Suzanne Collins' 'The Hunger Games' Sets Box Office Record And Exposes Two Truths About America
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which grossed $155 million in its opening weekend, is an important series for two reasons. First, it shows that stories involving a strong female protagonist are compelling and important. Second, it points out how the American entertainment industry dehumanizes individuals and encourages violence among everyday people.
Katniss is a strong, independent character, but she is not by any means perfect. She is aggressive, not just defensive, and willing to kill the other tributes to save herself. Her bottled-up emotions make her seem heartless, and as time goes on we begin to see the underlying flaws beneath the brave exterior. Rational thought eludes her as she is overwhelmed by depression and mental breakdowns. Yes, we all still love Katniss, but the courage she demonstrates at the beginning of the series begins to exhaust her, and by the end of the second book, she is dependent on others to take care of her. Of course, we do not see the more dependent Katniss in the recently released movie, since it only covers the character in the first book – a brave young woman who provides for her family and then volunteers to die for her sister. Later on, the constant murder, death, sorrow and loss of control cause her to break down.
Additionally, The Hunger Games Trilogy points out issues with American culture and reality television. Suzanne Collins was inspired by reality TV when she wrote The Hunger Games, and sets up an implicit comparison. Both reality TV and the Hunger Games dehumanize people and by objectifying them on screen. Further, every Hunger Games victor left the arena tortured by memories from which they never fully recovered.
Reality TV thrives off of drama, similar to the Gamemakers in the Hunger Games who create conflict by using natural disasters to send the tributes towards each other and by holding “feasts.” Like the citizens of the Capitol and the other viewers of the games, Americans love gory, bloody, and thrilling television shows. We are willing and happy to watch people die on television.
"Subconsciously, we feel better about ourselves, knowing that we’re not the person who attempted a back flip on a trampoline or tripped on the sidewalk."
The only difference is that in our case, we are watching actors, but the idea behind the shows and the reaction of the audience are the same. When we watch America’s Funniest Home Videos, clips on YouTube or shows like Wipeout, why do we laugh when people get hurt? Why do we feel satisfaction seeing others’ pain? It seems that subconsciously, we feel better about ourselves, knowing that we’re not the person who attempted a back flip on a trampoline or tripped on the sidewalk. But in the Hunger Games, Katniss does not laugh when another tribute eats poisoned berries. She does not laugh when the group of career tributes is attacked by tracker jackers. Rather, she feels guilty about their deaths and their pain. Katniss recognizes the horrors of the games and that pain and death are not funny and should not be considered entertaining. She could be a role model today for her empathy and sense of fairness in dealing with other people, even when it is to her own detriment.
Showing gory and bloody shows on television only makes our culture more bloodthirsty and teaches the younger members of society that murder is normal and even laughable. Watching these things can break the strongest of characters, even Katniss, and should not be promoted in society.
One of the most infamous reality TV scenes, when Snooki was punched in the face.