Open Letter: The Hunger Games is NOT Battle Royale

March 16, 2012 — 15 Comments

Dear Smug Jerks,

The Hunger Games is not Battle Royale.

Sure, both properties have an authoritarian government forcing teenagers to do battle-to-the-death. And sure, both have serious political undertones and social satire. Nobody can deny this, and I think it’s reasonable to assume Battle Royale, either in film or manga form, was a considerable influence on The Hunger Games.

Other influences on The Hunger Games? The Most Dangerous Game, The Running Man, Soylent Green, Death Race 2000, The Giver, and many other sci-fi films and books.

But The Hunger Games is not merely the sum of a bunch of influences. While I am not the biggest proponent of the novels—I find them entertaining, but also quite poorly written—I do think they cover really interesting thematic and allegorical ground in a unique and accessible way.

If all we ever did was dismiss films or books for having similarities to earlier works, then we would never watch or read anything new. This mindset among people who would like to think that a teen novel is beneath them bothers me. It’s not enough to just say, “I’m not interested in teen-lit.” People have to find a way to completely dismiss the property. Apparently the reason they don’t want to read the book has nothing to do with their personal taste or narrow-mindedness; it’s because they somehow know that the book is entirely derivative of something great that came before.

The people who do this, the people who outright dismiss The Hunger Games as little more than an Americanized, sanitized version of Battle Royale, do nothing more than show their smugness and ignorance. They obviously know nothing about the series other than the most superficial aspects, and they refuse to even educate themselves on the difference, instead choosing to portray themselves as better than the material they’re denouncing.

This kind of dismissal pisses me off. I experience the same thing with War Horse. Sure, the trailers weren’t very good, and superficially the idea of the movie sounded silly. Fine. But too many people simply refused to see it, even after I told them it was actually very good. Instead they dismissed the movie outright, referring to the stupidity of a movie about a horse in WWI, even though they hadn’t seen it. They complain that Spielberg is too manipulative a director, this despite not actually knowing how his manipulation plays in the context of this one film. If you don’t want to see a movie, fine, but don’t start finding broad ways of dismissing the film just to make yourself feel secure in your decision to be closed-minded.

That’s how I feel about the constant dismissal of The Hunger Games. If you don’t want to read the books or see the movie that’s your prerogative, but when people tell you it’s good or worthwhile and your only response is to dismiss the entire series outright based purely on your own ignorance, you just look like an ass.

So do yourself a favour. Don’t be an ass. Be open-minded about stuff like The Hunger Games. Don’t fall back on easy dismissals and ignorant statements. You don’t have to go see every new movie that comes out, but you also don’t have to look like a snob who doesn’t accept anything new.

Yours dismissively,
Corey Atad

15 responses to Open Letter: The Hunger Games is NOT Battle Royale

  1. 

    “And sure, both have serious political undertones and social satire. Nobody can deny this.”

    I disagree with this. I think Battle Royale only has superficial political undertones. It really isn’t that concerned about the politics of the situation. It is merely a way to explain the battle in order to stage the battle. I give it more on social satire in the sense that watching the various teens in the arena says some things about people/teens. And that’s fine that it focuses on these things.

    The Hunger Games is indisputably a much more epic story. The games aren’t really the point of the story but rather one tool of the broader story of rebellion, of economic inequality and imperialism. And contrary to other comparisons to Twilight, which uses its love triangle to talk about teenage romance, The Hunger Games uses its love triangle to talk about how overwhelming totalitarian control can get and how whatever affection one has, ideological differences can get in the way. It’s a very different perspective.

    It’s really shallow criticism on the part of the people you are taking to task to treat the means (teenage battle, love triangle) rather than the ends as the thing that makes things alike. The ends matter.

    • 

      Superficial or not. They both deal with it. Which is why when you brought it up as a differentiator on the forum the detractors pointed to the political satire in Battle Royale.

  2. 

    I haven’t seen Battle Royale, but I thank you for writing this. And especially the bit about War Horse. Consider me a HUGE fan of that movie, but still, people refuse to see it. Ah well, it is just people being cynical and all…

  3. 

    Unless, like me, you actually read the book and found it to have extremely inadequate character development despite the interesting and yes, Battle Royale-like, world building. Shes a stunted character writer however. YA CAN have complex characters and narrative but Hunger Games ultimately disappoints as a novel. Which us why I’m excited to see the filmic adaptation come to be.

    • 

      Yeah, well I tend to agree with you that it’s not well-written, though I can’t totally denounce it. I think there are interesting ideas which are poorly capitalized upon, and I read it in a night, so that says something about entertainment value. The sequels got worse from there. All I’m saying is that for people who haven’t read it, to reduce it to a Battle Royale knock-off as an excuse for not wanting to see it is stupid.

      And I agree with you about the film. At first I was worried that they were going to stick too close to the book, but then fuck up the few things that made it great (like visually aging up the characters). But early buzz on the film has changed my mind. It sounds like the film might actually have taken the same plot, but through attention to style and tone has brought out the serious themes and concepts of the book better than the book ever did in the first place.

  4. 

    I’m completely unfamiliar with The Hunger Games so my comment might be off topic but it always annoys me when people complain about certain books or movies borrowing from previous books or movies. When will people learn: everything is based on everything. Artists always build on what came before.

    • 

      Agreed. There’s such a thing about being too derivative and too unoriginal. You start to question the artistic integrity of the author, but in most cases I prefer to just accept that every story has been told, and every piece of art has influences, whether conscious or unconscious.

  5. 

    So your point is that it’s not legitimate to compare them because —— ? Because you say so? How about you prove your thesis by making some points that show you have read both books, seen both movies, anything, to show you have educated yourself on the differences.

    • 

      It’s totally legitimate to compare the two. I compared them myself. I even say that Battle Royale likely served as an influence (though Collins claims otherwise).

      No, to me what isn’t legitimate is the people who haven’t read or seen The Hunger Games and simply dismiss it by saying “Oh, I’ve seen Battle Royale.”

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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