The Hunger Games and rebellion

Here’s another small straw in the wind.

This is the trailer for The Hunger Games movie.

Even from that, you should get the gist. A country where the poor are tremendously poor and the rich are enormously rich, and where every so often young people are induced to fight and die in meaningless conflicts used to hold an oppressive state together: where do these SF writers dream up such way-out ideas?

The politics of the Suzanne Collins YA novels are quite complex but the books are a remarkably self-conscious reflection on the Bush years. In that respect, they make an obvious contrast with the Twilight series, which might be better described as a remarkably unself-conscious product of the Bush years, both in terms of reactionary gender politics and a remarkable fetishisation of class privilege.

Yes, The Hunger Games is about revolution while Twilight is about not having sex. But more importantly, while Bella spends the entirety of the Twilight series fretting about whether the boys like her or not, Katniss is about as active a protagonist as one is likely to find in YA writing.

The transfer of the books to the big screen will be particularly interesting because so much has changed since they were written. That is, the first movie comes out in the wake not only of the ArabSpring but also (and perhaps more importantly in the context of Hollywood) the Occupy movement, which means there’s suddenly a whole different context for a book about an uprising. By way of comparison, the politics of the Harry Potter series developed noticeably as the novels were written, with the later books decidedly darker and with less of the twee Enid Blyton-ness of the first ones. It will be fascinating to see if something similar happens, as the rest of the Hunger Games trilogy rolls out.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. Interesting, Jeff. Especially your comparison to Twilight. I’d never want to advocate Twilight series and totally agree that it’s ultra conservative in its gender politics and fetishises class privilege and consumer capitalism, but there’s something about the books’ portrayal of the life-death agonies of teenage sexual passion that you don’t quite capture in ‘Bella spends the entirety of the Twilight series fretting about whether the boys like her or not’.

    I know a lot of people hanging out for the Hunger Games movie, me included.

  2. Yes, I was probably me.

    And yes, the series sure devolved and the new movie looks as outrageous as the book except perhaps more so because graphic. I mean, Edward pretty much f***s Bella to death. Or impregnates her to death.

    Thanks for the link, will check it out pronto.

  3. Interesting little piece here, mapping the location of Twilight readers and noting the correlation with the US Bible belt. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense, given the deep sexual conservatism. On the other, you’d think there might be some cognitive dissonance involved with believers enthusing about the exploits of vampires, werewolves and other creatures less usually associated with JC than the other team.

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