT and add bloody brilliant. Sherrie, your analogy is accurate and breath-taking.
And we've all heard more recently about very young child soldiers in other countries. Human beings can be brutal, can avert their eyes and pretend they don't see, but history shows again and again what we're capable of.
The real danger of televised violence is the numbing effect.

Rebecca Gomez said...

Ditto about the brilliance.

One thing that annoys me about all the uproar about The Hunger Games is that people often make a judgement about the book/movie before reading it or seeing it themselves.

The story isn't about the glorification of violence. It's about taking stand against tyranny.

Tere Kirkland said...

All great points so far, I totally agree!

I think the concept of these books (for if they are not high-concept, I have no idea what is) sometimes overshadows the message, but mostly by those who have not yet read the book or seen the movie. It's pretty obvious once you do that that the violence is not being glorified, at least, not by the character through whose pov we experience the story.

Thanks for this, Sherrie!

Kristan Hoffman said...

I agree with you completely, and thank you for making the point. (I had no idea the Vietnam War draft was televised, actually.)

However, I will say that one minor problem I had with the concept in HG was that SEVENTY-FOUR years (not 24, btw) would have gone by before anyone disrupted the games like Katniss did. I find that hard to believe. As you said, it didn't take long for Americans to protest Vietnam.

Kelly Polark said...

Well written, Sherrie! Good points.

My 7th grader just read Hunger Games and my 4th grade daughter is so sad she has to wait three years to read it. But I do think a child needs to be mature enough to read it due to the violence.
I did love the series. I still need to see the movie!

PurpleMist. said...

This is just brilliant.

Also, if you think about it, much worst things have been done to humans in the past. Like the MK-Ultra mid programming experiment.
Some say it's still going on.
But as you said, most people decide not to dig in to things like these.

Krispy said...

Excellent point! I think that's why the books are so popular; they really resonate with aspects of our lives right now. Suzanne Collins has said herself that part of the inspiration for the concept of the book was from watching reality TV and the news.

While the books were violent, I never felt it was being glorified. It was there to make a point. It's there to be brutal, so that readers can really see how wrong that society has gone.

Lydia Kang said...

I don't think HG is glorified violence. I think that actually Collins is making a lot of statements, and violence is used in an effective way to show the brutality of her deeper message.
Luckily, it's fiction. What's on TV is not.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Excellent points! I wonder if the VietNam images would have the same impact now. As you say, we've grown hardened to it.

Gina Gao said...

These are excellent points. I can definitely see the similarities.

Margo Berendsen said...

I know I'm late visiting here, but wow, what a powerful comparison between the Vietnam War and the Hunger Games. Very thought-provoking.

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