Sunday, April 22, 2012

We Like to Watch

Like some who have flocked to see The Hunger games, I had not read the book (still have not read it, btw), and was not planning on seeing the movie, even though I am a sci fi fan. Then the opportunity arose to go with my wife (who has read the books and is a fan) and sons, so I went.

I enjoyed and appreciated it, especially the acting (Jennifer Lawrence in particular) and the music (by James Howard Newton). But the story left me flat. I wasn't engaged by it for some reason. Maybe it would have worked if I had been a fan of the book.

However, now that a couple weeks have gone by, and I have now seen the new horror movie "Cabin In the Woods," I have a new observation to make. Both of these films have a very prominent theme of voyeurism, i.e. other people watching your every move.

In both THG and CITW, the fact that audiences are watching the main characters suffer and die was somewhat sickening. At the same time, this is a savage critique of our own society today, especially when you consider that some of the most prominent reality TV shows, from Survivor to The Amazing Race, operate on the same principle. As much as I don't like what it says about us, I guess it's true. We like to watch.

Another parallel, in both THG and CITW, there are technicians in a control room filled with monitors, buttons and levers at their disposal to not only watch the hapless contestants/victims, but to influence the choices and outcomes on screen. (As some have pointed out, this is just like the film The Truman Show with Jim Carrey of several years ago.)

Despite the massive bureacracy designed to control what is happening, in both THG and CITW, their attempts to control the outcome eventually fail. As much as we would like to control things in life, we actually can't. (My son pointed out that this is also the gist of another recent film called The Assassination Bureau.) People are far more complex than computerized systems, and often quite surprising to those in charge.

Though I haven't read the books, I have heard that in the second and third installments of THG, Katniss and other characters do take part in a rebellion to take down the hateful system that oppresses them.

At the end of CITW (warning: spoiler ahead - stop reading now if you don't want to know how the film ends), the complicated heroes not only bring down the system and foil the controllers, they inadvertently cause "all hell to break loose." It's actually quite hilarious to watch, along the lines of the end of the film Dr. Strangelove.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday April 22, 2012

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