Viewing versus reading The Hunger Games

Viewing versus reading The Hunger Games is a distinctly¬†different experience. I’ve experienced strong student engagement each time I’ve used The Hunger Games novel for YA literature classes. But the image that disquieted me the most after viewing the movie was not the merciless slaughter on-screen, although it was truly horrific. It was not the foppish elegance of the Capitol citizens with their bizarre make-up and clothes, because they were positioned as Other to me as viewer. The image that choked the breath out of me was the circle of computer engineers.

Normal, but evil

I identified ¬†immediately with their normalcy. I am like them. But their technical brilliance was the basis for the stark evil of the games. Without the intellectual skills of the engineers who looked and acted like me, the entire dystopic civilization would have been impossible. These were not mad scientists; these were moms and dads on every block in America. I’ve rarely seen a stronger statement made of the moral responsibilities of the creative person. It’s never acceptable to shrug and say, “whether my creation is used for good or evil is not my problem.”

Question of setting

I have a question about setting. Would viewers have refused to identify with Katniss and the people of District 12 if they had been introduced as dirty and famished like in the novel? The people on-screen were obviously in the pink of health. ¬†hey were costumed U.S. Depression Era poor, but their grooming and hygiene was impeccable. No coal dust on anybody’s skin. No hunger on anybody’s faces. I have absolute confidence in the skills of Hollywood make-up artists and if the film-makers had wanted dirty and starving, the make-up crew could have produced it.

The answer has to be that the film-makers didn’t trust their audience enough to let us discover the beauty and heroism within Katniss and Peeta that would emerge with the story itself. They had to give it to us from the start. Sort of undermines the whole “underdog speech” of President Snow, doesn’t it?