I haven’t gone to bed before midnight in four days. I blew off every responsibility I had last week. And Frankie hasn’t had an evening walk in quite a few evenings. The reason for my new devil-may-care attitude? I’m completely addicted to the popular trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins.

Great literature it’s not. I don’t think The Hunger Games nor any of its sequels is going to win Collins a Pulitzer Prize. There isn’t any stunning prose. But there’s something to be said for thinking up a great story and telling it in such a gripping way it becomes hard to put down. In fact, I’m writing this post after finishing book one, but before starting book two, just in case this is one responsibility I’m tempted to shirk once I start reading again.

As usual, I found the book better than the movie, though I thought the movie was quite good. I almost want to start seeing films before reading their books just so my enjoyment of them isn’t dampened. But I like being able to create my own mental images without the help of Hollywood casting agents. And in this case, I have to admit I would have been confused at times if I didn’t know all the plot details from the book.

Even having taken in both, I’m clueless as to what all this talk of racial controversy is about. Is it over the casting? I found the casting ideal. Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bones) is perfect as the gritty heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Attractive enough, but not too pretty. I did find myself rooting for the opposite romantic interest from the book to the movie (Liam Hemsworth plays Gale, Josh Huctcherson plays Peeta) because of chemistry and on-screen appeal.

But back to this alleged racism. Three main characters in the film are black, but one of them is described that way in the book, so I don’t see the problem. (Lenny Kravitz plays one of them and if you’re looking for the ’90s cover album version like me, you’ll miss him. Who knew Lenny Kravitz could act?) Then there’s the fact that the citizens of the 11th district of this dystopian society are particularly angry over their oppression. Tensions seem high and hot enough to boil there. I’ve only finished one of the three books, but I’d put my money on an uprising beginning in District 11. In the movie, the majority of people that live in this area are also black. Does that make the movie racist?

Far more legitimate, and therefore troubling to me, is a reluctance I’ve noticed in moviegoers. Some people are hesitating to see the film out of concern over the violent subject matter. The Hunger Games are, in fact, a competition of survival between 12-18 year-olds. Basically, it’s children forced to murder each other for the sake of televised entertainment. Violent? Yes. Important commentary on the dangers of our own society? Definitely.

Look, I’m as squeamish as they come, just ask my mother. I peek through my fingers at horror flicks, skip most shoot-em-ups and avoid screams and explosions at all costs. Just give me a nice feel-good with a happy ending. But the writer in me can still appreciate good art. I’ve watched many disturbing films (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Fight Club, The Misfits) in the name of art.

Not to make Suzanne Collins the next George Orwell, but she did do something kind of neat. Her story questions our current fascination with reality T.V. and sensationalism in the media. It calls to mind issues of privacy and images of war. Part Olympics, part Survivor, part The Truman ShowThe Hunger Games reminds us that though it may be fun to watch the good train wreck that is The Real Housewives of New Jersey, networks keep having to up the ante to satisfy our appetites for more and more drama.

Besides, it’s fiction people! I’m pretty sure the real world is nowhere near justifying killing humans for sport. My mom was surprised that I not only enjoyed but re-watched District 9, a particularly bloody and violent movie. I guess it helps that most of the exploding parts were alien. I also liked I Am Legend and Aliens.

It’s ironic to me that some people will cross good movies off their list, yet sit through the evening news without flinching. And don’t forget it’s PG-13. A teenager’s novel! I’m not saying you have to run right out and see it in the theater. It can wait for DVD. But check it out. I don’t think you’ll need to, but you can always peek through your fingers.

Advertisements