Friday, December 16, 2011

The Hunger Games (Or, Why I Hate Geeks)

In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins accomplishes within the first few pages something it takes most writers whole careers - exposes herself as an irredeemable asshole:

"Sitting at Prim’s knees, guarding her, is the world’s ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower. He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home."

And after reading that, I agree with the cat. Granted, I like cats - something Collins and other subhuman filth clearly do not - so I might be a little biased. So it goes on:

"Even though trespassing in the woods is illegal and poaching carries the severest of penalties, more people would risk it if they had weapons. But most are not bold enough to venture out with just a knife. My bow is a rarity, crafted by my father along with a few others that I keep well hidden in the woods, carefully wrapped in waterproof covers."

Anyone who's hung around gamers - both of the video and tabletop variety - will immediately recognize the irksome swagger of this passage. The narrator is a badass, she wants you to understand that she's a badass, and the text is helping her. The fact that this style of writing has moved out of its original habitat - internet fanfiction - and into something approaching mainstream success should be a source of shame for all of us.

Normally I'm opposed to book burning... Normally...

The plot revolves around your standard After The End setting where young folk are required to participate in a grand deathmatch. Sound familiar? The Japanese did this already, and did it brilliantly, with Battle Royale. That was a hard, nasty little film with no heroes and no sympathy either for the kids eagerly blasting each other or the adults who put them up to it.

The Hunger Games doesn't even come near that sort of artistic bravery. It can't because like most of the geek lit saturating the market these days it is all about characters as escapist vehicles. Katniss - the cat-drowning bitch who narrated those two passages - is full of courage, resourcefulness, and a lovely brunette braid which she uses to best the oppressive post-apocalyptic government while rescuing the cute guy. Yes, it's that stupid!

The triumph of this two-dimensional Mary Sue isn't even plotted properly. The novel begins with her as an accomplished hunter and popular in that totally underground way with the community as "the girl who brings the strawberries." 'Cause it's not enough to just be jock-popular, she's that special kind of not-admitted-but-understood popular so craved by mediocre egotists who want the big mean world to recognize their inherent fabulousness.

So she's already awesome, and then - then! - she volunteers to go Battle the Royale With Cheese in her sister's place. Her sister whom she opened the damn book bitching about but she really loves her and stuff. I'll admit that excuse for a thought process is a realistic portrayal of a teenager but nobody with any self-respect would be interested in the thoughts of a teenager in the first place.

The other big escapist aspect? It's a survivalist novel. They're becoming more and more common ever since a black guy moved into the White House but there's something more than simple reactionary pissing going on here. Like the bravado I just described this is rooted in self-aggrandizing fantasy, the desperate craving for power by fascist twerps. And it's just as divorced from reality - if you're a sixteen-year-old girl and want to try hunting bears with a bow and arrow your daddy made, be my guest. The Darwin Awards always needs new material. Americans - especially 21st century nerd Americans - are some of the squishiest wimps in human history. And they know it, so they gobble up this nonsense so as to better imagine themselves as something strong and independent. And most of them wouldn't last one week without government cheese.

"But it's a YA book" the enablers of this drek exclaim. YA stands for "Young Adult," meaning "a children's book for kids who've started growing hair in new places." If that sounds vague and half-assed, that's because it is. Young Adult is not a genre, it's a cop-out. An excuse for adults to write as badly as adolescents. And an excuse for the fans to indulge in the same teen power fantasies they gravitated towards back in their own awkward years (which they clearly haven't gotten over), getting that much craved dose of two-dimensional bathos while putting on literary airs.

The Hunger Games is the John Wesley Rawles answer to Twilight and it's become popular enough for its own movie. Americans are the most credulous readers on the planet so no, this is not all in good fun. It's an indication of just how divorced this culture is from the ugly reality it faces in the mirror every morning.

1 comment:

  1. Misanthropy is the sign of an intelligent individual these days, Trevor. Await the collapse and enjoy the lulz.

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