March 27, 2012

"The Hunger Games"

From my review of the hugely popular and critically acclaimed movie in Taki's Magazine:
The Hunger Games addresses today’s most burning social issues: Would a reality TV show that forces boys and girls to hunt down and slaughter each other with edged weapons be a good idea? Should America switch to a totalitarian dictatorship in which the decadent Capitol economically exploits the twelve starving Districts and annually demands two children from each as “tributes” to compete in the Hunger Games in which 23 of the 24 will die horribly? 
Or, when you stop to think about it, is televised child butchery actually a bad thing?

Many pundits have engaged in complicated disputes over what the subtext of the movie is, but I reveal Occam's explanation of the true deep meaning of The Hunger Games here.


Jason said...

Given the demographic wall we're facing, I think a more relevant movie would present a world in which Baby Boomers were forced to hunt each other, with the winners getting whatever scraps remain of Social Security and Medicare.

green mamba said...

Appreciate Steve's utterly dismissive attitude toward this pop culture phenomenon. I'm amazed by its bizarre awfulness and the way the stupid American public eats it up because it's just the next thing everyone is supposed to be into. Why should I care about this ridiculous and horrible fictional universe?

Then again, I have largely avoided all the big Hollywood franchises going back to Star Wars.

Steve Sailer said...

What's the deal with Google changing the format of the comments yet again?

Steve Sailer said...

I like a good pop culture phenomenon that gives us some common currency to use in conversation, like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. But this movie is witless.

Anonymous said...

I saw the trailer. It looks too childish. I can see how it could be intriguing for kids, but it seems to lack gravitas for an adult audience. To sit through and enjoy a sci-fi type movie about a future dystopia, you have to sort of "buy into" the vision, and it's hard for adults to do that if it seems to childish and cheesy.

nooffensebut said...

Off topic:

Stephen Colbert confronted Charles Murray about white supremacy and The Bell Curve.

Anonymous said...

Was worried when I saw Gary Ross's name attached. Having seen his other movies, it's not that he's an incompetent director, just that he has the hackneyed imagination of a booker for Ellen.

I get the feeling this is the kind of movie to participate in as a social happening and nobody will remember why they were interested after a few years pass. There are tons of other decent movies like that though at the moment none particularly comes to mind

Anonymous said...

Knew nothing about the books until the movie was promoed. I get a real "Logan's Run" vibe from it. I think I'll wait for the SNL parody.

Wes said...

Speaking of witless, I just saw Stephen Colbert interview Charles Murray. Guess what? He accused him of using Nazi and White Supremacist sources for his book the Bell Curve. Guys like Colbert truly serve power and have little conscience about it.

Peter A said...

It seems like every intelligent reviewer I've read has been pretty scathing about "Hunger Games". The divide between the masses and the literate is probably just growing.

agnostic said...

Women are too stuck in the here-and-now and down-on-the-ground to imagine the future (or explore the past for that matter).

They tend to score higher than men on Empathy Quotient tests, but I wonder how applicable that is to the real world, by itself.

It seems like you also need to look at how self-conscious a person is, how much internal monitoring there is. Policing themselves for thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that aren't what they are supposed to think, feel, or do.

Men are less self-conscious; they have an easier time stepping outside of their typical state of mind without inner alarm bells clanging away. Hence better able to project into the future as well as uncover the past. A female writer couldn't have made the screenplay for Total Recall or Chinatown.

Anonymous said...

Hunger Games proves it was a mistake teaching Americans to read and write.

guest007 said...


you should have mentioned that many of the white women who went to see the movie were disappointed that some of the roles will filled with blacks (or half-blacks)

I wonder how many black teenager girls have read Hunger Games or attended the movie.

The audience for the movie is probably a good example of the divide between white and black america.

Josh said...

how do you make a movie about two dozen teens in a televised fight to the death so boring?

Captain Tripps said...

Well, I saw it with my 12 year old daughter, who read all three books. I thought it was reasonably entertaining, as far as the action is concerned. But I found the whole premise laughable. Indeed, the “Capital City” seems to be an amalgam of a couple of bad stereotypes of left-wing advocacy groups kluged into one: gay Manhattan fashion scene (basically all the characters from a Lady Gaga music video) combined with Hollywood television reality show (season 1000 of Survivor: The Extreme Deathmatch on Constructed Island!). Not to mention what some on the extreme left imagine poor white rural America looks like (the home district of the Jennifer Lawrence character looks an awful lot like coal-miner Appalachia, but a lot poorer). Haven’t read the books so I can only guess at what the other districts represent in terms of stereotyped American sub-cultures. Either way, only a tepid thumb-sideways if you want to go see it, and only for the action scenes starting half-way through.

Daybreaker said...

People wrote books and movies, movies that had stories so you cared whose ass it was and why it was farting, and I believe that time can come again!

The Wobbly Guy said...

@Captain Tripps,

Not bad... the home district of the main character IS indeed coal-miner Appalachia, squeezed dry and poor by the Capitol with its military might.

A decent warning of centralised power in the hands of, I don't know, power-hungry elites located in some part of the US, free to indulge themselves in all sorts of silly fancy while taking by force resources from the rest of the country.

Yup, it'll never happen!

Anonymous said...

Steve, I don't know if you've ever looked around the young adult market, but there is a definite reason most of the works you see belong to female authors.

I'd say about 95% of the literary agents are women, and like all female dominated industries you have a lot of the same issues:

- a refusal to provide any sort of direct critique

- inability or unwillingness to provide hard and fast guidelines for what they're looking for (you hear a lot about 'gut feelings' and 'snap decisions')

- CONSTANT reminders about how busy they are and how important their work is

So yeah, you get a lot of female authors because the gatekeepers into the industry are looking for the same kind of escapist fantasy with a "strong female protagonist". Take a look down a young adult aisle sometime. It's all love triangles with a nice boy, a broody boy, and an 'empowered' female heroine.

And it takes place against a supernatural backdrop or a high school.

Kai Carver said...

When you stop to think about it, is televised child butchery actually a bad thing?

We are all entitled to our opinions on this complex subject

You are an evil man, Steve Sailer!

James Kabala said...

From everything I've heard, this book/movie sounds lousy and the world in which it takes place sounds poorly thought out, but I don't quite get the sarcasm in the central paragraph. Does every movie need to deal with a "burning social issue" on which well-meaning people can disagree? I think it's good that we still have some books and movies that portray clear good vs. clear evil, even if this particular one is subpar.

Anonymous said...

What's with all the ass kicking females in Hollywood land these days?
Actually this is nothing new. Hollywood has been making Women who kick butt movies for quite some time. A few not so notable movies were;
TNT Jackson, Get Christie Love, Sister Street Fighter, Leaving Scars, High Kicks, Street Angels, Flight to Danger. Warning some of these movies appeal more to the adult nature side of us.

Anonymous said...

I sort of agree with Steve's conclusion about the lack of subtext or any depth in Hunger Games. I also put the book down after a few pages for lack of any noticeable vigor in the writing. But perhaps the very lack of subtext and substance is the movie's appeal. No one gets offended or challenged by the story in any way, so we can all agree to enjoy it.

SFG said...

Oh, I don't know. I think it captures how high school kids (particularly the unpopular ones who grow up to become writers) feel about high school.

I do think women are less likely to engage in the sort of obsessive world-building Lucas or Tolkien did. But Rowling did a passable job of that too, I think.

I have to say, I can't get too upset about the feminization of sci-fi. From the eugenic point of view, you're getting more female nerds, which means beta males have a better chance to get laid, which means a mild counteraction of the current trend with PUAs and baby-daddies, etc.

Marlowe said...

The 1970s Rollerball & Death Race 2000 movies seemed to have this theme covered better not to mention the Oscar winning Network (portraying TV company sponsored terrorist groups staging attacks on banks for the cameras).

I think one of the earliest literary SF works featuring Roman games re-invented in a near future America would be Cyril Kornbluth & Fred Pohl's 1955 novel Gladiator-at-law. An interesting story which also depicts a world dominated by a property bubble.

FredR said...

I think it's funny the way Jennifer Lawrence's breakout role was as a tough underclass girl in the Ozarks, and now she gets a big blockbuster sci-fi movie and she's cast to play some tough underclass girl in Appalachia. I guess that's why they picked her, but it might be interesting to compare the two different takes on the same class/culture.

Anonymous said...


You had me laughing out loud at the description. My eight year old wanted to see what was so funny and read it. He did not see how calling the greatest movie of all time "Transformers 3" brain-dead was funny.

I'm sorry I think you've lost a fan for life.

Alice Mary Norton changed her name to 'Andre' for the same reason as Rowling. I had some of the same visceral feelings your son did when I discovered the foul deceit.


Anonymous said...

It reminds us of those crazy Central Americans who demanded tribute in the form of sacrificial victims.

I guess we are supposed to respect cultural differences these days.

Anonymous said...

If a girl is the last man standing, then I am glad I did not go see the movie (because it is unrealistic.)

Of course, they might have a girl using her girl power to eliminate the injustice of it all and bring about world peace.

Anonymous said...

These days juvenile fiction is the dregs. Much of it sounds like it was written by upper middle class tweens heavily influenced by pop song lyrics and left wing slogans. Suzanne Collins herself looks like a perimenopausal teenager who binges, but forgets to purge. I blame Scholastic Books, publisher of the The Hunger games, which dominates the juvenile fiction marketplace. Nearly every public school hands out The Weekly Reader and Scholastic book catalogs gratis to students. Most of the proffered literature are PC morality plays about special needs kids, minorities fighting The Man, or the peaceful and harmonious lifestyles of indigineous peoples. There are also lots of heartwarming biographies of black men -- mainly athletes, jazz musicians, civil rights race hustlers, and of course our greatest president, Barak Obama. Targeting the impressionable and dull minds of our youth, Scholastic Books is the closest thing our country has to a ministry of propaganda.

Elli said...

The Hunger Games economy would seem to make no sense - the Capitol has immense wealth, which it gets by wringing blood from stones, and advanced technology, which it maintains in spite of its decadence.

Of course the economy of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings also drove me mad - no herds, no cultivated or fallow fields, no reasonable ratio of peasants to horselords.

kaganovitch said...

Just when I thought our host was getting boring he hits it out of the park.Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Battle Royale

Kylie said...

"Women are too stuck in the here-and-now and down-on-the-ground to imagine the future (or explore the past for that matter)."

I totally agree that women aren't good at imagining the future but some are very good indeed at exploring the past.

Willa Cather My Antonia

Sarah Waters The Little Stranger

Edith Wharton The Age of Innocence

While there have been some women who have contributed to terrific screenplays, women overall just don't seem visually oriented enough to make much of an impression in filmmaking, except in costume design. For example, I find Ida Lupino horribly overrated and pedestrian. Had she been a male director, she'd be totally forgotten by now.

Kylie said...

"Hunger Games proves it was a mistake teaching Americans to read and write."

And giving them the vote.

Anonymous said...

Some HUNGER GAMES fans be racis!!

Kylie said...

This is your most snidely dismissive review yet.

I love it.

No, seriously, I love it.

Anonymous said...

So basically, Hunger Games is an Arnold-free version of The Running Man?

Abbadude said...

I thought it was funny how Collins bends over backwards to make sure that, even in a story as dangerous and desperate as this, the heroine still finds time to be courted by two handsome young men and dither endlessly over which to choose (spoiler alert: she keeps this up throughout the entire trilogy).

As for the plausibility of the whole "strong woman who doesn't need a man to protect her" thing, you'll be pleased to hear that as the series goes on Katniss' main feature turns out to be emotional instability: she has meltdowns whenever there's any setback or loss and spends large chunks of time huddled in bed trying to pull herself together. This may be a realistic assessment of female psychology, but it makes for pretty dull reading.

Anonymous said...

No offense, Steve, but I think you missed the boat on this one. There's actually a lot of interesting political/cultural subtext in the books (some of which makes it into the film) that most critics are missing because it's so alien to our current discourse. Basically, Collins is an extremely old-fashioned left populist: pro-rural, anti-urban, and culturally conservative (there's a visceral loathing of the Capitol's metrosexual decadence.) There's also a very Jim Webb "Born Fighting" strain of advocating for an alliance of white hillbillies and southern blacks against the urban elites. It's actually weird to see urbanist weenies like Matt Yglesias writing about the books, since they're pretty much antithetical to everything he stands for: William Jennings Bryan's America, not Barack Obama's.

Lucius said...

I have to join with the chorus who wish that taki's would extend Daily Mail-esque courtesy to its writers so they can wax expansive on their hobbyhorses.

The venom dripping between the lines of Steve's review is so delicious, I wish he could be tempted to give a good hard squeeze to that rancid, venomous sponge so we could savor the offal.

--I mean, Jim Pinkerton liked the movie, and I like him; and then Kaus, after some reluctance, seems to have liked it. All the same, I'm willing to (forgivingly) assume they're just surfing for zeitgeist and agree with Steve.

I haven't seen it, or read it, but Steve's account is highly plausible. I just wish he could expand juicily upon the worst bits (are there heinous child actors here we'd want to see eviscerated, a la Jar Jar Binks?).

Sidenote: is all the brouhaha about Lawrence's shape a dodge for jailbait-subtext?

On the red carpet she looks hot, but definitely 20 or whatever. In the HG promotional stuff, she looks plausibly adolescent.

Usually feminine press praises "curves" (which she has, in the most pleasing sense). So why the browbeating she should've looked more waifish?

Is it because her baby fat glow makes viewers uncomfortable about her hotness in a "YA" context? Or because it's one of the more obvious signifiers that this film is not some edgy "Blade Runner" but just a piece of audience-pleaser pabulum?

Bartemius Krabb said...

"When you stop to think about it, is televised child butchery actually a bad thing?

We are all entitled to our opinions on this complex subject, but I admire how this film comes down forthrightly on the Bad Idea side of the ledger."

Great summation. I guess it's theoretically possible that the director was shooting for a layer of meta-irony whereby we, the viewers, are just as entertained by the teen-on-teen violence as the decadent Capital citizens are, but somehow I doubt it (and in any case there's a difference between enjoying fake movie violence and the real thing).

Striking that over half the audience was >25 years old. Isn't this series aimed at children?

Anonymous said...

@Agnostic: so, women can't do sci-fi, eh? Ursula LeGuin? James Tiptree (Alice Sheldon)? I remember reading an introduction Robert Silverberg did to a Tiptree book (before it was known Tiptree was a woman.) He said something to the effect that it HAD to be a man, because no woman would write like that!

Jim Bowery said...

The appeal of The Hunger Games derives from the fact that northern Europeans have, since at least the time of the Roman Empire, been considered wild people, aka "pagans" aka "heathens" -- and that a common last resort in dispute resolution was natural duel: Two individuals hunt each other down in a natural setting.

The "civilized" form of the duel was a later invention, with many ruels and conventions "taming" it.

The natural duel mode of dispute processing, of course, has _never_ been portrayed by Hollywood, since Hollywood is, in many respects, simply the modern incarnation of the same JudeoChristian mythmaking that "tamed" northern Europeans.

I describe a bit more of the issue here.

Carol said...

Men are less self-conscious; they have an easier time stepping outside of their typical state of mind

Only because they don't pay such close attention to the zeitgeist. Once informed, they conform.

Captain Tripps said...

@ Wobbly Guy
Yeah, so true…you get hit over the head about 15 minutes in with the whole Totalitarian State political allegory when the jackboots descend on District 12 to announce the lottery results. As someone with conservative-libertarian views, I’m sympathetic to the political theme underlying the movie/books about absolute power in the central state. But I generally go to the movies these days to be entertained, not for an insight into the Big Truths of Our Day, because Hollywood is clueless about those. I tend to be with Nock in believing that pretty much most of the Big Ideas were thought out long ago, and we just keep rebranding them every so often, so I don’t look to popular entertainment for anything new/insightful about Big Ideas. That’s why I enjoy the Steve-o-Sphere…I stumbled on Steve and the HBD theme and thought, “Hey, here’s a new take!”!!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant review. You should write more about the female psyche.

josh said...

I firt heard of this crap about 2 weeks ago on Amazon. I instantly hated it. There is nothing I hate,hate,hate more than empowered girl heroes. The title is stupid,the story is stupid. Two thoughts:A)I just read a profile of this guy Thiel,the gay Christian genius of Silicon Valley. He is depressed about the state of things,sees Steve Jobs as a glorified designer and thinks the tech "revolution" has been a dud,making the Few rich and not helping the Unwashed hardly at all. ("Cept for the African-Americans who can so easily grab your iPads and pods and stuff. The democratization of crime. Thats good,right?) Its funny that he was a SF freak as a kid,and says SF has moved from shining optimism and audacity to the current state of morosity. He forgot to add the feminist crap that has girl heroes!B)Is there a thing in schools nowadays where they actively try to DIScourage boys(at least white boys except those in pred. uhm,Swedish schools),from reading? I tend to think so. A feminist is at heart nothing more than a See-You-Next-Tuesday. This kind of sums up my opinion of women in public affairs,btw:

Anonymous said...

Given all these arena combat variations,I am personally holding out for a televised death match between Rick Steves and Ken Burns. The PBS Thunderdome: two half-men enter, one audience heaves.

Anonymous said...

Really liked this film. It's like a mixture of Big Brother, "Survivor", Rio carnival and MMA except with weapons and fights to the death.

The guy who wrote the books on which this film was based on was on a major acid trip. Major.

The books are a lot more brutal and gruesome, though.

The reason for the immense popularity of the "Hunger Games" books and now movies - they are leading at the box office in most countries outside the U.S - is that the books have as their central theme the overwhelming need that youths of both genders have in showcasing their genetic quality to gain the respect of their peers and the applause of adult society, and with it the best mates.

By the books and now film being so popular, youths are sending the message that they want that: they want contests where they can display their genetic talents and quality, and they want adult society to applaud them for it. One of the foremost problems of modern society is that modern society is all about individual affirmation for oneself(libertarian/capitalist market system), but throughout tens of thousands of years during our paleolithic past, adolescents required a social network formed by adults to recognize their mating value and gain them mates. The genetic programming of humans is still paleolithic, evident by the fact that humans can store bodyfat in an era when food is abundant. A society of lonely individuals who merely trade with each other and have no further relations with one another is simply unnapealing to youths except or the unusually intelligent and/or mature.

The film is all about youths proving their genetic worth to a society that applauds them for it. They first dress in gliterring customs and parade to an audience of adults to display their physical beauty and the asults applaud them for it. Then they get to be individual guests at a talk show, where they can display their talents of loquacity, charm and social graces, toi an audience composed 100% of adults who delight in their social graces and also wit. Then, they finally display their physical athleticism, resourcefulness, cunning and toughness by fighting with each other to the death in a forest where they have no water or food and only two are allowed to survive. Even the extreme brutality and ruthlessness of the contest reflects the taste that adolescents of all civilizations and epochs have always shown towards things that are extreme, violent and bizarre.

The bottom line is this: youths want to belong to a tribe, where the adults of society relate to each other in ways deeper than simply economic trade, and they want the adults to create systems of competition where they, the adolescents, can display their genetic worth and have the adults of the society give them status for it. A society where you can achieve anything you want but have only yourself to applaud your accomplishements, or a society where the applause only comes to adults at age 40, way past prime mating age, is just not paleolithic and thus completely unsexy and unnapealing to youths. The malaise of youth is due to this. The desire to destroy things and wreck revolution that has been so common in the modern West, on both sides of the Atlantic, seems to be just a way of youths saying to adults:"Damn you, I am alive and I am sexy! Look at me! And applaud me..."

Charlotte said...

"...Men are less self-conscious; they have an easier time stepping outside of their typical state of mind without inner alarm bells clanging away. Hence better able to project into the future as well as uncover the past. A female writer couldn't have made the screenplay for Total Recall or Chinatown."

Oh god. So much absurdity and so little time.
Katherine Kenyon and Jericho? Zoe Oldenbourg? They're from the past and you may not know them. In fact, I only know them from reading: one of the greatest archeologists, and one of the greatest writers of historical fiction. "The World Is Not Enough" about the Crusade era, was her greatest, and truer words were never said.

Total Recall? Wasn't that with that warm-blooded android, Swarztenegger? No. A woman wouldn't have bothered. You got that right. But Chinatown with its incest motif and inter-generational strife, lurking vengence? Women have written stuff like that. Too much really. Some of it is as good, if you consider Chinatown to be good. You just haven't read them.

I live mostly in the past and the future, and I am not alone. I have met other women from now, there too.
Yours truly never heard of Hunger Games and doesn't want to hear of them now, but after several hundred years, a successor to Joan of Arc is in order. She did it for God and France though, with an angel on one shoulder and a saint on the other, not just to kick English butt. How we have fallen.

Glaivester said...

At VDARE, PAul Kersey points out that for once it is nice to have a dystopia where the bad guys are not defined as some version of racist Teutons.

As for female sci-fi writers, how about Jeanne Cavelos? Granted, she was working under the guidance of J. Michael Straczynski, but The Shadow Within and the Passing of the Techno-Mages trilogy were both excellent.

Anonymous said...

Your snark doesn't really hit the mark...Panem (from panem et circenses) is an obvious dystopia that has no merits. The big question, if there is one, is whether the elites could use mass media to keep the people mollified with spectacle. History suggests that they can, and current events suggests that they might be.

Of course, the movie suggests that the 'panem' part of the phrase was forgotten by Panem, so there's that. But dystopias are never realistic...even 1984 wasn't remotely plausible.

What I found most odd about the movie was how all the youngsters were so blaise about their fate. I would think at least one of them would have tried to run away. And 12-18? Methinks 16-18 would be a little more reasonable. I was glad for the PG13--seeing small children brutalized might be too much.

Whiskey said...

Steve -- Liked your review, but Hollywood DOES dumb down everything. Look at Kevin Smith (yes Smith is a jerk) and his tale of working on the endless script of Superman. Jon Peters demanded famously that Smith write Jimmy Olsen or a Robot Gay, no flying, and Superman has to fight a giant spider at the end.

The treatment of old pulp hero Green Hornet (fat jokey Seth Rogen) or Green Lantern comes to mind. Only the Batman movies with Nolan taking the source material SERIOUSLY and trying to do a good job worked out for Warners; that same approach with Marvel/Disney worked out mostly well for their films (Captain America, Thor, the first Iron Man movie were good; the Hulk movies and the second Iron Man movie were bad).

I also don't think the butt-kicking babe stuff is sustainable for the male audience/readers. Too many dreamy/screamy fangirls will chase away the male audience/readers such as they are fairly quick. Like fabulously gay fashion designers turned straight men into slobs.

Kylie said...

"People wrote books and movies, movies that had stories so you cared whose ass it was and why it was farting, and I believe that time can come again!"

The Near/Mid/Far East are all making those kinds of movies now.

Just off the top of my head

A Time for Drunken Horses

Children of Heaven

Nobody Knows


The Crescent Moon

Anonymous said...

"the economy of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings also drove me mad - no herds, no cultivated or fallow fields, no reasonable ratio of peasants to horselords."

But I don’t remember anything suggesting there aren’t farmers in Rohan similar to the Shire or elsewhere. Tolkien is not showing everything, and focusing on adventure/war so you could easily assume some of the land in Rohan is farmed. E.g. Tolkien only mentions the economy of Baradur once in passing.

Peter said...

I think it's funny the way Jennifer Lawrence's breakout role was as a tough underclass girl in the Ozarks

Note, however, that Jennifer Lawrence did not play a butt-kickin' babe in Winter's Bone. She instead was a butt-kickee babe, getting a good sound hiding from three harridans for asking too many awkward questions. Off-screen, of course, as seeing a female getting a`beating would be too much for the delicate sensitivities of modern moviegoers.

Granted, her character was a tough-girl sort in other respects, by showing gritty determination, chopping firewood, and last but not least shooting and skinning three squirrels.

Marlowe said...

Anon. said: Basically, Collins is an extremely old-fashioned left populist: pro-rural, anti-urban, and culturally conservative (there's a visceral loathing of the Capitol's metrosexual decadence.) There's also a very Jim Webb "Born Fighting" strain of advocating for an alliance of white hillbillies and southern blacks against the urban elites.

Which reminded me of something I'd just read in Hunter S. Thompson's Freak Power in the Rockies, his account of a radical third party campaign he ran in Aspen during 1969 and the collection of hard living folks he rounded up to challenge the Republican & Democrat lock on the Mayor's office:

"Somewhere around the middle of the Edwards campaign even the liberals got a whiff of what his platform really meant. They could see a storm gathering behind it, that our carefully reasoned words were only an opening wedge for drastic action. They knew, from long experience, that a word like 'ecology' can mean almost anything - and to most of them it meant spending one day a year with a neighbourhood clean-up crew, picking up beer cans and sending them back to Coors for a refund that would be sent, of course, to their favourite charity.

But 'ecology', to us, meant something else entirely: We had in mind a deluge of brutally restrictive actions that would permanently cripple not only the obvious landrapers but also that quiet cabal of tweedy/liberal speculators who insist on dealing in private, so as not to foul the image ... Like Armand Bartos, the New York 'art patron' and jet-set-fashion-pacer often hummed in
Womens Wear Daily ... who is also the owner/builder and oft-curse landlord of Aspen's biggest and ugliest trailer court. The place is called 'Gerbazdale', and some of the tenants insist that Bartos raises their rents every time he decides to buy another pop art original.

'I'm tired of financing that asshole's art collection,' said one. 'He's one of the most blatant goddamn slumlords in the western world. He milks us out here, then gives our rent money to shitheads like Warhol.'

Anonymous said...

After reading the description of this movie, I have less than zero desire to see it. Partly because the premise is stupid, but also because it sounds like a plain bad movie.

Jokah Macpherson said...

Steve, how could you miss the 300 odd pages of philosophical themes in the film?

hmm said...

On one hand, it's probably a net good if someone buying "30 Rock & Philosophy" learns more about Kant or Leibniz or Wittgenstein, however strained the analogy may be.

OTOH, as a practical matter, "Wisdom sets limits to Knowledge also" as Fred Nietzsche pointed out.

Just because there's a publishing market for it doesn't necessarily mean you've stumbled on a useful lasting insight that will endure many TV seasons.

Lucius said...

anonymous 5:59 writes: "I'd say about 95% of the literary agents are women, and like all female dominated industries you have a lot of the same issues:

- a refusal to provide any sort of direct critique

- inability or unwillingness to provide hard and fast guidelines for what they're looking for (you hear a lot about 'gut feelings' and 'snap decisions')

- CONSTANT reminders about how busy they are and how important their work is"

This last in particular makes my blood run cold. I'm obsessing more and more about how to smuggle conservative subtext in modern media; but my soul suffers scrotum shrinkage at the thought of a woman "reminding" me of her "busyness".

--vis-a-vis "empowered females", I always thought The Powerpuff Girls (which I know Steve dismisses) was wonderfully Aristotelian in certain ways.

Yes, there was an intermittent "be more like Buttercup 'cause she's *tuff*" message, and girls aren't so innately into the fighting; but the narratives were often knowingly elegant, and again and again various do-gooding trust-the-bad-guys schemes would be shown up as sheer folly.

And when the wool dropped from their eyes there'd be hell to pay. Very edifying.

JSM said...

"James Tiptree (Alice Sheldon)?"

In "Warm Worlds and Otherwise" is a short story: Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death --
which is *hardly* about a nice-smelling young gal endlessly dithering over which handsome, smitten beau to choose.

In the introduction, Silverberg wrotes:

"It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing. I don’t think the novels of Jane Austen could have been written by a man nor the stories of Ernest Hemingway by a woman, and in the same way I believe the author of the James Tiptree stories is male (xii)."

So far as I can tell, even after Tiptree was revealed as a woman, did Heinlein retract his statement.

Anonymous said...

Someone already linked to Battle Royale. That's what I thought of when I heard this premise. I remember War Nerd loving it cause of the violence and the fact that popular high school kids get killed.

Anyway, I skip movies like this because the whole plot (young hero faces terrible evil - will he save Gotham or whatever?) is always the same. Batman wasn't any better in this regard. Tent pole fiction is always this way. Standins for the audience get rewarded, the people they don't like get pounded.

Lucius said...

I should stop flogging this, but I chanced upon this Collins/Ross EW interview that has a comically odd exchange:

"Some readers have expressed real frustration that white actors were cast in the roles of Katniss and Gale, who they felt were clearly described as biracial in the book. Do you understand or share any of that dismay Suzanne?
SC: They were not particularly intended to be biracial. It is a time period where hundreds of years have passed from now. There’s been a lot of ethnic mixing. But I think I describe them as having dark hair, grey eyes, and sort of olive skin. You know, we have hair and makeup. But then there are some characters in the book who are more specifically described.

GR: Thresh and Rue.

SC: They’re African-American.

So will those roles go to black actors?
GR: Thresh and Rue will be African-American. It’s a multi-racial culture and the film will reflect that. But I think Suzanne didn’t see a particular ethnicity to Gale and Katniss when she wrote it, and that’s something we’ve talked about a lot. She was very specific about the qualities that these characters have and who they are as people. Having seen Josh and Liam and Jen perform these roles, that’s really the most important thing. They’re very much the characters to us."

GR's answering for Collins, and her canned "They're African-American" sounds a bit Potemkin-y to me.

If she'd wanted the characters to be black couldn't she have strictly said so in the book?

And I was unaware of an alternate demographic projecting multiethnicity onto the leads. Perhaps so. Maybe teen readers are (understandably) passionately into projection.

But this all sounds like Benneton-ad artifice to me. Is Ross leading Collins by the hand into a less white-hickified future he desires?

Mr. Anon said...

The story seems to have been inspired in part by "The Long Walk" by Richard Bachman (i.e. Stephen King):

Although having read neither, I couldn't say for certain.

While wandering around a Barnes and Noble recently, I was taken aback to find an entire aisle labeled "Teen Supernatural Romance".

guy said...

Women up to and including Nobelists can and do write much sci-fi, of course, in addition to sports reportage or PUA blogs or anything else. Doesn't mean it will suit every male reader's taste (Margaret Atwood? though "Oryx and Crake" could be shoehorned into about 50% of the posts here), however, readers are predominantly female anyway. The mix of free time and Austenian levelheadedness is beneficial for more & sturdier long-form fiction. I think Steve was just mentioning Neal Stephenson who is better in small doses.

TGGP said...

Brain-dead as Transformers 3? I admit to not seeing that one, but the Hunger Games wasn't an especially stupid movie. Obviously bad & good characters are pretty normal.

Anonymous said...

I read the books before watching the movie and found them enjoyable. But I've wondered why no one has mentioned the Confederate theme of this movie?

The whole basis behind the movie was that there was a horrible civil war in America. And that the victors in the capital oppressed the districts that rebelled. That was the whole reason for the Hunger Games.

A few interesting points supporting this are that the 13 districts correspond to the 13 seceding states. That the heroines district is set in Appalachia. And, in the final book, the 13th district's uniforms are grey.

Maya said...

Okay. I haven't read the trilogy, and I was threatened with an obligation to see the movie no sooner than the summer vacation. However, from what I understand it's just another Harry Potter, Twilight, DaVinci Code, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Ladies and gentlemen, you need to calm down. Are you telling me that something created for and marketed to the largest possible audience isn't of very high quality and is something that only a simpleton can enjoy? You don't say!

No, people didn't use to direct better movies or write better works of fiction. The majority of movies and, before that, plays from any given year had been crap with only a couple of good ones. Perhaps you've only heard of the good ones because they'd been preserved and put aside for you as something worth noting. For example, in 17th and 18th century France, dramaturges would write 10 crappy plays to make the masses or their benefactors happy (depending on their situations) for every one play of quality written to satisfy the artist himself. Most of Oscar Wilde's plays, like "The Woman of No Importance" or "The Good Husband" read like soap operas. But, hey, they were very popular and kept him in the money. A lot of adolescents sited Harry Potter as the first book they read without being forced. Many teenage girls said that Twilight was the first book that got them excited about reading "literature" instead of just magazines. Bless their hearts. Obviously, if you actually like to read and enjoy literature, you won't enjoy the stuff that is produced for people who don't like to read and don't know anything about literature. Same deal with movies. Why so angry?

As for literary crap being female produced and directed at women. Well... Firstly, there's horrible male oriented lit out there too. I had the misfortune of being lent a novel by a young man who claimed to love reading. It was like a romance novel for boys. An unrealistic, boring, shallow plot that pretended to be deep with some young cowboy returning home after the Civil War just in time to see his family slaughtered and hear his father's final instructions to avenge them all. So he practices for 3 days with a pistol he finds in the attic and becomes the best shot in the West. Then, the plot never really develops or goes anywhere, but the young man drifts from town to village to fort to field and in each new setting, a different woman immediately drops to her knees and relaxes her jaw. I don't remember how it ends, but the cowboy, probably, randomly comes upon the incidental murderer of his family and kills him. Or maybe not. So, yes, boy lit genre exists.

The reason why there is more girly shit out there and it gets more attention is what businessmen had known since the 19th century. Dim women read more than dim men, so there is a higher demand for the kind of crap that a dim woman would read. Men always bought more nude drawings and photographs. Just people responding to what they like. Originally, the novel, as a medium, was considered a vulgar low art that was created to entertain bored housewives. And that was great because the type of drivel that these people wanted to read could be easily pin pointed, mass produced and sold. That's not the case with real art, so it doesn't get the same level of attention from the merchants. Don't get mad at the merchant for not being a philosopher. That's not his job. Why should Hollywood cater to you, and don't you have enough fine works to appreciate?

j mct said...

To zero in on the Webb thing mentioned above a bit more closely.

I think the appeal of the movie is that it's an allegory for the 'working class hero' theme, except the protagonist is a she. Here's a link to a song about working class heroes.

A movie with kind of a similar theme was 'Gladiator' especially when he screams at the crowd consisting of bread and circus's rabble and the emperor that wears eye shadow 'Are you entertained'. An essential part of the whole working class hero thing is that you bust your butt for some rich loser's frivolous benefit, which in the movie, the capital residents whom the 'show' is for are losers in the extreme.

Lot's of working class heroes in the US, so that's why it's selling a lot of tickets.

Harry Baldwin said...

Yikes, everyone in the Steve-o-sphere is hating on "Hunger Games," even though most haven't seen it and swear they won't. My wife and I saw it tonight and enjoyed it. Much more engaging than "John Carter," though flawed, like 99 percent of the movies that come out.

As far as all those who won't see it because it features a butt-kicking babe, Lawrence doesn't play the part that way. She doesn't punch out any guys or kick them in the nuts. Hand-to-hand she's always at a disadvantage. She's good with a bow and that's it.

Anonymous said...

Did the author get her idea from SURVIVOR tv show?