Behind the Scenes 6 - YA Fantasy Showdown

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Downed Dragon by John Powell [How To Train Your Dragon soundtrack].

Today I want to touch a little on the real Hunger Games, the ones Suzanne Collins created. When I said I wanted to do the YA Fantasy Showdown in part to honor the series she created, I didn't realize how wrong that could be taken. Thankfully no one has said anything like this but the thought occurred to me.

There is nothing "celebratory" in Suzanne Collins Hunger Games. She took all of the shiny and "fun" of epic fighting and squashed all of that away, obliterating the glamor and supposed glory from it. Instead she left us with something far more real. And real can be a scary thing.

Anyone who knows a little of the history of how the Hunger Games series came to be knows it started when she was flipping between a war documentary and a reality tv show. It was late at night and slowly the lines between the two began to blur...

In her series, she doesn't make the fighting of her stories fun or something to revel in. It is something gruesome and real with real consequences. Children have to kill other children. People die, and you rarely get to hear their last dying words as they cough them out while the main character lovingly holds them in their arms. They get stabbed through with a spear in front of their eyes and that is the end of them. Sometimes you don't ever know what happens to them. No romance exists in it. I admire and applaud her writing it this way. It changes it from a simple action-adventure story into something with complexities, depth, and substance. Which is why I can see how something like the showdown could be taken as a mockery of everything the Hunger Games was meant to be.

It pits good characters against each other just to see what happens.

It is funny and sometimes absurd.

It relishes in the characters and their fighting styles.

Which makes it important to show the differences between the two and their intents. The Hunger Games took off the rose-colored glasses of the romantic view of what fighting is like and made it something terrible and beautiful. The showdown was meant to show what kind of amazing stories exist in this genre. It is meant to be an honor, a homage, and a celebration of them by bringing them together, highlighting everything that makes them unique and wonderful and showcasing them in a fun and fantastic way.

Neither is wrong. They are just different in their approach and intent. And that is something important to recognize. Because one thing I love about The Hunger Games is that besides being great reading, it makes you really think.


Kate Coombs said...

Great post! (And great showdown!) Yes, the showdown was just for fun, and certainly a wonderful homage. Maybe that's why the final two contestants really weren't out for blood, both in terms of personality and in terms of the write-up.

I've been bemused by people complaining (e.g., on Amazon) that Katniss isn't more heroic and powerful in Mockingjay. Well, you're absolutely right that Collins is showing what it would REALLY be like--not in a video game, but if kids really were viciously pitted against each other. The sad thing is, it happens, as in the case of child soldiers.

Katniss accomplishes quite a bit, considering how powerless she is, blown about by political, military, and media forces. For one thing, she survives, and that's actually saying a lot.