The most memorable piece of television for me of recent years was the sight, on the Amazing Race Season 3, of the elderly American couple Teri and Ian parading their disposable underwear while getting into the Dugong enclosure at the Singapore Zoo.
Reality TV has become the not-so-guilty cultural obsession of the early 21st Century. Shows like “Big Brother” and “Survivor” started it all. We now have “Akademi Fantasia”, “American Idol”, and “Keeping up with the Kardashians”, amongst others. It seems that there is nothing else on television these days, including a set of super competitive cooking tweens rustling up mushroom risottos on “Junior Masterchef”. It is the mixture of “normal” and “everyday” people in competitive situations, given a shot at stardom, and a satiation of our voyeuristic tendencies that makes this type of television so compelling.
“The Hunger Games” is the first part of a popular trilogy of books written for young adults by Suzanne Collins that has been adapted for the big screen and was recently released worldwide to much acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes, the online film critic, gave this film an almost perfect score.
The trilogy is set in the future, in the fantasy land of Panem, in which the urban elite, based in the capital city, imaginatively called “The Capitol”, lord it over the disenfranchised rural poor. The rural workers live in 12 districts, toiling at manual jobs providing basic necessities such as coal, wheat and steel for The Capitol, whose residents appear to live in lavish and decadent luxury.
Every year, 2 teenagers, a boy and a girl from each district are chosen by lottery to become tribute to The Capitol, to participate in, “the Hunger Games”. These Games are meant to be a reminder to the residents of the districts of the suffering that came about after a rebellion against The Capitol some 75 years previously. The 24 “tributes” participate in a deadly form of reality television, a mix of “Survivor”, the “Truman Show” and “Akademi Fantasia”, in which they are pitted against one another in a fight to the death for which only one can emerge victorious, rich and covered in glory.
The heroine of the piece is Katniss Everdeen, played with vulnerability and toughness by 23 year-old Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss starts the film yomping through the woods, catching her own food with a bow and arrow and sporting a pair of photogenic knee high leather boots. Katniss bravely volunteers to take the place of her younger sister, Primrose, for the Hunger Games.
The second act of the film depicts the media hype and build up before the actual games, much like the early part of an American Idol Season, where the viewing population is introduced to and chooses their favourites. It is in the part of the film that clearly, the hair, make up and wardrobe departments had their day. The musician Lenny Kravitz, plays Cinna, the District 12 stylist who himself parades shimmering golden eye shadow. The Capitol is depicted as a cross between Ancient Rome and the movie The Fifth Element.
The actual games take place in a camera-laden forest where events can be manipulated and different factions and alliances are built. It is rather bloody, but never breaches its PG -13 rating.
All in all I would agree with the critics, it was a good adaption of the first novel, and I look forward to the next two films.
But my main reason for enjoying the books and the movie is Miss Everdeen, the reluctant hero who should be a hero to girls everywhere, who protects her family and manages to overcome obstacles and gets out of the woods without needing the help of a handsome sparkly vampire.
The Hunger Games opened in Brunei cinemas last Thursday.
Photo from The Brunei Times cos Cuboi's got a mental block for this one :)
For the online version with the sensational title click here.