I admit to being a pop culture junky, at least when it comes to books. If everybody is reading something, I have to know why. What is drawing them in — by the millions? And I don’t much care if it’s girls or boys, women or men, whatever the demographic. If my culture is passionate about a work of fiction or nonfiction, I want to know why.
So, it was a given that I would read “The Hunger Games.” Just as it was a given that I would read the “Twilight” series. But, with no disrespect to those of you who enjoyed the vampire mega-hits, I confess I enjoyed the heroine of “Hunger Games” so much more, and so did my guest on “A Woman’s View.”
“I love the spirit of Katniss,” author, speaker and creator of www.dressingyourtruth.com, Carol Tuttle, couldn’t wait to tell me when I brought up the book. “When I play tennis, I call in the spirit of Katniss, and I win!”
Katniss does in “The Hunger Games” what we all hope to do in life: rise to the occasion. When given the chance to do the right thing, she does it. She finds the strength. She saves her sister’s life, and later her own. She is true to herself. She is someone you can count on. She gets things done, unlike Bella, the heroine in “Twlight,” who is beautiful in a brooding, lost sort of way, but spends most of the book waiting for a vampire or a werewolf or some other reasonable facsimile of a man to save her. Stop waiting! Get up and do something! (Wait, did I say that out loud?) I can only handle a few pages of longing-for-the-guy-to-save-you before I start flipping ahead to see if there’s anything worth sticking around for.
“It wouldn’t have been the same in ‘Hunger Games’ if the hero had been a young man,” Tuttle offered. “It was so powerful because it was a woman.”
She has a point. Katniss is irresistible in large measure because she is a she, because she has had to take care of her mother and sister since the death of her father, because she has learned to hunt, to beg for bread, to deny herself all of the weakness we women love to flaunt and rely on. All of the “please take care of me’s” were not available to her. I have no doubt she would have enjoyed them. Most women do, even strong women. Even strong women like to fall down once in a while and have “the big strong man” (or vampire) take care of us, but Katniss had no such luxury.
She had no one.
And that makes her the perfect heroine for our day. Not for our mother’s day, when Bella would have been a much more palatable heroine (at least for women who didn’t watch too many Katharine Hepburn movies). In our day we know we cannot count on someone else to save us, to make things all right. What we can count on men for, if we’re lucky and we choose to have a partner, is to be just that — a partner. Someone who stands in his own space even as he respects our standing in our own.
Before I offer any more commentary on relationships, a subject on which I am anything but an expert, I wanted to share with you that I received several emails and texts at KSL this week from listeners who were quite opposed to the book (and movie) because of the violence in the plot involving children being put in a setting in which they are required to kill each other, horrible to be sure. This may be an objection you share.
As Tuttle describes it, “The ‘Hunger Games’ are a big reality show designed to keep people in a state of fear. It’s like ‘Survivor’ on steroids. People get numb. It’s fascinating what people can come to accept.”
I pondered her comments after the show and began to think of the reality shows of our day, like “Fear Factor,” “Survivor,” “Bridezilla,” “Toddlers and Tiaras,” even “The Bachelor.” We watch people eat live spiders, New York rats and blended maggots; get buried or stay underwater so long that everyone watching begins to struggle to breathe. We call that entertainment, watching people humiliate themselves and struggle to live. I know it’s a stretch between that and “Hunger Games,” but how much? Short enough that we were able to suspend our disbelief while reading the book (and seeing the movie) much more easily than we would have been able to prior to the creation of those reality shows, that’s for sure.
I am left in the awkward position of defending violence in a book, something I rarely do, because of the heroism of its main character and the introspection which may be prompted by the inhumanity the Capitol society tolerates in the book (I love a book that prompts introspection). Now, at the urging of my Facebook friends, I am off to read book two in the series, “Catching Fire.” (Well, actually, it’s third in the queue, and may get bumped at any time, but I am looking forward to more displays of courage from my young Katniss.)
“May the odds be ever in your favor!”