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Monday, August 27, 2012

A Therapist's Take on The Hunger Games

I inhaled Suzanne Collin's trilogy this past week (new Precor elliptical machine + iPad = 220+ pages/hour), and wanted to share my thoughts about this iconic cultural series.

There WILL BE SPOILERS BELOW in order to talk about this in any depth.

First, two overall general comments:

1) The districts and the Capitol make a stark commentary on society.

The discrepancy between the wealth of the Capitol and the poor people in the districts is a major part of this book that struck me. The Capitol and its inhabitants are portrayed as living in gross excess while Katniss and others try to survive every day on meager rations.

Those in the Capitol only care about what they wear or how they look. Effie Trinket and Ceasar Flickerman become the key examples in the book.

2) The Hunger Games turn reality television into a monster.

In truth, the television shows that are popular today aren't all that far off from teenagers killing each other. You might scoff, but Fear Factor and Ninja Warrior among others are prime examples of our culture being fascinated with violence and grotesqueness. That everyone in the Capitol looks forward to these Games as the epitome of entertainment (which is reminiscent of gladiator games) should be revolting to the reader, and it is. Death for entertainment...let's film every second.

More specifically, though, I want to focus on Katniss and what I believe her character conveys to readers.

She's a SURVIVOR, but to her moral detriment.

She does whatever it takes to stay alive. I get that. She becomes a mother to Prim. She disobeys district laws to hunt. She listens to Haymitch. She saws the tracker jacker nest at her own peril. She's going to push the Capitol 's buttons with those nightlock berries.

Perhaps most troubling, though, is that she lies to Peeta and the district audience by making him and everyone think she truly loves him, when at best, her feelings are confused. I realize that she does this under duress, but I'm not fond of this aspect of the story for obvious reasons. What does this teach teens? 

She's COMPASSIONATE, but kick butt.

We see her volunteering for Prim, a truly self-sacrificing act. She's trying to sell baby clothes for money to feed her family. She sings to Rue and buries her in flowers. She won't leave Peeta to die, and quite literally risks her life to get him that medicine.

And was it just me, or was Katniss like a PowerPuff girl on crack? It seemed Peeta ended up maimed physically or emotionally in each book...and somehow Katniss brings him back. Definite role reversal from the strong, white knight rescuing the damsel in distress.

She's BELLA SWAN, but stronger. 

Come on! She's got hotties Gale and Peeta who love her, and she literally strings them along (and the reader, of course) until the very end of the series. She kisses each of them almost willy-nilly. I believe Collins conveys Katniss' confusion about her feelings for both of them very well, but I thought she took a cheap shot at Gale in Book 3 and jipped us a satisfactory conclusion of their relationship. (Notice I didn't say of the love triangle. I thought that was handled quite well....real or not real? :)

Let's Analyze:

If you've seen the movie version of the book, did you like it? Lacking the internal monologue for Katniss definitely left a hole in the movie. I found myself telling my husband little details I thought were important to the overall story but were left out...ah, the limitations of film. But Stanley Tucci was the most perfect Caesar Flickerman, as was Woody Harrelson's Haymitch. Awesome casting.