Thoughts About The Hunger Games and Race
I read the first book of The Hunger Games series in February. I read Catching Fire early July and finished Mockingjay this past Monday. I shared my initial thoughts on each book on Pinterest, where I post the cover and short reviews of each book I read in 2012, and below is what I wrote on Pinterest about each book:
The Hunger Games:
Beautifully written, excellent character development…love the way every chapter ended with a great cliffhanger. She created her own “world” very well. I feel like she was channeling JK’s literary and creative development power. LOVED “Gale,” “Katniss,” “Peeta,” and “Rue.” (“Rue” is the nickname my late mommy used to call me. *sniff*). Can’t wait to see the film and read the final 2 books. This book is worth all of the hype and hoopla.
FANTASTIC! This 2nd book in the series is even better than the 1st, if that can be imagined. I read the 1st about 10 weeks ago. Collins really pulls the reader in with unexpected twists and turns. I love how she hasn’t made “Katniss” perfect, but good as well as flawed. I adore “Katniss.” I was even more drawn in by both “Gale” and “Peeta,” amazing male characters. I love that the start of the uprising that I craved was delivered, but it did not come about in any way that I could have guessed.
EXCELLENT. People said that they loved Catching Fire the most of the series…actually I love this one the most, though all 3 are exquisite. “Plutarch’s” final words to “Katniss” will resonate in my mind permanently. Although between “Gale” and “Peeta” she doesn’t choose the one that I wanted her to, the ending is just perfect. Read this series. It’s so much more than just some fiction. A lot of wisdom and perspective on the human condition is in it. Amazing.
I really enjoyed the books, especially the fact that it was hard to guess what would occur next in many circumstances. Something fantastic (I won’t write it as it is a spoiler) occurs towards the end of the book that permanently shifts the society away from violence. Or…what may seem permanent. The most powerful series of lines in the series were by “Plutarch” in Mockingjay: "Now we’re in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated. But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction." Brilliant.
However, I thought about this book series and dystopian novels by White authors, in general, and shared some tweets about that yesterday.
Dystopian novels w/ “White” characters suffering are creative exercises for authors but real LIFE for many minorities. Fascinating.— Trudy (@thetrudz) July 10, 2012
Doesn’t mean the actual book isn’t written well or that I don’t like it. It’s just interesting how they’re structured.— Trudy (@thetrudz) July 10, 2012
Reminds me of what Toni wrote in her book Playing In The Dark - Whiteness and the Literary Imagination…— Trudy (@thetrudz) July 10, 2012
This is why “Rue” angers White THG fans. Her Blackness interrupts their empathizing with fictional White suffering. Frustrates readers.— Trudy (@thetrudz) July 10, 2012
Her presence (& I’m sure Collins purposely made the Black district 11 agricultural) in THG adds a swath of reality some readers didn’t like.— Trudy (@thetrudz) July 10, 2012
I hope more White writers of fictionalized White suffering in dystopian novels add Black characters to mess w/readers as Collins did. LOL.— Trudy (@thetrudz) July 10, 2012
Like most people I’ve talked to, I was disgusted by the racist response to the character “Rue” (and the subsequent lack of empathy for her death) in the film version of the first book. Obviously it’s more than just poor reading comprehension on some people’s part. Collins gives many clues to racial identity of characters without using racial labels.
There’s a large empathy gap for Black suffering versus White suffering. But as one of my Twitter followers pointed out, it’s not just White people who have an empathy problem with Black suffering.
I’ve encountered so many Black people who think The Holocaust (referring to WWII era) is “worse” than any type of holocaust and genocide that occurred to Black people. (Read my Twitter buddy @cnrush's post A Holocaust Is A Holocaust where she challenges this.) They think school shootings at White schools are a “real” shame. They think something “finally” has to be done when the gay students who are killed are White. This internalized White supremacy teaches them that somehow Black suffering is somehow more…pleasant…than White suffering since White suffering occurs less often so it means that things are “really bad” when it does occur? Or, by giving Black people a “superhuman” (superhuman or subhuman status is to deny humanity) status, they think we’re automatically “stronger” and thus deal with suffering “better?” Abuse, suffering, and death is bad. For anyone. We can’t simply get upset about the racist response to a fictional Black character yet ignore the suffering of Black people in real life, or privilege White suffering (fictitious or real) as something “really bad” over what people of colour have endured for thousands of years and endure today.
I think it is perfectly possible to enjoy (or not enjoy) art AND still examine what’s behind the art through a sociopolitical lens. It’s…the only way I can approach art as a creative person yet a critical thinker. Art is never “just art” anyway. The Hunger Games series IS written well and very interesting. However, it being “good” doesn’t mean I have to stop thinking critically about it.