Are We Getting Close to The Hunger Games?
No, seriously--Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of NJ, Keeping up with the Kardashians, the one where that vile woman hooks millionaires up with bimbos--they make me crazy. I know, I know, I shouldn't take them so seriously but they key off this knee jerk anger in me.
Well for one, see above. That's a picture of the aftermath when Jersey Shore Cast member Nicole Polizzi (Snooki) was punched in the face by some agro meathead at a bar while filming the show. Reality TV is a form that revels in this kind of ugliness. When the inevitable violence breaks out there's some pro forma handwringing (generally done over a video loop of said violence) and then it's back to business. I've never considered myself to be of delicate sensibilities, but I just can't take it.
The other reason is the manipulation involved. It's not exactly breaking news that reality TV isn't real. That reality TV is a misnomer isn't what bothers me though, what bothers me is how the form takes real three dimensional human beings gives them nicknames and reduces them to a stock series of (usually ugly) personality traits and contrived story arcs. Not only does this dehumanize the participants but it asks us to look at other people as objects that exist for our amusement.
Young girl punched in the face at a bar? That's not Nicole Polizzi, 22 year old from New York. That's just Snooki. That's entertainment. Doesn't that dehumanize us too?
As Beth discussed yesterday, one of Suzanne Collins' inspirations for The Hunger Games was classical myths. Well the other one was, you guessed it, reality TV. Collins said she was watching TV late one night, flipping past a barrage of reality TV shows that got mixed in with news of the Iraq war and Katniss and The Hunger Games was born from that combination.
I think one way to look at the series is as a very biting comment on this kind of "reality" spectacle. Sure, maybe we don't watch young people kill each other, but we do watch humiliation and violence (again, see above) and horrendous misogyny. Sometimes we pause for a moment of uplift, but then it's right back in the gutter.
Maybe what we see in the Hunger Games is an escalation of all the programs that show us hordes of the most abhorrent people imaginable--the vain, the intolerant, the deluded, the rageaholics--trapped in shore houses and McMansions clawing at each other on their way to....what?
A little bit of money? Fame? The validation that comes from being seen?
I mean, geez, at least Katniss was fighting for her life!
In what way do you guys see Collins using Katniss and the struggles of her fellow tributes to comment on reality TV? How does the fact that all these people are on a reality TV show effect the plot of the story? Also what does this sort of reality game say about the government that sponsors it and the people who watch it?
(PS: Ok maybe not all reality TV is awful. I have to admit that I'm a big Project Runway and Top Chef fan. At least nobody is getting punched out on those.)
Posted by Jeff Hirsch at Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Labels: Hunger Games, Jersey Shore, Katniss, Reality TV, Snooki, Suzanne Collins, The Real Housewives of NJ
The League of Extraordinary Writers is a group of debut YA authors who write science fiction and dystopian works. The ten of us have works that run the gamut of near-future mind control to far-future space travel, but they do have one thing in common: a future where the Earth we know now is twisted, gone.