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by Karma Waltonen

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I read THE HUNGER GAMES in one day, years ago, on a friend's couch while he was at work. The second two books in the trilogy were devoured as quickly and rapidly spread through my friends' bookshelves.

Naturally, then, several of us found ourselves in the theatre this weekend, eagerly awaiting the movie, hoping that it wouldn't disappoint us.

It didn't. That's not to say it matches the books completely (when do films ever do that?), but that we were relatively satisfied, since the movie was relatively faithful and was well-done overall.

Although many of the characters weren't as we pictured them, the casting worked well. My only complaint is that Gale, one of Katniss's suitors, didn't get enough screen time—he was very nice to look at.

Why have these books/this movie become one of those rare young adult series to become popular
with all ages? It's about poverty, politics, and survival. It's about rebellion against those who seek to only take and never give (surely that's evident in the zeitgeist now). It's about the inherent immorality of visiting the sins of the fathers on the children. It's about becoming a woman—about being forced to grow up before you're ready, about already having a childhood taken away, about not always knowing the difference in platonic and non-platonic friendship.

It's not, as some are suggesting, merely a remake of BATTLE ROYALE, in which children are also forced to fight to the death.

The one unsatisfying part of the film for most of us was the way in which cameras were used. In the book, Katniss is hyper-aware that she is on television during the entirety of the games, because she's been watching the games her whole life. She knows
what shots will make good television—she knows how things will be edited. She often imagines her family and strangers watching her as she moves through what could be the last moments of her life.

Unfortunately, the voyeuristic aspect isn't exploited to its full potential here. We get very few shots of people watching the games—most are related to the love triangle rather than making a statement about the inherent cruelty in reality television.

Instead, the movie spends a good deal of time showing us the producer of the show (a la THE TRUMAN SHOW). The technology needed to run the games is impressive, but what strikes us more are the creepy smiles of accomplishment as the crew uses the technology to attempt murder in the name of entertainment.

However, the most telling moment for me gets less attention. Gale, at the beginning of the
film, asks what would happen if, as an act of protest, everyone simply refused to watch. Katniss dismisses him. Yet when we see various audience members watching her television premiere, Gale is conspicuously absent from those with eyes on the screen.

Rebellion takes many forms.

[Awful sidenote: Despite the fact that the books make it clear that several characters (including Rue) are of color, some "fans" of the series are upset that a movie featuring a dystopic world of inequality has people of color in it! Not only have they misread the book's description of the characters, they have missed the entire point of the book, since race-relegated districts or the murder of children of color is fine with them. There's an article about these racist losers here: http://jezebel.com/5896408/racist-hunger-games-fans-dont-care-how-much-money-the-movie-made.]

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Apr 5, 2012 9:32 PM
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I love your insights. I saw Hunger Games last week & had a similar thought on one point: while it may have proven tough to articulate some of Katniss' thought process as she navigates the entertainment aspect of the game, I also expected to see more of the Capitol & District masses watching, rooting, and ultimately driving the Games with their attention. The Trumsanesque Control Room drones are only half of that metaphor!

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Comedies with Dr. Karma
Every other Wednesday

Dr. Karma discusses all things comic, from the classics to what may become classics. Laugh with, but not at, her, please.

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Other columns by Karma Waltonen:

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Karma Waltonen
Dr. Karma is a silly, nerdy know-it-all, but in a good way. She brings all her overeducation to discuss that which truly matters: comedy. As some famous guy once said: “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ‘tis that I may not weep.” Or something like that.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Karma Waltonen by clicking here.

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