April 17, 2012

The New Number Six

Via Flickr
(Minor spoilers for the book The Hunger Game may be present. Consider yourself warned)

Recently, I read The Hunger Games - partially out of wanting to prepare for the movie (thanks, Nerd Girls' Eye View podcast!), but mostly because I had heard so much about it - a strong protagonist, a great premise, and really, I think that - in a strange way - this book (and I have yet to read the two follow-ups) resonates for me....the same way that The Prisoner did when I was younger.

Granted, it seems like a really tenuous connection, but please bear with me.

Both deal with a person who finds themselves - by their choice - involved in a very dangerous no-win situation. (Number 6 resigns, and finds himself captive on an island; Katniss volunteers to participate in the games to protect her younger sister). Both characters demonstrate an unwillingness to embrace the status quo, and in fact act out against it. (Think of Katniss' stray arrow shot in the Capital). Both participate in a flat-out war against their fellow "participants", and at the end...there is a question of whether they really have succeeded.

But what really sells the comparison (for me, at least), is that The Hunger Games doesn't just sell a superficial fight-the-powers-that-be tone; it absolutely embraces it. Granted, it may reflect the tone and themes that many young adult novels take on, but unlike, say, Twilight, there's a willingness to take an absolute moral stand. (It's like the old joke - if Harry Potter is about taking a stand and making good choices, Hunger Games is about not falling into the trap of cliches, and Twilight is about angsting over whether your boyfriend really likes you). 

But flat-out encouraging an anti-establishment attitude amongst young people? That, dear readers, takes all-out courage. During production of The Prisoner, McGoohan was a less-than-friendly presence, almost obsessive in wanting to be sure that his creative vision came through and that this tone was maintained. Although writing is a more solitary pursuit, Suzanne Collins maintains a similar consistency of tone....and The Hunger Games, as a book, is a pretty daring piece of work.

And in these times, when conformity and being "part of the crowd" is becoming more prevalent (increasingly, from my perspective, in the "geek/nerd" crowd), that we need art that reminds us that ultimately, we can stand for someone. Forty-some years ago, it was a man with a number. Today, it's a girl named Katniss.

And I hope that there's some young person embracing their individuality in the same manner that Number 6 encouraged me to embraced mine.

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