10 Things I Didn't Like About the Hunger Games Trilogy

Spoilers! Also, this is a totally subjective list. I really liked the trilogy overall, but what can I say? Everyone’s a critic, including me.

As promised, following up on my 10 Amazing Moments in the Hunger Games Trilogy, a post about what didn’t work for me:

1. Technology: I was bothered by what seemed to me to be technologically oriented inconsistencies in the world building. For example, Collins gives us the bread and butter of futuristic science fiction: the hover crafts, ingenious ways to kill people, computers, genetic engineering, advanced medical technologies like scar removal, burn treatment, cosmetic body modification, and memory altering, and push-button food. But there are no cell phones or internet. The omitted technologies would have provided one means for rebels to unite (just as they have, to some extent, in real life today), and thus would have presented a narrative challenge, but I felt it was very anachronistic, and kind of a cheat, to have people clustered around television sets a la the 1950s. (As an aside, the way the Capitol was rigged with death traps also made absolutely no sense.)

 

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10 Amazing Moments in the Hunger Games Trilogy

Do I need to say it? SPOILERS…

Also, this is a completely subjective list.

 

 

1. The Hunger Games: Katniss Won’t Be ignored

Katniss is in the Capitol for training prior to the Hunger Games. On the third day, she has a session with the Gamemakers. Readers are already impressed with Katniss’s devotion to her family and the hunting and bartering skills she’s developed since her father’s death. But this is our first taste of kick ass.

It’s excellent shooting. I turn to the Gamemakers. A few are nodding in approval, but the majority of them are fixated on a roast pig that has just arrived at their banquet table.

Suddenly I am furious, that with my life on the line, they don’t even have the decency to pay attention to me. That I’m being upstaged by a dead pig. My heart starts to pound, I can feel my face burning. Without thinking, I pull an arrow from my quiver and send it straight to the Gamemakers’ table. I hear shouts of alarm as people stumble back. The arrow skewers the apple in the pig’s mouth and pins it to the wall behind it. Everyone stares at me in disbelief.

“Thank you for your consideration, ” I say. Then I give a slight bow and walk straight toward the exit without being dismissed

Try not to compare it with the single arrow shot in Mockingjay. It’s too disappointing. Or to Kat’s writing of the Gamemaker’s name (Seneca Crane) on the dummy during her private session with the Gamemakers in Catching Fire : that one is too repetitive. This one is perfect, and her walking out without asking permission makes it all the sweeter.

2. The Hunger Games: The crescent moon of bread.

I know, I know. You think I should have put Rue’s death and Katniss’s wreathing her face and body in flowers. And yes, that is a heartbreaking moment. But what puts this lovely scene over the edge is that just when you think it’s over, and Katniss has returned to survival mode, a miracle occurs:

I’m about to haul my packs into a tree to make camp when a silver parachute floats down and lands in front of me. A gift form a sponsor. But why now? I’ve been in fairly good shape with supplies. Maybe Haymitch’s noticed my despondency and is trying to cheer me up a bit. Or could it be something to help my ear?

I open the parachute and find a small loaf of bread. It’s not the fine white of the Capitol stuff. It’s made of dark ration grain and shaped in a crescent. Sprinkled with seeds. I flashback to Peeta’s lesson on the various district breads in the Training Center. This bread came from District 11. I cautiously lift the still warm loaf. What must it have cost the people of District 11 who can’t even feed themselves? How many would’ve had to do without to scrape up a coin to put in the collection for this one loaf? It had been meant for Rue, surely. But instead of pulling the gift when she died, they’d authorized Haymitch to give it to me. As a thank-you? Or because, like me, they don’t like to let debts go unpaid? For whatever reason, this is a first. A district gift to a tribute who’s not your own.

I lift my face and step into the last falling rays of sunlight. “My thanks to the people of District Eleven,” I say. I want them to know I know where it came from. That the full value of the gift has been recognized.

This scene is so significant, I think, because it shows Katniss’ ability to create community. Community is the one thing the Capitol forbids most energetically, with everything from the separation of the districts geographically and economically, the barbed wire, and the Hunger Games themselves, designed to pit the people against one another instead of against the Capitol. Sure, Katniss can fight and kill and disobey with the best of them, but her real strength is her ability — really just by being herself — to unite people against the Capitol.

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This and That: What I'm Up To, Books Read but Not Reviewed, Etc.

A little birdie told me that the key to avoiding a blogging slump is to “lower my standards”. Hence this post.

1. My friend Elizabeth and I are giving talk on campus in April. She’s a faculty member in the English department who specializes in Minerva Press and the sensation novels of the 18th century. She plans to discuss The Mysterious Warning, by Eliza Parsons, which I am now reading.

Some of you might know this book through your reading of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. The following is from from Wikipedia:


The Northanger Horrid Novels are seven early works of Gothic fiction recommended by Isabella Thorpe to Catherine Morland in Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey (1818):

“Dear creature! how much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read The Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! — What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them.”

Elizabeth and I are going to discuss critiques of Minerva Press novels, and compare them to critiques of today’s romance novels. Both types of novels, despite being separated by two centuries, share many features: female authors and readership, mass market publication, female protagonists, somewhat scandalous plots and characters, happy endings, not taken seriously as literature, etc. And the critiques also share similarities: conventional, formulaic, unimaginative, bad for women, etc.


Elizabeth is going to focus on Mary Wollstonecraft’s feminist critique of Minerva Press books, and she is going to argue, using the Parsons, that in fact the books are more complex and more subversive than Wollstonecraft gave them credit for. I’m going to do the same.



I’d like to focus on one specific book as well, and I think it would be neat to find a romance published in the past 20 years which bears some similarities to The Mysterious Warning. Elizabeth will read whichever book I choose. If you have any suggestions, feel free to make them here.



2. I decided to contribute an essay to a forthcoming book, The Hunger Games and Philosophy. Here’s the title and abstract. Of course, the finished paper will likely look a bit different:

“She has no idea, the effect she can have”: The Gender of Success in the Hunger Games

In contrast to other wildly popular young adult SFF series, such as The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games features a triumphant female protagonist who succeeds in virtue of her intelligence, strength, and loyalty. Katniss rejects many feminine norms: she is not forgiving, nice, or humble, she refuses to cry, she is untrusting, “sullen and hostile”. She enjoys hunting, her appearance is androgynous, and she has no desire to marry or have children.

Yet, undeniably, Katniss’s gender becomes significant to her chances of success when her fellow competitor from District 12, Peeta, declares his love for her.  Regardless of her gender neutral, or even masculine, self-image and lifestyle up to that point, Katniss is positioned as a “feminine lover” for the Games. As she prepares to win the favor of the audience, she adopts traditionally feminine mannerisms, such as giggling, “sitting like a lady”, twirling in a pretty dress, and,  later, during the Games, only allowing herself to show emotions appropriate to a young woman in love.

The proposed paper will explore the ways The Hunger Games both relies upon and subverts traditional notions of gender, with a focus on Katniss, as a means to explore the philosophical question of what gender is. Attention will also be paid to Peeta, and how his positioning as masculine, as “active lover”, is challenged by his status as passive recipient of Katniss’s ministrations and aid. The essay will help illuminate some contemporary issues in gender theory, including the social construction of gender, as well as challenges to the very concept of gender posed by some postmodern theorists such as Judith Butler.

3. I registered for RWA in New York City this summer, and I am so excited I can hardly stand it. I actually have family all over the city and on the Island, but the chance to room again with Carolyn Crane was too tempting to forgo. We already have all kind of exciting plans that include matching shoes, an in room fridge, and granola bars, but I can’t say any more about them right now. One of the most pathetic things I have been doing lately is searching for the hashtag #RWA11 on Twitter just to see who else is going and what they are planning to do. I’m so excited to meet several online friends I feel like I have known forever, and to see some of the folks I met at Romcon again.

4. Just prior to RWA is IASPR, also in NYC. I was privileged to read through the abstracts and am so excited for the presentation of some really diverse and fascinating work in popular romance studies. Thinking about IASPR will have to get me though the terrible withdrawal fits I will have when everybody is in Texas in April at the PCA/ACA.

5. I’ve been reading but not reviewing lately. I really liked What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss, although I am not sure I loved it as much as so many other did. One book I absolutely loved, and wish I had time to review, was Collision Course by K.A. Mitchell. Another book I loved but cannot seem to write a review of was Ziska, by Marie Corelli. Obviously, I also read and really enjoyed The Hunger Games.

6. This has been a cold snowy winter in Maine, and I am so ready for it to be over. Unfortunately, winter sticks with us through at least March. We are heading to Disney World in TWENTY NINE DAYS, not that I am counting. As a result, I am back on the Disney forums, getting into debates about whether the installation of lap bars on Splash Mountain ruins the ride, and whether one should jog left or right to beat the rope drop crowds to Toy Story Mania in Disney Studios. Naturally, I have lunch and dinner reservations for every meal already and have had for weeks. And a spreadsheet.

7. I’ve been working out very enthusiastically, and am consequently suffering terribly from illiotibial band syndrome. I seem to spend half my time lying on the floor rolling on a foam thing. Ugh.

8. I have a new Hospice friend, a retired Melville scholar. He is awesome.

9. I’ve been pretty busy with a variety of things. I am teaching the senior seminar on narrative medicine, and I am so thrilled with the students. I think I will make this a regular part of my teaching rotation. I’ve given lots of talks and had lots of ethics calls at the hospital. I gave a talk to the OR recently and I used an  Alternative Pain Chart by Hyperbole and a Half. It went over very well.

10. I changed the pic in my About page. I took the new one yesterday in my office. I was motivated to do so after reading the dead on What People Are Trying to Communicate With Their Profile Pics. I am not sure what I am trying to communicate now.

11. We are going to a 25 course Chinese New Year party Sunday night. You can tell our friends are really into football. A few people on Twitter asked me to take pics, so look for those.

12. I really am going to write that Lover Awakened post, now called “10 Things I Noticed on a Reread of Lover Awakened”. Maybe even later today.

Time to make the breakfasts…

Happy Friday!

Monday Morning Stepback: Rigged contests, Guided reading, Harlequin's Enhanced Online Reputation

The Weekly Links, Opinion and Personal Updates Post

Annoyed with bloggers who do constant giveaways to increase readership? Feel sure these contests are rigged? Their time may be at hand, if this angry person or this one has anything to say about it. A third post, Are Bloggers Conducting Illegal Lotteries? also raises interesting questions about how blog contests should be regulated. (via @myfriendamy):

Go right on ahead then honey because when the feds intervene, when state law governing sweepstakes intervene, I will be sure to grab some popcorn. Because I spoke about this issue once, about whether the sweep was a sham, and I was right then, I am right now. Bloggers are rigging their giveaways for winners based on whom THEY want to win, not by chance. Which technically if you as a blogger are conducting yourself in such a manner you are violating federal and state sweepstakes laws by crossing into lottery territory.

[Edited to add: Author and attorney Courtney Milan blogged about this a year ago. The post is called, “How to run a blog contest without going to jail.”]

*****

Have you ever read in a genre, noticed a trend, and thought, “I find this really weird, but since no one else is mentioning it, I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”? Well, that’s what I’ve always thought about the “bra suck” in romance. Luckily, SuperWendy has proven once again that the truth shall set us free, with her post on The Soggy Bra Epidemic, followed up by a somber and thoughtful discussion of this very important issue with her man. This is a matter of public health and sexual education, people. Go forth and read.

*****

Library Journals’ 10 Must Read m/m romances (via @katiebabs). Was happy to see Sean Kennedy and Alex Beecroft there. Many of the others are unknown to me.

*****

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, by Jaclyn Friedman, in The American Prospect on the Assange charges and the media’s coverage of them (via @moirarogers(bree))

Here’s how it works: As soon as a rape accusation makes it into the news cycle (most often because the accused is famous), it’s instantly held up against our collective subconscious idea about what Real Rape (or, as Whoopi Goldberg odiously called it, “rape-rape”) looks like. Here’s a quick primer on that ideal: The rapist is a scary stranger, with a weapon, even better if he’s a poor man of color. The victim is a young, white, conventionally pretty, sober, innocent virgin. Also, there are witnesses and/or incontrovertible physical evidence, and the victim goes running to the authorities as soon as the assault is over.

But let’s face it, actual rapes almost never match up to this ideal. Most rape victims know their attacker (estimates range from 75 percent to 89 percent), most rapists use alcohol or drugs to facilitate the assault (More than 80 percent, according to researcher David Lisak), not weapons, and most of the famous men whose accusers receive media attention aren’t poor men of color. But once the accusation hits the news cycle, whatever pundit gets there first uses the non-ideal details of the alleged assault to argue that surely, we shouldn’t take this seriously, and other pundits nod their head in agreement.

*****

At Novel Readings, Rohan Maitzen weighs in on the debate over Oprah’s choice of Dickens for her book club. The literati are worried that the common folk won’t understand the book, apparently.

Maitzen rejects the idea that Oprah readers are too unsophisticated to “get” Dickens, noting that Dickens was once a “popular” author. Yet, as an English professor, she believes that guidance can enhance the reading experience. I especially appreciated her point that:

novels that don’t immediately gratify your taste may be revealing some of your own limits, not just theirs. Sometimes, you’re asking the wrong questions, for instance. Here’s where ‘real guidance’ might come in handy, at least in training you as a reader to stop and think about why the book is as it is, what purposes its aesthetic and formal choices serve, what ideas shape it. You might not like it any better, but you would understand a lot more about it.

Opinion

Mrs. Giggles is bored with the internets:

I decided to look for new titles to buy using online hype when I got home. I hit up the Web and… sigh. Is it just me or have all the major romance blogs are now collaborating to hype up the same 5 authors over and over again? I mean, come on. I’ve read those 5 authors already. I want to see the spotlight on someone new. Someone who isn’t published with Harlequin, please. Seriously, have Harlequin bought over the blogs when I wasn’t watching? It used to be that we laugh at the titles of their Presents books. Now, it seems like everyone is reading Harlequin category romances like they are serious business.

I have four things to say about her post (too annoying to try to comment over there. HATE LiveJournal):

1. It’s true that this is a small community and we like to read what our peers are reading, in order to have shared experiences to talk about on Twitter and our blogs, and so some books get overexposed. But this is not just an issue with genre fiction. Anybody notice a little book by Jonathan Frantzen this year? And how that was the only book anyone in the literature/general fiction universe talked about for a month straight? Plus, if a book is good, of course we are going to rave about it, and increased chatter will be the result. And if a book is good and does something NEW in the genre? You do the math.

2. Luckily it is very easy to fix that sense of sameness: start reading other blogs. It is really quite simple to cut out of your life a blog that bothers you. I wonder why more people who complain do not try this? Alternatively, ask your readers to help you find new and unique books. You can see this last strategy at work in Mrs. Giggles’ own thread. (But see point 4 below). Or just surf or shop randomly, picking out what interests you.

3. I have only been on line a few years and even I have noticed the increased respect given to Harlequin, much of it driven by things other than the quality of its books, such as its marketing savvy, its embrace of digital, and its responsiveness to the online community (Blogger Bundles, etc.). But, unlike Mrs. Giggles, I think this is mostly a natural and good thing. Some Harlequin books are great, some not so great. To lump an entire publisher or line together is to do the same thing on a smaller scale that non romance readers do to the entire genre. Harlequin is our major genre publisher. Does it make sense to turn our noses up at it?

4. It’s kind of interesting how many commenters on that thread say they don’t read romance, and do not recommend any romance in their responses. I don’t know why, but I always find it kind of surprising how many people in the romance community don’t seem to read or even much like romance.

Personal

Hanukkah and both birthday parties are over. At his birthday party on Saturday, my 11 year old received a copy of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games from a friend, and to my shock, it turned out half the boys had read it.

I have a bit of grading to finish today, and then it’s break until January 10. We aren’t traveling, but we might toss some beach sand on our new kitchen floor, don sunglasses, and play some Jimmy Buffet.* (*actually, I hate Jimmy Buffet. Sorry Parrotheads.)

No idea what I will be blogging. Hope everyone who celebrates has a wonderful Christmas holiday!

I leave you with this very amusing Andy Samberg video, lyrics NSFW:

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