Kids killing kids? We’re horrified by the story! It’s a reprehensible thought and no one denies it. And yet we watch. It’s the Roman Empire all over again. Remember the movie Gladiator? Maximus gains popularity when he defies the system. He doesn’t give them the show, he charges and efficiently eliminates his opponent only to challenge the speechless crowd and chastise them with his famous line: “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!”
But there’s something to note here, another reason we like The Hunger Games.
We identify with the harsh reality (even though it’s extreme) because it validates our own realities and liberates us to admit our realities are hard.
Okay, let me unpack this. The world of Panem is made up. Suzanne Collins invented it. It’s fiction. We could be horrified that she’d even suggest such a reality. In the past I think we would have characterized this as horror literature and pity the disturbed outcast demographic that would find it entertaining.
But today it’s different. We don’t read this because we’re looking for some sick pleasure. It’s not hard for us to accept that the setting is what it is. You know why? Because that’s how we have to view our own worlds.
We are entertained because Katniss and Peeta have a journey that they have to navigate. The government and President Snow might genuinely be evil but so what? That’s life. Our generation is cynical and has little faith in the system. We’ve been burnt by families, communities, churches, and even our own generation and it’s taught us one thing: how to survive.
Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, but I hear it every day. Abuse, molestation, rape, criticism, perfectionism, demotions, evictions, downsizing, it’s all real. The world of Panem is extreme but it’s not hard for us to see threads of familiarity within it.
We don’t like the world of Panem but we accept that the story must take place within it. We don’t want to be in The Hunger Games but we care more about what we’d do if we had to instead of standing on a soapbox and protesting the mere idea.
Listen to a generation that’s finding solace in the validation of this story. It’s not a healthy worldview, it’s a coping mechanism and it has pervaded our entire culture. Speaking against it won’t change the culture, jumping into the trenches and guiding a generation through the challenges of the horrible realities they face and hear about everyday might be a better option.
One more thought to come. Stay tuned…