This week we return to our normal format of me ranting about something:
What are your thoughts on The Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale?
Books Without Any Pictures
I would like to thank you for providing me with the opportunity to rant about this subject, as it’s something I have a bit to say on. It’s questions like this that make me wonder why I decided to have a write-in blog. I have a lot to say about a lot of things. I could have just as easily wrote an unsolicited blog on this topic, but there’s some part of me that feels the need to maintain some outward facade of humility by letting people ask me for an opinion. If I don’t act like everything I have to say is super important, maybe no one will notice how super important I think I am. But enough of that, just sit down and pay attention to me.
Ever since Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games the web has been inundated with people accusing her of ripping off Battle Royale and not giving Koushun Takami any credit for his ingenious idea. For anyone who hasn’t read or seen Battle Royale, it takes place in an alternate timeline where a totalitarian government attempts to keep its population under control and free from revolt by terrorizing them with something called the Program. The Program takes a bunch of teenagers and dumps them on an island together to fight to the death. Sound familiar?
If you haven’t yet read or seen The Hunger Games the plot goes as follows: It’s the future and a totalitarian government attempts to keep its population under control and free from revolt by terrorizing them with something called the Hunger Games. The Games takes a bunch of teenagers and dumps them in an arena together to fight to the death.
Yep. And in case you were wondering, Battle Royale was written in 1999 and the move was made in 2000.
So blatant rip-off right? It seems obvious enough. But sadly, as much as I’d like to bash on Suzanne Collins, the simple fact is that Collins and Takami both ripped off something else: Ancient Mythology.
Enter Theseus and the Minotaur. The Greek myth goes as follows: King Minos of Crete attempts to keep the city of Athens under control and free from revolt by terrorizing them in a way that should be familiar to you all by now – he demands 14 tributes, 7 boys and 7 girls, which will be thrown into the Labyrinth and sacrificed to the Minotaur. Theseus volunteers to replace one of the other tributes, fucks some shit up, and beats the game.
The basic structure of the epic fantasy/sci-fi story has more or less been in place for thousands of years. George Lucus knew this, J.R.R Tolkien knew this, and most great authors take advantage of this. There’s something very primeval about mythology that stills appeals to us today, and any story in which a Hero saves the day is based upon ancient archetypes and myths. There’s nothing wrong with this. All artists borrow from what they know. Our experience informs every creative decision we make, but so does the collective experience of humanity. We can’t help it. And it’s good. Art that’s only based on our own narrow experience of the world can never be universal, and if you’re not trying to reach an audience, what’s the point?
So now that that’s out of the way, the more important question at hand is which is a better modern-day interpretation of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur? For me, it’s a no brainer: Battle Royale is superior in far too many ways. It’s written better, it has deeper and more engaging characters, its exploration of basic human psychology is richer and more thoughtful, and its main characters aren’t as irritating and whiny as Katniss. The Hunger Games are trite and cliche, and anything written in the first person suffers from the fact that we can’t get fully inside the other characters. Even with a comparison of the films Battle Royale comes out on top for me, for mostly the same reasons, but also because it doesn’t have nauseating camera work.
Taken from the Uniblog.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I hated The Hunger Games. The books were quick reads that got me hooked (up until about half-way through the second book when things got unbearably dramatic and everyone whined way too much), but they’re little more than fluff. They’re entertaining, and offer me no keen insights into humanity. There’s nothing original, nothing thought provoking. No unique perspectives. Just another young adult novel with teenage characters that I would punch in the face if I ever met, and then tell them to grow up. So if you want a piece of genuine literature, pick up Battle Royale. If you want a quick read for the train, The Hunger Games will probably do the trick.
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