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02 April 2012

Hunger Games



So, the Hunger Games movie is out.  It is attracting a lot of attention.  Someone who likes the same books/authors as i do recommended Hunger Games books to me a while ago.  I got the first one probably about a month ago, but then i heard the movie was coming out and decided to wait to read it.  In general, i dont feel that a movie does a book justice and then i am disappointed with it.  (I think the Harry Potter series is an exception, tho they did not follow the books as closely for movies 3 thru 8.)

I knew the basic premise of the books:  Young people chosen for a contest where they fight to the death.  I approached the whole thing with some trepidation.  Stephen King (one of my favorite authors) has written a couple of books with this as a basic premise.  They are among my least favorite books of his, and ones i never recommend for others to read. 

The movie was well done.  Duane enjoyed it.  I have since read the first book.  I can see where this is all going, somewhat.  I will read the other two books, but quite honestly i have far too much imagination and can vividly picture a world in which something like this becomes the norm and i'm not comfortable with that world. 

I was doing some online searching and came across a critique of someone who didn’t like it (and didnt read the book in advance).  His criticism, in part was:    
The Hunger Games asks us to buy a dystopian future where . . . societies are made to offer up two teenagers as tribute to fight for honor and glory. All but one of those 24 teenagers will die, every year. . .
Here is my very simple question: what on Earth (and we are on Earth) would ever lead to this really happening? The story wants us to believe that this is a possible future . . . but I'm not buying it for a second. . . I don't believe that killing children for sport will ever be one of them… and I'm a pretty liberal guy. It just makes zero sense. It goes against our biological nature to harm our children; there is no way that 12 districts would just say "oh, we're fine with this." Now, maybe there's some interesting history here… maybe the first Games were basically carried with the districts being at gunpoint or something… but that's history we need to know if we're meant to accept that this could actually happen.

I dont share this critics view.  Tho to a degree i agree that it is hard to think of any type of game show, etc., to have a contest to the death, it isnt hard for me to imagine that it could occur.  I dont think any of the districts just said, Oh, we’re fine with this.  They lost a war, and this is the price of that war.  What is more, this was a large part of control over the different districts.  It was exercising power, pure and simple.  To a degree the Capitol was saying, "Be thankful we only take 2 of your children each year and pray we don't change this."  

We do live in a world in which the Christians were fed to the lions.  More recently we have had Nazi concentration camps and in Soviet Russia there were many people who simply disappeared for a variety of reasons.  I dont think that either of these cultures (German or Russian) were okay with this, but when you have no power it is not possible to stand up and say, No.  Not my child.  The protesting parent would be shot and the child taken anyway.  There are still cultures today where this happens, and in some Muslim countries women can be put to death on a whim.  Im afraid that i find it all too plausible that such a society could develop in the future. 

Another reason for my discomfort with the movie is that i simply dont like competitions.  Even competitions that are essentially innocuous bother me.   Oh, i can manage with Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune tho i don’t generally choose to watch them.  But i do not like reality TV.  It isnt too much of a stretch of my imagination to think of the type of competition shown in Hunger Games. Frankly, i see the TV show Wipeout as veering in that direction (and im surprised no one has been seriously hurt yet).  The only reason ive seen this particular show is that my ILs enjoy it.

Ive been trying to pinpoint my reason for dislike of competition, and once again, i think it originates in childhood. 

Family dynamics when i was a child were set so that only one person in the house could have whatever.  I dont know that i can share a good example.  For one thing, it seemed that praise was given to only one child for a talent.  Thus, only my youngest sister could be good at piano playing, only my second sister good at artwork, only myself good at singing.  But that praise was never given to the person praised.  I never knew my mother praised my voice, but i knew the things in which my sisters excelled.  They never heard praise for those things, either, but only the praise for the other girls.  Im sure it was because my mother wasnt comfortable in giving complements (i struggle with that myself), but this inadvertently set up a feeling of never being good enough and some competition.   My youngest sister has also told me that if there were three of something to be given as gifts, and one was slightly nicer than the other two, both of my sisters knew that item was going to me. 

Now, i think this occurred after id moved away and cut off most contact with my family.    I think, to a degree it was my mother trying to buy me, or to apologize or something.  Im tremendously sad about this for a multitude of reasons.  First, im simply sad that my sisters had to experience this.  Second, there was nothing, absolutely nothing my mother could do to buy me, my love, my consideration.  Third, frankly, in those days many times whatever my mother gave me went straight to the thrift store.  For a long time i did not want anything that came from her.  I wasnt able to appreciate what she was trying to do.

I find it sad and rather ironic that our family had this competition dynamic because our parents spaced children specifically with the intention of giving us individual attention and had only three for the same reason.  Mother herself was one of eleven and never felt much love or attention from her parents.  Sadly, too, the spacing of her children left her more freedom to abuse or at least neglect each of us in turn.  I do not for a moment believe that this was intentional, but it was an unforeseen result of the spacing of the kids. 

I, in fact, probably did receive the most attention when i was small.  She worked very hard to have me on track to read early, and even taught me some needlework when i was small.  I do think i came in for a fair amount of abuse, but the award for being most abused goes to my second sister.  There are two reasons for that, i think.  One is that my mother and second sister are the most alike.  Ive seen several instances of parents struggling the most with the child who is most like them in personality.  The other reason is that sister number two just couldnt seem to leave our mother alone.  She wanted attention (as all children do) and kept trying to get it.  

But our mother was not in a place where she could provide that.  I learned very early on to give her a wide berth and i did not seek her out.  In fact, i learned early to actively avoid her and to lie when she asked questions about my day.  (I remember my first lie about my school day was when i was 6.)  Somehow my second sister just couldnt give our mother that space.  And so, she was up front and in the way and thus most available to be abused. 

I KNOW my parents meant well.  They provided a lovely home for us, and provided all our necessities if not all our desires. 

That is not a bad thing.  I think children who have every whim met and never encounter disappointment or delay in gratification or consequences for actions are injured in an entirely different but significant way. 

I think my parents simply did not have the skills to create a community in our home.  We each stood as individuals but did not know how to stand together to support one another.  Oh, we girls came in for some of that naturally.  But largely the feeling we had of being in competition with one another seems to have occurred because my parents did not know how to encourage cohesiveness. 

What i do know is that i would do just about anything to avoid competition with someone else these days.  Thus movies/TV shows with a major part of the plot being competition make me very uncomfortable. I find Hunger Games plot with competition to the death particularly is uncomfortable.  However, the movie was very well done and i do think it can stand on its own, tho the book did a better job of giving history/background/reasoning and the feeling of the protagonist, of course. 


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3 comments:

lisa said...

I do agree with watching the movie first, because you are right, the movie never does the book justice. You read the book after just makes the book better! I really think people have to remember that these are movies for entertainment not for real life experiences, just enjoyment. If it is a movie that I wouldn't enjoy I don't see it and don't think about it. Hope you are doing good.

JESSICA RENSHAW said...

Kathryn, thank you for your vulnerability in sharing this and helping me know you better. The whole dysfunctionality of your family of origin is sad but it is amazing that you have grown, matured, learned from it, probably be being away from it, to such a degree that you can understand the dynamics, see how it was for each person involved, give grace even to those who hurt you most.

As for the man's comment >It goes against our biological nature to harm our children< I wish that were true. But most abortions prove it is not true. And there are many communities in the poorest parts of the world where parents sell their children into sexual or other slavery to keep themselves alive. (I have to qualify that--many are fooled into thinking the kids will be giving legitimate jobs.)

Mali said...

I grew up being quite competitive with my sister - even though my parents made every effort to be completely even-handed. (Successful with their two youngest daughters, but my older sister always felt as if she were second fiddle, and has some rather distorted views of what happened as a result). I enjoyed sports and competition - perhaps because I was good at it - but it was also drummed into us that the point was to take part, not who won or lost. (It was why my father insisted we play at least one team sport, to understand what it meant to share responsibility, to encourage others, etc). So I think competition can be healthy, but if taken to an extreme can also be terribly negative. I'm sorry you had to grow up in that negative environment, and think you've come out of it wonderfully.

I've read the Hunger Games. The "compete to the death" thing is gruesome, but - like you - I can imagine a dystopia where it could happen. I will see the movie. I prefer reading books first, to be honest, because it enables me to fill in the blanks, the nuances that are often lost in the making of a movie.