Thursday, July 21, 2011

Anatomy of The Hunger Games

Susan Collins’ The Hunger Games is a popular trilogy, soon to be a popular movie series. Like most great books, it’s nothing new. In fact, The Hunger Games can be broken down into exactly five threads.

1) Reality TV
notable predecessors: The Running Man, Death Race 2000
A book or a movie based on reality TV is basically a book or a movie based on all the contrived things that TV shows like to do to us in order to make us watch. We read cliffhangers in books, sure—but a reality TV show builds their entire show layout on them. When Katniss sits in her tree, thinking that it’s getting too quiet and the games designers are going to get antsy—well, it justifies almost any plot twist in the book.

2) Deadly Sport
notable predecessors: The Most Dangerous Game, Gladiator
I don’t know why we humans like this trope. Most of us would lose these kind of games—and real quick, too. I think it’s the karmic victory—the reluctant soldier who turns on the eager killers and gives them a run for their money. Yeah. I think it’s that.

3) People Getting Picked Off in an Isolated Environment
notable predecessors: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ten Little Indians
I loved these stories when I was a kid. I think the slow burn of characters allows us to connect widely to several characters, then intensify our attachments as the pool gets smaller. More importantly, we are forced to readjust the relationships between characters—recalibrate power dynamics—etc. etc.

4) Conveniently Super-Evil Empire versus Plucky Rebels
notable predecessors: Star Wars, Final Fantasy IV, VI, VII, etc.
It’s easy to hate the government of Panem. Probably too easy.

5) Love Triangle
notable predecessors: Twilight
The pleasure of the love triangle is really the desire to have them both. Edward and Jacob. Lord Warburton, Goodwood, and Osmond. and the rest. Kudos to Collins for actually making the heroine the strongest character in the triangle! After all, the boys both want her—they ought to want her for a reason. (#ughbella)
The Hunger Games does a nice job of linking these threads together. More on some of the individual threads later.

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