Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hungry for the Games

So I finally gave in to my friends' recommendations, and the general hype, and started reading The Hunger Games. It is not the kind of book I usually enjoy, but WOW! I was blown away by how good it was and how quickly I was sucked into it. I finished it this afternoon and am about to start the second book in the trilogy, Catching Fire.

As I was reading The Hunger Games, I started thinking about the many ways that the general plot reflects our current society and its obsession with reality TV. Although The Hunger Games has a plot that is essentially "Snuff TV" in that everyone in the country is forced to watch teenagers kill each other in an arena that is designed and controlled by the "Gamemakers," the current crop of reality TV we are subjected to is really no different. 

It's Snuff TV in that it is slowly killing off our brain cells, but it's also entertainment at the expense of others. We watch all kinds of shows that are designed and controlled by the production companies to provide maximum entertainment and ratings. How is that really any different in the end? We vote weekly for contestants on American Idol, many of whom are humiliated every time they enter the stage ("arena") and we watch with bated breath to see which alliances will be made on Survivor and who will be voted off the island and on and on and on it goes.

We delight in the pain of others. As a therapist, I understand the psychological need to be competitive with our fellow human beings and the need for self-preservation. But what is interesting and rather disgusting really, is this desire to be voyeurs into the lives of others, to see others suffer and to be a part of the drama and pain of others. We have always had competitiveness and gossip and other such general human maladies, but in the age of reality TV, these maladies have taken on a malevolent edge. 

The Hunger Games brought me to some of these conclusions and I am sure I will continue to work out these issues in my head as I read the next two books of the trilogy. But, I just had to share now that so much of what I am reading is, at first glance, disgusting and anathema to the human spirit, but then I realized that it really isn't. Not the modern day spirit anyway, which is doused in drama, pain, and the "reality" of the suffering of others.