The Hunger Games – Follow-Up

(Source Article)

My comparison to Twilight really was just from the romance standpoint; I get tired of the rat poison. While I do agree that Collins was much more altruistic with her use of that element, I still feel as though it was inserted to hook the mid-teen crowd to whom it was written. A quick plot analysis from the Wiki page tells me all I need to know about the ensuing struggle for yet another girl to pick between two amazing guys. It just gets old. I’ll chalk that up to personal taste and let it lie.

One thing that really stuck out in your comment, however, was “…is still accessible to readers who haven’t learned how to read Clark, Dick, Asimov, Card, or Sagan.” This is actually part of my biggest frustration with this book and many others in its genre; I feel as though it was written down to match an exploding reading demographic. (I love that they’re reading…but at what cost?)

I have to say that I wasn’t surprised to see the lack of world building depth, but only because the first few pages told me what to expect. I completely agree on everything you said here (I’ll also take your word for the “dropped narrative ball” in the last book), and I was very underwhelmed by this world as a whole. I didn’t feel as though Collins gave us enough tangible elements to chew on while we heard Katniss think out loud. Again, praise for the perspective, but penalties for the purposelessness. (Also, touché on the best seller list assessment. Totally agree.)

This is where my real disagreements kick in: the style and direct use of “brute force narrative.” If you want to create a second Battle Royale, that’s one thing, but I’m going to make a case that our culture no longer responds to this kind of storytelling. This didn’t even seem like it was supposed to be that kind of book, though the sociological contrasts were pretty sharp. Now, as a whole, we readers these days are very desensitized – this goes double for our younger generation, and I literally shudder and pray for the ones to follow them – but when a story like this continues to be the best-selling work for months, what does that say about current effective methodology?

(Stick with me, I’m going somewhere.)

Think about it: when we backpedal through entertainment history, there is an exponential rise in the effective use of harsher mediums. Even the old ‘1984’ Apple commercial made a whole bunch of people think differently about this company that was separating itself from IBM; that was just a commercial, just a computer company, but it made an entire generation of computer-using citizens shudder. Would that even raise an eyebrow in 2012? Think about complete films like Utopia, Blade Runner, Artificial Intelligence…stuff that really made people sit up and wonder what just happened. They had to use those elements to drive home their story because people didn’t pay attention any other way, yes. It was a hard message that required a hard slap to the face, yes. Would those even phase us now? No.

I realize that this reductive thinking earns the “cultures change over time, get over it” response, and rightly so. That said, I’m humbly asking for an introspective evaluation of how thick everyone’s shells are these days. (As you said: CoD, Jackass, etc.) The kids I know (even my own generation) are so bombarded by external inputs that it takes something like The Hunger Games just to leave a mark. Granted, I did read this 4 years after its release, but I can definitely say that things are worse now than they were in 2008 on this front. I’m not sure we need more cheese-grater stories to help our kids learn why they shouldn’t be killing one another. Or being oppressed by a completely Greco-Roman government. Or being forced to do the dirty work because the adults want a show.

Why do I say all this? Because I’m a Christian; also because I’m a storyteller at heart.

If our society – and by nature, the way we tell stories – continues to escalate in this fashion, when are we going to start needing to LIVE these plots to really “get” the author’s intentions? What will we have to do for OUR kids to absorb a new story? We already spend our time destroying one another in games (no, I’m not speaking out against games) so where do we go from here? What level can we rise to next? What is the next evolutionary step in our culture? This is something that people asked back when Lord of the Flies came out…are we there yet?

Please forgive the doom-and-gloom. I don’t mean to despair about the desensitization of our culture, though I do feel it impacts our storytelling and marketing decisions. I’m not here to ask a bunch of theoretical questions; I want analyze what doesn’t work and to do better.

I tend to agree that there’s a big pendulum swinging back and forth, slowly shifting from one extreme to another in all matters of culture and human behavior. Societies have been documented throughout history pursuing every imaginable horror, but I really don’t think that we need to keep pushing toward that in our entertainment. (Again: what is the cost we’re willing to pay?)

As a storyteller, I’m worried for the potential void that our meaningful works will jettison into. As a fellow human, I’m concerned for the kids. It’s a fine line, and this book gave me a reason to write about both. Sure, I didn’t really care for the craft, but I think we readers REALLY lose on the trade for take-away values.

This is where my argument ceases to be about craft, and appeals directly to the heart of anyone listening.

As a culture, extremism and sensationalism are what we live on. We’re so used to this that we don’t even blink as each industry attempts to out-shout one another for our attention. Rather than “break through” to this generation, I’d like to see a wave of creative resources that can withstand the storm, unshaken. Every time I think of “classic” tales, even in fiction, I look at the intangible permanence and say “THAT’S what I want to read to my kids.” We can all agree that these stories stand the test of time because of their own merit, not the way they appealed to a specific audience.

Perhaps my thesis for this post should read: “What will you pay for entertainment?”

Lots of words (thanks for reading), but still much to be said to future readers. As a Christian, I feel that artisans need to focus on timeless truths, spoken calmly, firmly, resolutely. No extremism or sensationalism needed; just write really good prose. I don’t care to indulge in any other form of “entertainment” any longer – and God knows I’ve spent many years doing so – because I don’t really see the use. If something needs to bash its way into my skull to make a point, there are a lot of things that are terribly wrong with ME. There are so many things that we can do with our time; I don’t see the need to forge more hard-edged media. I think our duty is to create culturally-compelling caricatures without crucifying Christ-clarifying certainties. (You’re welcome, Kevin.) There MUST be a way to tell a story that goes to your core without slicing you open. We MUST pursue a level of craft that is well-studied AND sticks to the Truth we know that drives everything we do/are.

I can’t hold Collins to the same standard I would myself, but that’s the type of story that I’m looking for, which is definitely not what I found in The Hunger Games.