Friends:

Finally I can speak with some intelligence about a topic we discussed many months ago, “The Hunger Games.”  Yes I finally saw the movie and after the first hour the only word that came to mind for me was “sadistic.”  If you want to read my initial thoughts on the subject on “THG” and other fiction which passes for “young adult” these days, here is a link to the post:

http://robcohen13.com/2011/05/02/i-remember-every-wand-ive-ever-sold-mr-potter/

I didn’t find it sadistic because of its subject matter, although the prospect of the government creating a game show for 12-18 year old boys and girls to kill each other was morbid to say the least.  It was the spectacle of it from the standpoint of the viewers, the public at large clamoring for the excitement and thrill of children forced to kill or be killed, the glamorizing of the “contestants” and the disconnection of the viewers from any semblance of reality.  Of all of it, though, it is this disconnection from reality that is most disheartening—because if it true of us today.

We as a society have become so fixated on the train wrecks that we have lost our ability to empathize.  When we watch reality television, it is in the hope that we see something outrageous, ignoramuses making fools of themselves, people getting hurt and hearts being broken.  We would much rather watch the tryouts for American Idol than the finals, simply because we clamor for the terrible singers who are so awful it is funny.  We take joy in the failings and failures of others.

So while we cannot seem to get enough of the human disasters on television, at some point we will reach saturation, and we will need more.  I think of it like the shower.  You like the water warm but you get used to it so you creep it hotter, but then you get used to it again so you creep it hotter still, and so on.  I am afraid that it is coming– that “Wipeout” will no longer be poor bumbling fools getting hit with punching gloves and falling into a shallow pool of water, but that the gloves will be replaced with knives and the pool will be populated by piranha.  Because what makes human travail more entertaining that serious risk to life and limb?

Is it that farfetched to think that it could happen?  Is “THG” only young adult fantasy or is it a prophecy? 

Unfortunately, it may be more prophecy than we would like to believe.  There are many instances in history of science fiction and fantasy coming true; what once were the writings and creations of mere mortals have now proven to be creations of forward-thinking pioneers.  People like H.G. Wells, George Orwell and Jules Verne gave us stories that have since become fact:  Big Brother, the nuclear submarine, voyages into space, genetic engineering… these were all mere fantasy and science fiction 50 years ago.  Will we soon be watching people killing each other on television?  A mash-up of Wipeout and ultimate fighting?  I worry that it is closer than we think.

Aside from all of that, though, the most disturbing aspect of THG was the fact that it was geared towards children.  In 1987, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in “The Running Man,” based on a novel by Stephen King, which was about a game show in which the contestants had to survive while being hunted by stalkers.  I have seen TRM many times and I enjoy the heck out of it each time.  It is campy, it is fun, the stalkers are cartoonish and the violence is graphic.  But it was also rated “R” and was not geared towards children.  THG is clearly a descendant of The Running Man, but the fact that it is for children, that the books are sold at elementary school book drives and are found in the children’s section of the bookstore is appalling.  There is nothing fun, funny or entertaining about children killing each other and it is this thirst for violence and hunger for despair that is just plain unnecessary.  Children find it entertaining?  Do we really expect that 6th graders will understand the undertones of the dangers of government control and the need to rise up against oppression in order to effectuate the change we need? 

Maybe I am overreacting.  But the indelible image from the movie is in the first 10 minutes as the “contestants” are being selected.  A 12 year old girl is chosen but her older sister volunteers instead.  I can still hear the high-pitched scream of terror as the younger sister is carried away by the guards.  Do we really want our young children witnessing this?  Or do we give our kids credit to be able to handle themes like this because they are bombarded with similar or even worse examples of terror in all other forms of media?  That is just plain sad…

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