Monday, October 22, 2012

Why The Hunger Games suck

The Hunger Games is about parents throwing children into a pit every year so they can beat each other to death.  Televised.  For generations.  And no one ever tries to stop it  This could be a powerful, if depressing, horror story about the weak side of human nature, but in no universe I want to live is it a teen adventure romance, but that's what we all rushed to buy and then see.

My first issue is that the love story is a marketing campaign lie.  The books have no romance whatsoever.  There are no tender moments of vulnerability or passion.  There are no exchanges of longing or future dreams.  No vows, no painful whatifs.  No stolen moments that are reflected on later.  No conflict.  Both boy props express interests in her that are never acknowledged by our heroine.  She never once tells another part of this supposed triangle that they are anything more to her than comrades or props.  If anything, Katniss spend all three books assuming she will be with action boyfriend at some point but then he goes too far and she sort of ends of with thoughtful boyfriend.  Which leads to the second issue.

The second issue is Katniss herself, a hero who spends most of the story as a dress up puppet managed by ally and foe alike.  Katniss takes control of her world exactly twice in 3 books.  First when she volunteers to take Prew's place as tribute and second when she chooses to kill the rebel badguy instead of the city badguy.  For the rest of three books she is simply carried along by whatever events are swirling around her.  Other people dress her up and point or place her in situations where she sometimes reacts to the moment.  But those moments never connect into a journey or path and at the end of the story Katniss is the same damaged, disconnected individual she was at the beginning.  Sadder maybe.  No journey, no change, no payoff for her or the reader.  Which is really too bad as there could have been a character here where someone whose life is unbelievable limited experiences events impossible for her to imagine and is changed by the what happens.  Which leads to my last issue.

The final (and ultimate) issue is the writing.  Pretty much all the back story we receive is that some kind of horrible war happened ages ago, someone won (or survived) and rebuilt society around something that feels like part Orwell's 1984 and part 1970's tv sci fi series.  The character development is just as thin with flat characters who are unsatisfying and mostly around just to satisfy some plot point or other, especially the villains.  Even the evil emperor in Star Wars had more depth than these people.  Their methods are obviously and deliberately brutal and immediate, but when faced with the "problem" of having no winner for their yearly games they cave to a 16 year old with some poison berries.  These are people who apparently had complete control of both the arena and the outgoing transmission and who see killing as a viable, maybe preferable, way of achieving their ends.  They could have shot Peeta in the head, held Katniss's sister hostage and told the world anything they wanted to.  The villains they were painted as would have, so why didn't they?  And why, when their arena technology appeared to be on similar level to Star Trek's holodeck, were the controllers so reliant on the rock and club level districts?  There could be a valid reason but no one told us.  And what with the the double secret, special, extra, every four years, hunger games they exposed in the 2nd book after the first book went into such great detail describing how the yearly Hunger Games were THE event that married the past, present and future of this society.  And it took two book fulls of mindlessly violent gauntlets just to put Katniss on the same stage with the city leader and the rebel leader when, as a Champion, it seems reasonable to expect she would have ended up there anyway.  Maybe it took two books to explain the bow.

So a poorly written story about vague bad guys gathering up children every year to kill themselves on television for some vague reason while everyone watches until some vague rebels, who you don't hear about until the 2nd book, can capture the head vague bad guy and the disconnected heroine can kill the equally crummy vague rebel leader so that she can go back to scratch in the dirt with the better-than-nothing-I-guess guy prop, all marketed as a teen adventure romance.  Poor and disappointing books are published all the time, so I think it turns out that I am really more disappointed with the book buying public that is so vulnerable to marketing forces that we would hold this up as anything worthwhile, let alone something to encourage children to enjoy.

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