Friday, March 30, 2012

I'm Not Hungry Any More

These are just rough drafts of my thoughts. I haven't figured out much concretely yet. Please keep that in mind as you engage with the content below.

Halfway through a midnight showing of The Hunger Games it occurred to me that I was participating in exactly what the movie condemns: consuming violence for entertainment. And I even paid ten bucks to do it. The premise of the books and movies is that the citizens of the Capitol oppress those in the districts in order to live a consumeristic lifestyle of excess. I live in America; by default I am an excessive consumer. Need I be excessive? With effort, I believe it is possible for me to consume less.
The content of the consumption, though, is, I think, a matter of greater importance. I was sitting in the movie theater watching children kill each other in the name of Entertainment. My ten dollar tithe to the god of Hollywood gained me admission to watch an artificial bloodbath. Does it make any difference if the blood is real or not? I used to think it was just fine to watch gore and violence as long as I knew the images were fake; not actors were harmed in the filming of this battle. But now I have a different question: Why would I want to be entertained by visual representations of people dying gruesome deaths?
When I first read The Hunger Games, I doubted the premise that humanity could come to the point of forcing children to kill each other. My cousin quipped that the Romans did something close in the Colesseum. I doubted his argument. Plus, I didn't think society could "devolve" to something like that. Especially after the Holocaust. I mean, hasn't humanity learned anything from history? It took me a while to catch the chronological arrogance of my thinking. People are people, and I am no better than Romans who tossed people into the Colesseum or Nazis who tossed people into ovens.
Somehow during the movie I realized not only would the premise hold up in a futuristic dystopia, but it functions in our society right now: I was participating in it.
What then? By the time I made it to my car at three in the morning I wondered if I would ever be allowed to go to a movie theater again guilt free. Could I even ever watch another DVD? What was it that really plagued me while sitting in the movie theater? The consumption of violence for entertainment.
I think.
I'm still not really sure because somehow I don't feel guilty reading the books. What's the difference? I see two significant difference. First, the consumption of a book does not contribute to oppression in the same sense the consumerism of Hollywood does. Suzanne Collins can write a book and publish it without the entanglement of materialism inherent in the movie business. Second, the words in the book have the power to provoke my own imagination and I can steward the images in my own head. Violence on the screen is imposed on me with no opportunity to filter what I receive.
It's important for me to clarify that sometimes we need the imposition of violent images four our selfish minds to break away from their default incurvature to engage with others in a positive way. Visual media is incredibly valuable in so many ways. I could never discount the power of movies or documentaries that offer a glimpse of life in poverty in order to give those with too much a chance to share. In some of these cases violence is necessary to accurately describe or portray the circumstances. Examples like Hotel Rwanda and Born into Brothels are quick to come to mind. Both of these films have violence and graphic content presented to move the viewer emotionally rather than to titillate or amuse. The fake killings in Hotel Rwanda created to represent real ones and the real brutality captured in the documentary Born into Brothels are not there for entertainment purposes. They are there to make a point. And, I believe, they are intentionally used not to toy with the emotions of the viewer, but to move the audience into action in response.
Any good work of literature moves the reader to respond, to somehow live differently. I think that good movies do the same. Maybe the movie represention of The Hunger Games  was just so good it moved me to stop watching violent movies for entertainment.