By Kathleen Bradean
I sense we're tackling this subject as the movie version of the Hunger Games is being released soon.
I bought the first book of the Hunger Games and read the first chapter. Then I set it aside. I probably will go back to it since everyone else in the house loved it.
Lately, dystopian futures have been big. I can see why. The future looks grim. We're wiping out honey bees with pesticides meant to increase crop production when bees are the primary fertilizer of those crops. We've vastly overpopulated the earth. There's a raft of trash floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean bigger than Rhode Island. The United States is in the grip of an ideological war that could make us a third world country in a generation through the destruction of our education system. And between our prison population and people forced to food stamps to avoid starvation, what's there to look forward to?
Dystopias present a world of extreme deprivation (in the Western World view of things, because Darfur is real and it's terrible beyond imagination but no one ever writes anything that bleak because no one wants to have to look at that reality, despite the fact that it is well within the abilities of the world community to change everything there. But that's a different rant.) But dystopias aren't unrelentingly bad or no one could stand to read them. Is the Hunger Games that much different from Stephen King's The Running Man? Or Logan's Run? Or The Handmaid's Tale? I don't know because I haven't seen the story through to the finish, but I suspect that the main character eventually incites the masses to turn on the ruling class through personal sacrifice. The triumph of the individual over the system is a common theme in US stories. I wonder if in societies that value community over the individual if it's always the cooperation of the many that results in positive change. And that's what dystopias are about, strangely enough. They're about hope.