Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Hunger Games and Murder TV

There has been plenty of comparisons between Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games and the notoriously violent manga Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Both tell the tale of teenagers forced to fight each other to the death against their will, on an jungle like plane, for the amusement of the public, set up by a totalitarian government.

This isn't the first time this type of story has been told. Steven King (under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman) wrote The Running Man, about a man forced to fight for his life on a television programme for a dystopian 2025 America (subsequently turned into the 1987 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger). There's the dark indie film Series 7: The Contenders, another TV programme shown in America where strangers are given a gun and told to kill each other.

The question is, why does the same reoccurring theme of setting members of the public to kill each other for a television programme keep on recurring in film and literature?

I you ask some people, they'll say they'd enjoy the idea of a real life Hunger Games or Battle Royale. The chance to kill people legally, so to say, or to get enjoyment from seeing idiots that maybe deserve it mutilate each other. This feeling maybe an expression at the distaste for contemporary society; a sincere hatred for  the celebration of mundanity and dumbness that pervades our media (Heat magazine, The Only Way is Essex, The Real Housewives of The OC etc.), histrionically exaggerated so that maybe these idiots get their comeuppance, an almost eugenic desire to get rid of those we find distasteful.

There's also the political element to these stories, a fear of totalitarianism and a sadistic government. In The Hunger Games, the protagonist Katniss describes how The Capitol use the games as a way to remind the public that they should be grateful that they all weren't destroyed in the revolution, and if their ever was one again, The Capitol would win again. There's also the disgusting factor in getting the public to enjoy this ritual humiliation of themselves; if you can persuade the public to enjoy this, to remind them that their deaths are almost always imminent, then they'll be in so much fear they could never start a revolution.

What many writer and directors, as well as readers and viewers, may fear is that television programmes of this type are indicative of the shame we have as a society. If we were to take these programmes as reality, it would suggest a society that is so uninterested in the private, individual self, and one obsessed with sadism and celebrity. A society where some people will literally murder to become famous.

This society doesn't exist yet, but there are plenty of examples of sadistic television; The Jerry Springer Show, Big Brother, Survivor, as well as the Japanese show Susunu! Denpa Sh┼Źnen where a man was locked in a room by himself for a couple of years. The most important characters in these stories are the Katniss Everdeen's, the ones that rebel against governments to show the awful controlling dictatorship they are.

There is an easy way to stop this. Vote with your remote and just watch something better.


Listen to our The Hunger Games: Catching Fire review via the player below or through iTunes, and don't forget to catch up on our first year anniversary podcast too.

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