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.


Thank, Q said...

I do agree with you when you say that we get delight in the pain of others. We seem to feel better about ourselves when others appear to be failing. The Jerry Springer Syndrome is what I call it. I've yet to see "Hunger Games" and I'm sure that I will when it hits HBO or something. I've seen movies like it, but I do look forward to it, but not enough to go to a theater to see it.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I don't watch reality TV for that reason - I can't bear to see people hurt or humiliated, even if they have willing allowed it. I feel like it demeans me to participate by watching. The only "reality" tv I can tolerate are the ones that walk you through something like remodeling.

Karen Peterson said...

You summed up exactly why I hate "reality" TV. There is very little to be gained from watching, except perhaps an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I am not one of Those People.

Dr. Cynicism said...

If the contestants/people on Jersey Shore, Top Model, and all the rest of those shows started fighting to the death, I'd totally start watching :-)

Maria said...

I felt the same way about The Hunger Games. Bing brought it home from school, said her kids liked it, thought that Liv or I might enjoy it.

It sat on our shelf for over four months before I picked it up in a lazy fashion. Ten pages in, I was hooked.