I’ve debated with myself since yesterday morning about writing this or not, so I decided to risk pissing people off (and at least increase my blog traffic) and go for it.
If you’re about as in the know as me, “The Hunger Games” are a trio of teenage books that have freaking EXPLODED all over popular culture; graphic novels, recipe books (uh, why?), fashion mags (again, why?), and now a hotly anticipated film that opened yesterday. People are wetting their pants over The Hunger Games.
Not me – a big shocker to those who know me, I’m sure. In fact, I’m seriously sick of hearing about it. I guess it’s better than Twilight, but I’m sick of hearing about Actress I’ve Never Heard Of being ask if she prefers Character I Don’t Care About or That Other Guy, and the recipes you can make for your post-apocalyptic kitchen, and how best to wear your hair when you’re about to be murdered by an oppressive, futuristic government. Easter Loving Jesus, does no one go outside anymore?
Here’s my extent of knowledge about The Hunger Games, are you ready? The thirteen year old I tutored last year was reading them, and he told me about them and how much he was enjoying them. My reaction was “That’s nice.” It was not “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, I MUST READ THESE.” And I will tell you why: I don’t read books intended for kids that can’t even drive yet.
It’s not because they aren’t good. “The Hunger Games” are supposed to be great, and if it gets kids reading and thinking, awesome. I am all for that. But why are all these adults dropping what they are doing to read them too? This bothers me in the same way it drove me CRAZY for Harry Potter and Twilight (the former is a little more understandable, since most of us grew up over the span of these books and wanted to see how they ended. I didn’t, but that’s just me).
I know what you’re going to say. “But Emily! If it’s, like, good, why do you care! You’re such a bitch.”
I care, because I’m tired of us dumbing down as a culture. I love families that read together, and if you want to read this to your sons and daughters, hooray! But we need to STOP going down to the lowest intellectual denominator. One of the beauties of reading is allowing it to expand your mind. There’s this stupid fear that if we don’t know about something, we will hate it. If you don’t know a word, look it up. Being afraid of that is completely idiotic. And too many adults are like that these days. You should be CHALLENGING your kids when you read, not letting them coast along. The same goes for yourself.
Here’s how my reading went, are you ready? When I hit my middle teens, I put down the easy books. I stopped reading Harry Potter (I’d actually stopped that by the time I left middle school), I even stopped reading my DragonRiders of Pern series. And I went out and bought “The Red and the Black” by Stendhal one Sunday afternoon. Not cause I thought I’d understand it all, but it challenged my mind, and in the process, I grew. If we keep that from happening – if when we are forty-five years old we are still reading “The Hunger Games” – how on earth can we grow? A great series for CHILDREN should be used to keep them building their minds, to let them move up to the next intellectual level. Staying at the same pace, continuing to read the paperbacks you bought at the checkout counter at the grocery store – you will never, ever learn a thing that way. And I guess for some people that’s the point, but I think that’s a sad, sad thing.
Now, I still have some favorite books of my childhood on my shelf. They were wonderful stories, and they hold sentimental value. I’m all for that. But I bought “Mr. Revere and I” when I was twelve. I’m not going to buy it now that I’m nearly twenty-three. And that is the big difference between me, and the adults freaking the hell out over “The Hunger Games.”
There are two ways I am going to close. The first is a story to illustrate how often afraid we are of being challenged and how sickening that is. The second is this same rant, but by David Mitchell, so much better and way funnier.
Back when I was an undergrad taking Brit Lit II with Professor Levine, I wrote a paper on “Kubla Khan” by Coleridge and “Ozymandias” by Shelley, talking about the role of nature in the poems and a bunch of other heavy stuff, I don’t quite remember now. I got an A, because I always got As in Prof. Levine’s class, but more significantly than that – one day, she handed out two example papers to show us how to be better at writing essays, and to my complete surprise, one of them was mine! I was quite pleased as punch. Quickly, however, the class tried to tear the paper apart; too confusing, how come the thesis is two sentences, this is too heavy. I didn’t say a word, which was unusual for me, but continued to smile and watch. The professor broke down the structure of my essay, explained why it worked, that no, the thesis was fine, and so on. This continued until the class’ middle aged student raised her hand and said “I think this person tackled a heavy idea, and maybe they didn’t totally do it right. Isn’t it better to do something easy and do it perfectly?”
Shame on her. At that age, she should have known better. The professor certainly did, for she smiled and explained, no. We should always try to challenge ourselves. How else will we write good essays?
And how else will our minds grow? That was probably the point I realized most clearly that we pander to the low as a society. That was why the class had tried to tear apart my paper as hard as it did, albeit unsuccessfully. Challenges scare us. And I think that is a tragedy.
So now, some David Mitchell’s Soapbox.