Hunger Gaming

The spectacular success of “The Hunger Games” movie – $250 million in the first two weeks – prompted me to wonder if we are actually getting the point of the movie. I have to admit, I read all three books and took a young relative to the movie this last weekend, which is my cover story. I would have gone on my own if need be.

If you aren’t familiar with the plot, “Hunger Games” features a “Survivor” type reality game show where teens from each of the oppressed regions of a post-apocalyptic America do battle to the death, which is watched and enjoyed by a decadent capital city crowd. Think “Running Man” meets Roman games.  In any event, the movie is a faithful adaptation of the book; not surprising given that the author was executive producer and co-wrote the script.

What I found most interesting was the no-holds-barred portrayal of the decadent audience reveling in the pain and death of the competitors. The sophisticated watching crowd are media drenched and uncritical, and they enjoy the over produced breathless garbage foisted upon them in the movie. It was a weirdly meta experience to sit in a pretty full theater with a crowd of younger people who are in turn media obsessed, passive consumers of exactly the same kind of garbage portrayed in the movie. And they don’t seem to get that the joke is on them or us.

The movie holds a mirror up to it’s own audience, if further evidence is needed that we are increasingly un-ironic society. Don’t get me wrong. Too much irony can be exhausting. I was raised in the U.K. where every other sentence is ironic or sarcastic. I used to find the open, frank American attitude of the mid-90s refreshing. Now I worry that we are losing our ability to recognize ourselves in the mirror.

“The Hunger Games’” mentality is becoming the norm, and the handful of commentators who stand on the sidelines and cry foul are largely ignored. This morning I saw “news” articles on one of the major networks about the departure of one of the “real housewives of Beverly Hills.” Another story highlighted “the most demanding dancing ever” on last night’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

We have become the crowd.

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