The Hunger Games trilogy – Vivienne Muller

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Just hunting through for work on The Hunger Games… found this article by Vivienne Muller:

ABSTRACT: “The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins deals with a dystopian future society in which a punitive ruling elite provide ‘entertainment’ for the masses in the form of mediatised ‘games’ featuring young people who must fight to kill one another until there is only one winner. The purpose of these games is to remind the populace of the power of the government and its ability to dispose of any who dare to defy it. In acknowledging violent ‘games’ as virtual entertainments which can be used to political effect, Collins suggests that they possess a disturbing capacity to undermine ethical perspective on the human, the humane and the real. Drawing on Baudrillard’s ideas about simulation and simulacra as well as Elaine Scarry’s and Susan Sontag’s concerns for media representations of the body in pain, this paper discusses the ways in which the texts highlight the dangers of virtual modes while also risking perpetuating their entertainment value.” (p.51) Ref: Vivienne Muller (2012) Virtually real: Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy International Research in Children’s Literature 5(1): 51-63

… a couple of interesting and/or nicely worded statements from Muller’s article…:

Describing the trilogy itself, Muller explains: “The trilogy heavily references the disturbing entertainment of Roman gladiatorial games as well as the immersive nature of computer/video games, the seductive allure of reality television and the distancing effect of mediatised images of war and violence to warn of the sinister uses to which these can be harnessed.” (p.51)

“The trilogy focuses in large part on the ease with which the real can be transformed into the virtual space through technical and aesthetic manipulation of viewers and participants.” (p.55)

The Hunger Games trilogy also conjures the spectre of the TV talent show which in high measure lays claim to the performative, the competitive and the entertaining. This is strongly enunciated in the hunger games in books one and two and it ghosts the action in book three, despite the latter’s move into a more [-p.57] sombre and reflective mode.” (pp.56-57)

“In Mockingjay, the hunger games have been replaced by outright war between the Capitol (led by President Snow) and the Districts (led by President Alma Coin of District 13). The way war is waged in mediated and mediatised format as were the hunger games in the first two books identifies their participation in the same virtual space. Both sides in the war make extensive use of video footage for propaganda purposes – trying to stay ahead of the game to leverage psychological as well as material victories.
The constant morphing of the real into the virtual calls for some kind of perspective that distinguishes between them.” (emphases in blue bold mine, p.59)

I expect Muller’s article would probably aid discussion about the dilemmas inherent in the ethics of representation; in watching violence (especially at a distance and through mediatised formats); in witnessing/engaging with others’ suffering, etc. Introducing her paper, Muller writes: “…this paper will discuss the ways in which the texts seek to highlight the dangers of virtual entertainment mode and their capacity to mask ‘real’ suffering, torture, violence, and death. This reading of the series allows it to be a clever engagement with the idea that exposure to virtual entertainment media forms frustrates attempts at critical distance from them to the point where it is difficult to identify and engage productively with the actual to which they refer. In considering this, the paper will also question whether the trilogy’s repetitive and elaborate use of the virtual entertainment modality risks compromising the ethical freight carried in the texts by young female protagonist, Katniss Everdeen.” (emphases in blue bold mine, p.52)

Note also that Muller references the following interview, which sounds interesting: Blasingame, James. ‘An Interview with Suzanne Collins’. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 52.8 (May 2009): 726.
Collins is also apparently quoted in: Ketteler, Judy. ‘The labyrinth re-visited; a Greek myth is transported to the future’. The Costo Connection 25.7 (2010): 55.

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