The Hunger Games

I don’t really think the HG series is worth blogging about, so I’m going to keep it short.  I’m writing because the discussions of the books I’ve read miss what seem to me the most obvious things about them.  This mystifies me.  It might actually be because they are too obvious for people to mention, but I can’t be sure.  So here I go, with some simple stuff.

First, I have heard a number of people speculating that Cinna joins the conspiracy because he is gay and the Capitol is not gay-friendly.  The claim that he’s gay is based on his being artistic, into clothes, and very cool — and that’s okay I guess.  But the other part of the claim can’t be right, as it is just not plausible that the Capitol insists on any kind of sexual normativity.  The Capitol is a portrayal of Roman enormity, and must treat sex the way it treats food:  the more the better, the kinkier the better, throw up and do it again.  Its grotesque morality is premised on excess, not limitation, and if it can be said in any way to represent our society in order to criticize it, it’s not our homophobia that’s being criticized, but our vapid, imperialist capitalism, and commodity fetishism.

Second, there is in the plot of HG a hint of Greek mythology laid over the Roman background insofar as the arena, as well as being a gladiatorial colosseum, should also remind us of the labyrinth.  It is the labyrinth into which, each year, an equal number of young men and young women were sent to be killed, sent as tribute and as a reminder of conquest.  Each of the three books highlights a different aspect of the parallel.  The labyrinth of the myth is escaped, as in the first HG volume, by a young man and a young woman working together.  And the labyrinth of the myth is mastered, as in the second HG volume, by a thread.  And the labyrinth of myth is defeated, as in the third volume of HG, by a joining of forces from the city (in the case of the myth, Ariadne) and from the party representing tribute (in the case of the myth, Theseus).

Actually I don’t think people are commonly aware of the Theseus roots, and especially not of the thread, Ariadne’s and Beetee’s, stretching from the centre of the maze or the heart of darkness out to the extremity, and facilitating its defeat.  But surely this third point is known to everyone:  that HG is not really about the colosseum or Greek mythology.  It is about reality TV, in particular the show that set the tone for the rest:  Survivor.  The kids are dropped off in a desolate place and must fight to survive, rewards are sporadically given to them from outside, each evening a few of them are, albeit rather drastically, voted off the island, there are arbitrary rule changes, and the rest of society, forced to watch the whole damn thing on TV, find themselves presented with more soap than contest.

Presumably this is critique of our society on a different level, but it’s pretty weak critique.  It’s like one of those documentaries condemning porn where the real interest is that you get to watch all that porn.  And this, of course, is the real problem with HG.  The games are fun.

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One thought on “The Hunger Games

  1. The French posters advertising the movie get that, in a way. (Don’t know whether or not the US ones do.) The caption reads: “We are all the audience.” Because, of course, we are. But that doesn’t get you out of the spiral.

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