The Hunger Games is a Young Adult novel by Suzanne Collins that was first published in 2008; a major movie adaption is also scheduled for release in 2012. But did you know that it is the fifth most challenged and controversial book of 2010?
The novel centers on Katniss, a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem (what remains of the former United States). As part of the surrender terms following a major war, each district agrees to send one boy and one girl to an annual televised event called, \”The Hunger Games.\” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When her sister is chosen by lottery, Kat decides to go in her place.
The idea for The Hunger Games came about from the author channel surfing on television. She observed people competing on a reality show, and on another, she saw footage of the Iraq War. The two blended together to form the basis of the back story. The Greek myth of Theseus also inspired the book, with Collins describing Katniss as a futuristic Theseus. Collins\’ father had served in the Vietnam War and this, she says, helped her understand how it feels to fear the loss of a loved one.
It has been very critically acclaimed and has been likened by reviewers in many ways to other dystopian classics Animal Farm and 1984, both fellow banned books.
The novel has been criticized for its similarities to the 1999 novel Battle Royale. Although Collins maintains that she \”had never heard of that book until [her] book was turned in,\” The New York Times reported that the parallels are striking enough that Collins’s work has been called a rip-off, but that \”there are enough possible sources for the plot line that the two authors might well have hit on the same basic setup independently.\”
Apart from the origins of the story, it has been challenged for containing sexually explicit material and scenes, violence, and the ever-popular “being unsuited to age group.” With its strong commentary on social themes like psychology, economics, and politics, it has also been accused of being “too real.”
One notable case in 2010 was brought by the mother of a seventh-grade student in Goffstown, New Hampshire who claimed that her daughter was having nightmares and that the children in the book were being exploited for their having to fight each other for entertainment. Originally, administrators at the school removed the daughter from the class, but the parent contended that the problem was The Hunger Games itself, not her daughter, calling the book \”filth.\”
The mother’s attempt eventually failed to sway the school board.
The Hunger Games has received a number of honors including Publishers Weekly\’s \”Best Books of the Year\” in 2008, The New York Times \”Notable Children\’s Book of 2008\”, the 2009 Golden Duck Award for Young Adult Fiction, a \”2008 Cybil Winner\” for fantasy and science-fiction, School Library Journal\’s \”Best Books 2008,\”and a \”Booklist Editors\’ Choice\” in 2008. In 2011, the book won the California Young Reader Medal.
With the continuing decline in educational standards, and the rise in the absurdity behind most reality show formats, it’s easy to see how this might evolve to a point where we are no longer competing for fame, glory, or money- but for the very right to exist.
Each new show pushes the envelope of what we deem entertainment in a constant quest to stay edgy and unique. Fear Factor pits contestants in ridiculous situations for our amusement and Jackass has friends doing dangerous and moronic stunts to themselves and each other to see who can get hurt the most and still garner a laugh.
Yes, The Hunger Games IS all too real. It paints a very clear picture of the end result of the dumbing down of America and what remains after a long and vicious war, with the bulk of citizens begging for bread and used as entertainment for the fraction of society with all the money and power.
Most high school students today can’t properly spell our President’s name, or find the United States on a world map- yet they can easily spout off the names and proper spelling of all the Kardashians and every winner from American Idol.
The New Hampshire parent should take solace that her daughter had nightmares after reading the book. It’s a clear indication that she has intelligence and has not been desensitized by the crap that passes as entertainment these days.
There is an all-too-real war on education being fought right in from of our eyes every day as those who have attempt to control those who don’t by placing financial constraints on education. Our children are using 30-year-old text books (those lucky enough to go to a school that has text books). Research materials and study resources are stripped down to the bare minimum in an effort to control what information students have access to. This is done out of “financial concerns,” but underneath it is just another level of control.
George Carlin put it best when ranting about euphemisms and politically correct speech, “We think in language. If you control the language, you control thought; if you control thought, then you control the people.”
Supplant language for the crap that passes as entertainment these days and you have the makings of a world where The Hunger Games is a reality show and the populace watches with the same morbid fascination as the rubbernecked goofs smiling and pointing as they slowly drive by an accident scene on the street.
The Hunger Games is a warning. A foreshadowing of what will come to pass if we continue to let the few do our thinking for us. Entertainment and pop culture have their merits- as they serve to create and inspire art and life; but beneath the surface it is being used as a cleverly-shrouded weapon to control and enslave the minds of those watching.
The dark shroud of ignorance and control can always be defeated by the light of intelligence and free thought. Wake up, turn off the TV, and read a good book. Discuss it. Analyze it. But most of all, Share it.
For a complete list of titles covered and more information about the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project, please visit www.deepforestproductions.com
Sources: Wikipedia, Amazon, American Library Association, Examiner, Huffington Post, Marshall University
© 2011 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions