My Introduction to THE HUNGER GAMES
[NOTE: I first wrote this before seeing the sequels. They resolve some of my issues with the story]
I follow several movie blogs, and a couple of years back, they started to report on the development of HUNGER GAMES into a film series. Normally I wouldn’t have paid much attention, but they reported that Jennifer Lawrence would be starring in the film. At the time, I didn’t really know who she was as an actress, but Jennifer Lawrence is my wife’s maiden name, so I was instantly interested.
Jump forward a few months, my student ministry and I found ourselves in the midst of a 20 hour long van ride from Hutto, TX to Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this, but we ended up having my wife (the woman formerly known as Jennifer Lawrence) read The Hunger Games out loud to us during our long car ride.
The story was fast moving, attention grabbing, and always fascinating. In fact, whenever we had down time on our mission trip, we would stop to have her read more of the book to us. It was one of the bizarre special memories which you can’t plan for, but just happen.
While the story was enjoyable, I couldn’t help but be seriously confused by the mass appeal of the book. I understood why I enjoyed a violent story about people being forced to fight each other to the death. That’s my kind of movie. But why was this story appealing to my wife (the original Jennifer Lawrence)? Why were 14 year old girls drawn to this story?
A Violent Story
I remember back in high school I watched a made for HBO movie called MEAN GUNS. The plot revolved around a group of crooks fighting each other to the death to win a bag of money. Years later, I re-watched the movie with my college roommates. We could barely make it through the film because the plot was so brutal.
Another favorite of mine from high school was Van Damme’s HARD TARGET. The plot revolves around a man running an agency that offers rich people the opportunity to hunt homeless military veterans. The older I get, the harder the film is to stomach. My wife has never cared for the film because of its abrasive and cruel plot line.
With all that in mind while reading THE HUNGER GAMES, I couldn’t help but be confused by the mass appeal of a story about teenagers forced to kill one another in a tournament intended to entertain the masses.
If a story about crooks choosing to kill each other is brutal, and a plot about rich men hunting homeless veterans is cruel, then what is a story about teenagers forced to either kill or be killed?
The story is constructed in such a way that our heros for the most part only kill people who are unsympathetic and cruel. However, if the story wasn’t contrived this way, our hero would be forced to either kill an innocent person or be killed by an innocent person.
I can understand why someone like myself would enjoy a story like this (I like violent movies), but why does everyone else like this story?
Perspective of the Reader
Possibly more importantly, we’re supposed to be appalled by the citizens of the Capital in the story for being entertained by watching The Hunger Games. Their cruel lack of concern for human life is repugnant. As we read about the staff of the program flippantly interviewing the contestants while knowing all but one will die, we get knots in our stomachs.
The problem with all of this is that we’re reading the book or watching the movie from the perspective of the Capital. We’re being entertained by seeing their transformations, hearing their interviews, and watching them compete. This irony seems to be lost on the majority of the fans.
We are the Capital.
At the end of the story, we don’t get justice or hope. We merely get survival, and the promise of consequences for their survival.
Can someone please explain the mass appeal of the story to me? Specifically why is this particularly story of people hunting each other appealing to girls?
You can read my wife’s response HERE.