Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, March 19, 2012

The pop culture playing pieces that make up The Hunger Games

The first big tent pole movie of the year will be opening at the end of this week,The Hunger Games,based on the first book in YA author Suzanne Collins' trilogy about a futuristic society where the oppressed citizens are forced to offer up their children to a literal blood sport that's televised and commercialized to the hilt.

In other words,it's the ultimate reality show. The heroine of the story is Katniss,(Jennifer Laurence)who volunteers to take the place of her little sister and winds up developing romantic feelings for Peeta,the boy from her district chosen to compete with her.

The trouble with that is not only is there another boy back home interested in her,the object of the game is to be the last person standing and that means Kat and Peeta will have to choose which one of them dies in order to win. Given that each of them has a particular physical talent which gives both an edge in the competition,their chances of surviving are strong yet incredibly sad at the same time:

While The Hunger Games are a new phenomenon,this series does have it's pop culture predecessors,particularly in the cinematic realm,and as we wait to see how well THG presents itself onscreen,checking a few of these films out should be a great way to make the time pass quickly.

Speaking of quick time,1976's Logan's Run showcases a world dedicated to the pleasures of youth as the inhabitants of a domed society in the 23rd century are only allowed to reach the age of 30. Upon that fated birthday,he or she must submit to "Carousel" for the alleged good of all.

Our hero is Logan 5(Michael York),whose job it was to capture "runners" who resisted Carousel but now he finds himself on the lam with a lady love beside him. Even though Logan is not involved in an official death game,the race for his life is just as risky and full of treacherous obstacles:

A more brutal example of youth gone wild comes from Japan,with Battle Royale in 2000. This cult film has a group of teenagers are taken to a remote island and forced to fight to the death by government order. If they don't comply,an electronic collar placed around their necks will explode which is a pretty solid incentive to participate there.

In between the slayings,old friendships and new romances are put on the line as tensions rise along with the body count. One of the slaughtering students in the cast happens to be Chiaki Kuriyama,who later became better known to Western audiences as Go-Go Yubari in Kill Bill,Part One. You can see where she got those killer instincts from in this fearsome flick:

For more of a grown-up look at the dark side of competition,1975's Rollerball starred James Caan as Jonathan,the most prominent member of his team who is starting to be a liability for the corporation that sponsors his sport.

Rollerball games are used by the elite in this advanced world to give the lower classes an outlet for violence as well as stamp out any notions of individuality and Jonathan's popularity threatens that status quo.

The pressure is on for him to retire but Jonathan decides that now is the time for him to take a stand. A remake of this film was released in 2002 but I suspect that it couldn't match up to it's earlier incarnation in more ways than one:

Another variation on the blood sport theme arrived in 1987 with The Running Man, rather loosely based on one of Stephen King's Richard Bachman novels.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was the main man on deck here,as a police officer framed for a massacre and sentenced to be a contestant on a gruesome game show that lets audience members win prizes if their favorite "stalker" makes the latest kill.

The movie gets very cartoony at times,with over the top bad guys for our hero to take down and scenes clearly written in order to slip in a dandy one liner for Arnie. Despite the subtle as a sledgehammer theatrics,you do have to give the film makers credit for casting real life cheesy Family Feud emcee Richard Dawson as the sleazy love to hate him Running Man host Killian:

Fortunately,The Hunger Games promises to be a little more sophisticated than the likes of The Running Man yet it is one of the stepping stones that made this path to Panem possible. Knowledge is power and knowing the source of possible inspiration for a sci-fi saga helps to enhance your enjoyment of it.

One might feel a little guilty about enjoying such fictional fights to the death and that is a good thing but part of the reason we love pop culture is that our best and worst fantasies are played out in a safety zone of imagination. Granted,some people don't know where to draw the line between real and make believe but why let them spoil our game?:

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