Monday, July 25, 2011

The Hunger Games and Celebrity Stunts

In The Hunger Games, the love story is practically a sidenote.  We’re really more interested in Katniss outmaneuvering the Careers—and making friends with Rue—and what the hell are those superbees, anyway?  But the love story is there.  And it’s all a lie.

The second and third novels devolve more quickly into the simple love triangle formula.  (Katniss-Peeta-Gale… gah we’ve seen this before Bella-Edward-Jacob)  But the first novel is notable for making its hero and heroine kiss—and all for the camera.  It actually draws a lot of its emotional strength from the fact that Katniss doesn’t know if Peeta is telling the truth, and Peeta doesn’t know if she is telling the truth—and all the people at home don’t know and don’t care.

(Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer)
It’s an interesting re-imagining of our reality TV culture where we often catch ourselves asking if celebrities are really dating—or if it’s only a publicity stunt. In Mockingjay, the documentary crew is an even more intense example of celebrity being used — I’m glad that Collins goes there in the third novel.

The other side of celebrity lies with the Capital of Panem, of course.  The people at the top of the food chain eat and drink and play and color their hair — relatively sympathetic characters like Cinna (and maybe Effie Trinket) are marked as friendly, if a little superficial; happy, if a little callous. But from the perspective of a character like Katniss, even the most sympathetic characters are guilty of excess.  That scene in Catching Fire with the modernized vomitorium is partly a criticism of (say) million-dollar birthday parties for hedge fund managers' wives and the like.

Does this angle drop out in the guerilla plot of Mockingjay? I think Collins veers more towards a criticism of war and power in general — and class falls out of the equation. But the celebrity logic is part of what makes The Hunger Games so unique and interesting.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree about the celebrity logic in The Hunger Games. It comes out even with the most sympathetic of characters from the Capitol.