Friday, March 23, 2012

To Hunger Games or Not to Hunger Games?

When only the first book was out, I first became aware of it because Stephenie Meyer posted a rare blog post praising it. I slapped it on my TBR list... and read the description. Twenty-four children pitched in a closed-compound battle to the death? Sounded... brutal. Terrifying. Agonizing. 

Good reviews poured in and still I balked. It's not that I didn't think it would be a great read or even that it wouldn't be an important read. It's just that I get plenty of exposure to the ugly side of life at my day-job and I don't need my entertainment to provide that sort of catharsis. I never felt like I was in the right mood for that sort of experience.

Then book two came out and I had the perfect excuse not to read them: Catching Fire ended on a cliffhanger. Obviously, I shouldn't start the series until all three were out, right? Right. So I waited.

Then, as Mockingjay came out, my book group started a Hunger Games marathon so we could discuss the whole series together. It was as brutal as I thought it would be. But also better. Filled with terror, but also humanity. Packed with awful people doing awful things to each other, but also with people who were just trying to be good in a horrible world.

I didn't have a blog back then, but this is what I said on my friend Susan's blog about Mockingjay:
I finished it a few hours ago and I'm reeling. Though I understand the criticisms about the anticlimax and the inevitable antipathy about her love life, this is a book about children reacting to war. How is that supposed to end well? In these sorts of books I have a love-hate relationship with realism, but I think it would have cheapened what Collins was trying to do if Katniss had emerged truly triumphant.

Like Plutarch says, humanity will always wage war with each other, interspersed with short, blissful periods where we swear never to do it again. There is no ending Collins could have written that could have erased that truth. Until humanity itself is different, war will continue.
The "unexpected death" was the least surprising thing about the book to me. As in the French Revolution, where the people rose up to meet brutality with savagery, and then had to purge the purgers before they could have real peace, there was (at least) one rebel savage who had to die for hope to have a chance. It frankly makes me a bit nervous that Gale has such an important job in District 2.

These books are powerful, and I'm still not sure what to take from them, but I can't separate them out into favorites. They're all about the horrors of war and the enduring (though imperfect) resilience of one girl who had to wade through the blood.

I'll be happier when I can get it out of my head.
Yeah, I pontificate on other people's blogs, too.

So now the movie is coming out and for the past year I've been fighting with myself on whether I want to see it at all. I'm not eager to revisit those emotions. I'm not happy that my brain, which helpfully protected me from Hunger Games images I didn't want to examine too closely, will now be filled with them.

Since one of my biggest tear-triggers is People Dealing With Death, I'm not sure I can fit enough tissues in my purse. I can't make it through a trailer without tearing up.

But I'm obsessed with the trailers. With the pictures. With this song, in particular, which haunts me. I wonder if this is what Katniss sings to Rue.

So I'm going. Tonight, with a group of adult couples.

My husband watched one trailer and declared himself so disinclined to see it, he'd rather watch any one of the Twilight films instead. He is not swayed by the list of his male friends who will be in the group. He is unimpressed by my assurances that this is not just a movie about children killing children. That there is a loftier message, and that, like We Were Soldiers (which he loves), it is an allegory denouncing the very actions it presents. Showing us what we must never allow to happen.

Because he loves me, he's going. He's planning on napping through it, but he'll be there to hold my hand as I weep.

So are you going? Will you need tissues?


  1. Still not sure. Don't think it opened herein the islands, probably next week. I'll have some time to hear the 'trusted' reviews, and decide if I want to subject myself to the visuals.

  2. I never doubted I was going to see it. I'm SO stinking excited. I might even go alone tonight 'cause hubs and I couldn't afford a babysitter, and I don't want to wait!

  3. I'm not going to lie, I'm a little worried about the horrifying images up on the screen. When I read the book I can make it as scary as I want. But I will probably still see it :)

  4. A great article in last week's Entertainment Weekly talked about the marketing of this film; none of the trailers or any of the marketing showed ANY of the actual games. All the footage is other aspects of the story, because they wanted to avoid glorifying the violence in the film. Sure, they also want to maximize their audience, but I like that they carefully played it out to not show this as some kind of gorefest. Those of us who read the book know it's not.

    I understand your hesitation. I didn't see Girl With the Dragon Tattoo because I knew the difference between reading a graphic rape scene and seeing it on screen. And I insanely loved that trailer with the Karen O/Trent Reznor version of Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." And yet, I couldn't bring myself to watch sexual assault as entertainment, even though the book handles the topic expertly and ties it into the theme of the book.

    Know your limits.

  5. Heck yeah, I'm going! Next weekend, with a lady in my ward who shares the same tastes in books as me. Our hubbies will go with us, although neither of them have read the books. Except my husband just got the first book on his Nook last night and finally started reading it.

  6. LOL - You're welcome to pontificate on my blog any time you want!

    As for HG, I'm sure I'll watch it eventually, but I'm not rushing out to see it right away. I'm not worried about the violence/gore, it's more that I'm afraid of what Hollywood might have done to the story. That's always my fear when books I enjoyed get turned into movies. Sometimes it turns out just fine (HP, for instance) and sometimes it so, so doesn't (Twilight). I'll be interested to hear your assessment of the movie.

    Oh, and I love the song, too. It's beautiful.

  7. tremendous pontification!
    and now i appreciate the end of the trilogy that much more! thanks!

    seeing it next week with my boys =)

  8. I'm seeing it sometime soon (hopefully) with my husband. We are soooo looking forward to it. :D

  9. (Er, the "hopefully" above was in reference to "sometime soon". I'm definitely seeing it with my husband.)

  10. I'm going next week with my daughters. They've kindly turned down an invitation to see it this weekend with friends so they can go with me next week. I hope I'm not the only one who cries.