Thursday, March 22, 2012

Entertainment vs. Education. Escapism vs. Influence.

I've been reading a lot of the articles coming out that have been comparing Hunger Games and Twilight.  I suppose the comparisons are inevitable.  Some writers are showing seeming similarities between the such similarity being that the two books both have a love triangle between one girl and two boys.  Other writers are comparing the heroines, Katniss and Bella.  And then others are comparing the two entertainment franchises that are more or less competing for the hearts of the same fans.  Hunger Games is the next Twilight.  But remember when Twilight was the next Harry terms of it being a series of books made into movies?  Well, that and the whole rabid fan issue?  Remember even further back when the first Harry Potter books came out and critics worried that the subject of witches, wizards and magic were evil and would corrupt our childrens' minds...rather than doing just the opposite, which was getting our children more excited about reading than they had ever been before?  (I tell you what, it was because of that controversy that I started reading the Harry Potter books to begin with.  I thought all the critical talk was pure rubbish but needed to read the books first before joining the fray.  Kind of hard to speak with any authority on the subject if you haven't actually read the books...which, I might add, were what many of the critics were doing.  They hadn't even read the stories before completely dismissing them out of hand!)   

In the article I read today the writer was debating which was the better role model, Katniss or Bella.  I was annoyed in a few ways.  One, he was trying to point out that though Katniss seemed on the surface to be the better role model, strong and independent...that in all actuality she's not that different than whiny, angsty Bella.  And I didn't agree.  But two, and even more irritating to me was the idea that we even needed to worry about what kind of role models they are in the first place and what kind of negative effects they could have on our children.  Seriously?  The last time I checked, these books are supposed to be entertainment.  Escapism.  For enjoyment purposes.  Is there really supposed to be some deeper meaning?  My daughters have read both of these series of books and frankly, I'm just glad they are reading.

And's not that simple is it?  Because as much we as adults say "it's just a story, FICTION...for heavens sake!" children's minds are more malleable.  As much as I did indeed love the Twilight story (and stayed up till 3:00 AM reading the first book because I was enjoying myself so much) I suppose if I really think about it, I don't want my daughters using Bella and Edward as an example of what a real relationship is or should be like.  But realistically, my daughters are smart.  And I would hope that when they read those books it never once occurred to them to wish and hope for a sexy, sparkly vampire to sneak into their rooms at night to watch them sleep.  Critics of The Hunger Games whine that it's an awful premise and much, much too violent.  Well, yes, I suppose.  But it's a story.  A story with a deeper meaning and symbolism?  Maybe.  I fully admit that the story spun around in my mind for days after I read it.  And made me wonder a lot about reality TV and what we consider entertainment in our own world.  It's always great when a book can grip your mind and keep your brain busy for a few days.  But first and foremost...The Hunger Games was a STORY.  Pure escapism.  Who doesn't like to lose themselves in a great story?  (Truth be told, as a mother reading to her children, I was inordinately glad that good triumphs evil in the world of Harry Potter.  But unfortunately, that's not always how the real world works.) 

I guess that's why I get so irritated.  Because studies have actually shown that our minds, and especially the minds of our children, ARE affected by what we read, watch and play.  A lot of times this isn't a bad thing.  If a book, a story can make me decide to be better, think harder, try something new...well I'm not going to complain about that, necessarily.  But can't we separate the real from the imaginary?  Especially when it's something so obviously out of the realms of the a whole super-secret society of witches and wizards, or an equally super-secret society of vampires and werewolves, or a reality TV show centered around children killing each other for sport and punishment.  (Okay...that last one may be not so out of the realms of reality, unfortunately, in certain countries.)  But I suppose if it were that simple I wouldn't have to consciously make a choice to stay away from intense and scary movies/books for fear of nightmares.  Bryan's always telling me when I'm afraid to turn out the lights, "It's just a story, Sarah.  It's not real."  



Shauna said...

This is one of my hot buttons as well. My children definitely know the difference between fact and fiction and I don't worry about too much about them getting it all mixed up. I think one of the keys is talking to your kids about what they are reading. Asking for their opinions, seeing how the books effect them, getting into a discussion about the rights and wrongs, the pros and cons, the facts vs. the fiction can help them come to appreciate the stories for the escapism that we as adults know it is. I think that if all the parents who are worried about their children becoming "witches" actually sat down and had a discussion with their kids, the majority of them would find that their kids really know it is just a story...

mistress of chaos said...

i agree with you both about how we should talk to our kids......I had both my girls study the roman culture and I read Quo Vadis before taking them to the movie. I beg to differ about what is so much SO MUCH better about the Hunger games. I read more into it than most because I am fascinated with the comparison between our nation's history, the Weimar Republic, and the fall of the Roman Empire. I feel that books like the Hunger Games are inspired. Teenagers are the ones who get involved in revolutions by their questioning of the world around them. Twilight was just soft porn for girls. Hunger Games can be considered a political commentary on where our culture is headed. If you compare Quo Vadis and the debauchery of the Roman empire at the time of Nero (think neurotic) to the plot of the Hunger Games trilogy you can totally see where she is going with her condemnation of where we are headed as a nation. Sadly, most teens will just read the books as the thrill ride they are. As for the movie, I was relieved that it was sanitized for my girls to watch with me but I was about to get a headache from the cinematography at the beginning, too much moving around! I wish wish wish we could have all gone together!!!!!!