Monday, April 16, 2012

The Hunger Games

The combination of age, my vocation, and personal preference have more or less disconnected me from much of what passes for "popular culture." I had never even heard of The Hunger Games until, last month and just back from Rome, I overheard someone talking about the book (and the forthcoming movie), while I was sitting in the Madison Avenue Atrium, drinking a Starbucks Chai Latte while waiting for my niece's High School Band to perform. But, having since finished Holy Week and Easter and undergone a tooth extraction, today seemed to me to be a good time at last to take an afternoon off and engage in oen of my very few leisure pursuits - go to the movies.
Unlike, say, Harry Potter, I saw the movie without reading the book. So how faithfully the film follows the book I cannot say. But, as post-modern dystopias go, the film is well worth the more than two hours attention it requires.
Of course, again as is common with such post-modern dystopian fantasies, it replicates all the predictable classic themes, setting them against a futuristic technological background. It is well-told typical morality-play about the the spirit of resistance (reinforced by romantic love) among political and economically repressed lower classes subject to a politically and economically oppressive elite. It even begins with a reprise of the medieval theme of the virtuous serf poaching illegal deer in the king's forest! And it ends with a simulated variation on the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. (These are, of course, "classic" themes. That's why they work!)
The lower classes are presented as vicarious virtuous via the virtues of their representatives - the
Tributes" selected to compete to the death in the 74th Annual Hunger Games. (Only the "amateur" Tributes exemplfy vitrue, however. not the professional trained Tributes from certain Districts - an unintended pardoy, perhaps, of college athletics!) The well-fed citizens of the Capitol, in contrast, are presented as vulgar philistines, equally receptive to the appeal of violent brutality and that of romantic sentimentality, but, above all, responsive to celebrity and showmanship. (What conemporary culture does that remind one of?)
Noteworthy, finally, for its absence from this post-modern secularist utopia is anything resembling religion. Not only is there no trace of Christianity or any other historical religion, there is no simulated, made-for-the-movies, presudo-religious pagan cult. There isn't even the kind of naturalistic superstition of the sort that - if present trends signify anything - one would expect to see lots of in a post-Christian world. The Hunger Games (the "games" themselves, not the film) are a politically contrived ritualistic spectacle, worthy of ancient Rome, but wothout the religious and cultic underpinnings that gave the comparable Roman ritualistic spectacles personal meaning and social coherence.

1 comment:

  1. The movie is actually quite true to the book, as far as movies sticking to the basic storyline of books go. I read all three books this year and feel the the first is the best of them. Glad you enjoyed it.