Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why We Hunger for the Hunger Games

A little over 10 years ago planes crashed into the World Trade Center changing the landscape of the world we live in.  There was a before and there is an after.  In the after, we live with the constant drum beats of war.  In the after, we live with the encroaching footsteps that trample our civil liberties.  In the after, we live with the omnipresent fear of "them" and "terrorists".  In the after, we live with color codes that tell us how afraid we should be.

Today's teens will not remember living in a world without these things.  They won't remember a time without fear, without war, without the desperation that hangs heavy in our air.  And they will barely remember living in a time when we weren't on the brink of economic collapse.  We are thisclose to walking of the edge and plunging into the abyss of being like District 12 it often seems.  And the people in the Captiol, well - they are living large.


Teens today will also not remember a time when you could walk into an airport and sit and wait with your loved one until boarding time.  They will never remember what life was like before The Patriot Act.  They will barely understand what it means to have to get a warrant or that we don't kill Americans just because we think maybe kinda sorta there is a possibility that they are a terrorist.  They won't remember that we have safeguards against unlawful searches and seizures and that you have a right to request a fair trial in the presence of your peers.

And young girls who are flipping the pages reading about Katniss Everdeen, they won't see the benefits off how hard their foremothers fought to bring about equality to women.  No, instead, they will hear the rhetoric of men standing and making laws saying that women should stay in abusive marriages and not have the right to make decisions for themselves regarding their bodies and their medical care.  They won't see the benefit of women marching through the streets demanding the right to vote and own property and demanding equal pay for the same type of work because we are making baby steps to beat women back and put them back in their perceived place.

This - This is why I cheer for the powerful message of The Hunger Games and other dystopian fiction titles that are making their way onto the shelves and into the hands of teens and adults.  It reminds us that if we are silent, if we are still - then we lose.  We lose our rights to be heard, to be free, and to control our destiny.  It is hard to imagine that a government would ever rise up and demand that our children enter into a televised game and kill one another to remind everyone to be complacent - and yet . . .

That is the glory of The Hunger Games: It takes what seems like a truly absurd situation and makes us examine the truth of our world today.  You can hear the lock step shuffle and the drum beats of war right now in the midst of our culture and know that if we keep heading in the direction that we are going, we may make it there.  More and more people are falling into poverty and without work, they are desperate.  Will members of our Capitol bathe in splendor while our people starve? 

It is easy to think that could never happen, and yet we know that many people sat fearfully by and said nothing while millions of Jewish people were exterminated in death camps right next door.  When Peeta says that he wants to die still being him, that he doesn't want them to own him - I want every teen to stand up and cheer and make that their personal mantra.  There comes a moment when we must all, as people and as citizens, stand up and say this is not right.  When we fail to do so, we find ourselves living in a world like The Hunger Games, a world where we have lost the power and influence that we should have as citizens.

President Snow says that a little bit of hope is a good thing but too much hope . . . today, we still have hope.  We have the hope that our country can turn around and together we can avoid a dystopian future.  We hunger for political and social change that will take us in the right direction.  We hunger for leaders who remember that they are public servants elected by the people, for the good of the people.  We hunger for the opportunity to rise up to the challenges that face our nation and to speak up, be heard, and make a difference.  We hunger to push back those drumbeats and create a different soundtrack to our lives.  And we hunger for books and movies like The Hunger Games because they remind us of who we can become and give us the hope to stop it before it is too late.

I, for one, am glad that our teens are reading The Hunger Games and other dystopian tales.  I watched the movie last night and loved it.  Not because it is a feel good movie, but because it captured the spirit and the message of the books so incredibly well.  It reinforced the message.  It inspired.  I hope that every teen that reads The Hunger Games will be inspired to change their world before the world changes them.

And I think there is another important message of The Hunger Games.  When we are starving, it is easy for it to become every man for himself.  And yet, the truth is that we work better when we work together, when we remember that every person has value and a place in this world.  There doesn't have to be just one victor - we can all be victorious together.

For more on the Hunger Games:
The Hunger Games and Revolution
Penn Badgley: The Hunger Games is Occupy Wall Street
Occupy the Capitol
Be Your Own Katniss
My Letter to Lauren Oliver (author of the dystopian series Delirium)
Top 10 Dystopians from a teen point of view

3 comments:

  1. This is an awesome post and I agree whole heartily with what you are saying. I read The Hunger Games not too long ago, and loved it. I'm interested in social justice, politics and activism and it really spoke to me (although I'm not a teen at 21). I could recognize the unique way of providing social commentary and getting us to reassess our surroundings.

    I think this would be an awesome way for a class to study politics - no one ever seems to be interested in civics classes, but maybe if they put it in a context that was interesting and engaging it could spark a passion for social activism!

    Great post, I'll be linking this up for my Required Reading post I do on Sundays :)

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  2. This was a fantastic post.

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  3. Rachelia, thanks so much for sharing the link.
    Lauren, thanks for the feedback - it is much appreciated.

    Megan Scott @gopherlibrarian shared this on Twitter and it was so well stated I thought I would share it here:
    I like it. It's important to talk about the fact that dystopian fiction is born from the flaws we see in our own society just as it's important to talk about the way that reading these stories can help prevent the bleak futures from becoming reality.

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