Hungry for maturity
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05
After reigning at the top spot for four weeks, Lionsgate Entertainment’s “The Hunger Games” was finally knocked down to third place at the box office with a total current gross nearing $500 million. While extremely successful, I am glad that such an immature handling of what has been critically hailed as a mature material is finally dying down.
On the small screen, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has entered its second season, breaking viewership records with 8.3 million tuning in to watch, ensuring the show will see a third season. Additionally, the DVD sales of season one broke records for HBO.
Now, besides both using “Games” in their title, both being adaptations of popular book series and being some of the most popular and lucrative items in their respective mediums, what can the two have in common?
The answer is their handling of what can be considered mature content.
“The Hunger Games” are young-adult novels set in a dystopic future in which children must fight to the death tournament-style for the entertainment of The Capitol, the cruel overlords of the story’s universe. “Game of Thrones” is fantasy-fare in which Kings fight a war over which of them has a right to rule the land of Westeros–as dragons, snow demons and other monsters loom in the background, scheming to eventually wreck destruction on mankind.
Now, of those two, “Hunger Games” sounds as if it offers the opportunity to tell a more compelling story. The potential for complex characters and human drama in a world where these kids must face the realities of death and mature under - harsh conditions while exploring moral grey zones should by all means sound more appealing than make-believe kings bickering over some fictional throne.
“The Hunger Games” fails to do so. Instead, we are offered a girl put into these intense situations not to explore some deeper theme of morality or humanity and offer compelling drama, but to be awesome. Katniss is going to be fine. Those stereotypically evil and flat kids from the other districts? They’re going to die. There won’t be ethical or moral dilemmas for our heroine.
Kevin Fallon of The Atlantic argues that the movie is best picture material for addressing complex social issues. Critics say the movie is mature in some sense, yet I feel the handling of ideas in the film was superficial at best. There is no complex exploration of why the games are held, no reason or logic behind why competitors are chosen, no exploration of how society came to this point. Handling such a potentially complex story by simplifying things into a black-and-white, Katniss is good and The Capitol is bad rhetoric is extremely immature.
“Game of Thrones,” on the other hand, takes those dragons and direwolves and princesses and kings and gives them character. There is war in Westeros, yet the kings in conflict are all people with wants and needs and motives, none are clearly evil. While there is sex and violence, they are not the main focus of the show.
If you were to move off-screen what socially is labeled as the mature content from “Thrones,” the sex, violence and cussing, what would remain are strong characters and geopolitical intrigue, it would be similar to a play – the writing still saves it. Remove the action from “The Hunger Games” and what remains is Woody Harrelson reading off a cue card.
Good writing is good writing, regardless of arbitrary labels of seriousness or maturity. This is why, for instance, a show such as “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” has gathered such a large audience of bronies (bro-ponies, older adult fans of the cartoon). As I sat watching “The Hunger Games,” all I could do is wonder when the movie was going to stop trying so hard to be edgy and serious, and just grow up.
Henry Arrambide may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.