Mary F. Pharr and Leisa A. Clark’s collection of critical essays on the Hunger Games trilogy is a recent addition to McFarland’s Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy series, edited by Donald Palumbo and C. W. Sullivan III. Initially conceived as a reaction to the lack of scholarly articles on Collins’s trilogy, despite the overwhelming popularity of the genre with both adolescent and adult readers, Pharr and Clark aim to “fill that gap by providing well-researched, critical discussions of the series’ key ideas, characters, and themes” (3). The four parts of the book, outlined below, are framed by an editors’ introduction that explores the development and increased popularity of fantasy literature, looking at historical trends in children’s and young adult literature and noting the unprecedented contemporary appeal of dystopian novels for young adults. Pharr and Clark note the commercial success of The Hunger Games and the crossover appeal of the novels in the United States, arguing that the books build on a foundation of speculative fiction while also appealing to the political anxieties and social unrest of contemporary readers.
Part 1, “History, Politics, Economics, and Culture,” examines the relationship of the Hunger Games trilogy to economic crises, political unrest, and forms of literary activism. Its six essays serve as an introduction to the collection, providing examples of spectacle, identity, and politics that are echoed in the remaining three sections. Among others, Valerie Frankel notes the comparisons between the artificial constructs of Panem and the media-driven society of the United States, while Tina L. Hanlon looks to the relation of District 12 to a specific Appalachian community that places the series in real-world settings for contemporary young adults. Pharr and Clark position this section as a warning to adolescent readers, foregrounding the activist nature of dystopian literature and the real-world applications of fantasy.
Part 2 examines “Ethics, Aesthetics, and Identity” within the Hunger Games series. The essays examine issues of decision making, spirituality, and character development, as Katniss must serve as a political figure while negotiating for her life in the deadly games. Katheryn Wright notes the aesthetics of contemporary popular culture through reality television and the use of the Mockingjay symbol as resistance art. Sharon D. King looks at issues of identity and ethics through an analysis of the monstrous [End Page 445] in Panem, moving away from the natural and positioning the reader in the liminal space between, filled with hybridity and examples of the uncanny. Jennifer Mitchell takes on a queer reading of The Hunger Games, commenting on the ability of Katniss to shift between moments of femininity and masculinity, becoming more feminine as she is constructed as a political icon by characters in positions of power.
While there are elements of power, privilege, and identity in the first half of this collection, these themes are expanded and critiqued in part 3, “Resistance, Surveillance, and Simulacra.” Four chapters examine the postmodern elements of rebellion, discipline, and survival as they relate to character development and the portrayal of a technologically advanced dystopian society. Kelley Wezner notes the panopticon style of surveillance of the Capitol, which modifies and shapes the actions of its citizens, and Shannon R. Mortimere-Smith extends the examination of voyeurism and imagery in the novels as the tributes are watched and politically disadvantaged by their constant surveillance during their experience in the Hunger Games.
Five chapters make up the final part of the collection, “Thematic Parallels and Literary Traditions.” Pharr and Clark seek to align Collins’s trilogy with other popular narratives, including such monoliths of children’s and young adult literature as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. As an instructor of undergraduate young adult literature courses, I found this section most valuable for enabling my students to relate characters and narratives of The Hunger Games to themes present in canonical children’s and young adult novels. This section...
(CBS News) Reviews of "The Hunger Games" are in, and the odds seem to be in the film's favor.
Critics, overall, have been positive about the highly anticipated adaptation of Suzanne Collins' dystopian novel, praising both director/co-screenwriter Gary Ross and actress Jennifer Lawrence, who plays heroine Katniss Everdeen.
Pictures: "The Hunger Games" cast in NYC
Pictures: The world premiere
"The Hunger Games" scores big with midnight debut
"Relax, you legions of Hunger Gamers. We have a winner," writes Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers. "The screen 'Hunger Games' radiates a hot, jumpy energy that's irresistible. It has epic spectacle, yearning romance, suspense that won't quit and a shining star in Jennifer Lawrence, who gives us a female warrior worth cheering."
Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwartzbaum gave the film an A-, writing, "This 'Hunger Games' is a muscular, honorable, unflinching translation of Collins' vision. It's brutal where it needs to be, particularly when children fight and bleed. It conveys both the miseries of the oppressed, represented by the poorly fed and clothed citizens of Panem's 12 suffering districts, and the rotted values of the oppressors, evident in the gaudy decadence of those who live in the Capitol. Best of all, the movie effectively showcases the allure of the story's remarkable, kick-ass 16-year-old heroine, Katniss Everdeen."
"'The Hunger Games' runs nearly two and a half hours in length but is the rare film that never drags and doesn't overstay its welcome," said the Associated Press' Christy Lemire. "It could keep running as long as Katniss does, and we'd want to be right there every heart-pounding step of the way."
Others wondered if the film - rated PG-13, despite the violent events depicted in the novel - went far enough.
David Edelstein of New York magazine writes, "Watching 'The Hunger Games,' I was struck both by how slickly Ross hit his marks and how many opportunities he was missing to take the film to the next level - to make it more shocking, lyrical, crazy, daring."
"It's also clear that the need for a PG-13 rating dictated moderation; a film accurately depicting the events of the book would certainly carry an R," said Todd McCarthy, of the Hollywood Reporter. "That said, 'Hunger Games' has such a strong narrative structure, built-in forward movement and compelling central character that it can't go far wrong."
Ross, writes Manohla Dargis, of the New York Times, "has a way of smoothing even modestly irregular edges. Katniss, who for years has bagged game to keep her family from starving, was created for rough stuff -- for beating the odds and the state, for hunting squirrel and people both -- far rougher than Mr. Ross often seems comfortable with, perhaps because of disposition, inclination or some behind-the-scenes executive mandate."
Tell us: Do you plan to see "The Hunger Games"?