posted by [identity profile] at 11:46am on 25/11/2013
I think they're the best type of distopia, that is, they exaggerate perceived inequalities and wrongnesses in our current society, and through that exaggeration make a strong argument for what is wrong, but also give hope for change. In the case of the Hunger Games, the elite 10% living on the hard work and misery and lack of opportunities of the 90%.

Of course, they are also brutal and violent and heartbreaking and not for everyone. A lot of the characters are in places where all of their choices for survival are not nice. Some books you read, and think 'oh, I wish I was the hero!'. These books you read and think 'I am so glad I am not the hero'
posted by [identity profile] at 02:33pm on 25/11/2013
Aha, I see. Probably because of the work I do I don't see that inequality as merely perceived or exaggerated, and I think I'd be livid if I did read them. A distopia that is premised on adults setting up children to kill or be killed and putting those characters into 'only bad choices' situations is truly revolting. I hope the author is spending his/her royalties doing something useful in the world we do live in, which is bad enough.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:05pm on 25/11/2013
I think [ profile] atreic means that, although there is inequality in our society, that inequality is exaggerated (not as in "implying that it is made up" but "intentionally made worse in fiction") for the story?

This is just because I'm curious about the way other people's tastes, not to make you feel like you have to justify your reading preferences, but do you feel the same way about all dystopias or just ones focusing on [children/violence/spectacle]? What do you think about middle-class political dystopias like 1984? (You don't have to answer that, I'm just curious!)
posted by [identity profile] at 04:20pm on 25/11/2013
Yes, that. And I said 'perceived' because, while I mostly agree with the author of The Hunger Games, and think that there is too big a gap between Rich and Poor, and too much Using Other People's Lives for Spectacle (I'm looking at you, reality TV), there are lots of other distopias, and I don't agree with the political message of all of them (*waves at OT Nelson and Ayn Rand*)
posted by [identity profile] at 10:29pm on 25/11/2013
I see what you mean, but I understood what S meant; and in the nature of what I do, the more I do it, the more I think that actually the 10% do live off the other 90%. Children, in particular, are the world's original proletariat. We allow millions of children to starve, to die in employment, to be trafficked, because we refuse to solve the distribution issues Sen (2009) described (along with Jesus, Mohammed, the Buddha, et alia, amen...). We let their parents, especially their mothers, die because we don't protect their rights. So in a way we let real hunger games occur. But unlike dystopian novels, we *can choose* to not do this; dystopias, personally, sap my hope and energy for the real world. Their miserable outlook makes me cross and annoyed, at best.

Interesting that '1984' strikes you as middle class; I didn't read it that way at all. Winston strikes me as a particular type of working class-made-marginally-better by his state education but not being a grammar-school brain, still and always working class. I'm truly interested in the way you read this!
posted by [identity profile] at 10:45pm on 25/11/2013
My position would be that if we want to make things better, we need to convince people (particularly the 10% with the power) that it is True that 10% live off the 90%. I think dystopian novels, by painting the issues in very broad brush exaggerated colours with engaging protagonists are a good way of communicating this message, particularly to people who haven't seen it already. Personally, I think the Hunger Games is _about_ how the dystopia realises the mess it's in and goes to war to get out of it, and how war is dystopian in its own right, and what happens after that. For me they're hope-inspiring books, because despite the bleak misery of what happens, human love and decency shines through, and at least sort-of-triumphs-if-you-squint.
posted by [identity profile] at 11:16pm on 25/11/2013
Which brings me right back to gratitude to you for having the strength and patience to read and comment on these books :-). Truly, I am grateful. You give me an insider's insight to something I never could be doing with, so now I can understand some of the fuss. And maybe this generation needs this form to become awake; who am I to say? Thank you!
posted by [identity profile] at 07:27pm on 28/11/2013
I think my biggest... not criticism exactly, but comment on the first Hunger Games (book) is that it has a strong wish fulfillment element. Obviously, I never wanted to live in a dystopia where my family was starving and in danger, and in real life I'd be useless and terrified. But I would have liked to be an awesome brave heroine who was *forced* to use her awesome bow skills and be forced to wear really pretty clothes and be a Heroine of the People and have two cute boys chasing me. It wouldn't exactly be fun but it would definitely be exciting.

The films do a superb job of the aesthetics of it - the Capitol decadence is grotesque rather than aspirational; while Katniss is pretty hot except when momentarily afflicted with boils, the makeup she wears in the Capitol is tragic rather than 'wow, I wish I looked like that'. The glamour looks real but hollow. I'm impressed because they could so easily have gone for 'these are beautiful people being whisked into a magical fairyland and made even more beautiful! - And now for some killing. Remember boys and girls, the beautiful fairyland was Bad and Wrong'.

Katniss did wear some great asymmetrical sweaters in Catching Fire though. (Shallow? My excuse is that I was watching it in German so the subtleties of dialogue went over my head).


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