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When life imitates art. November 11, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Those of you who’ve read Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games books doubtless recall that the depraved and decadent citizens of Panem’s Capitol turned the arenas where teens were forced to fight to the death on national TV into resorts. They loved going to their favorite arenas—which, of course, were different and more horrific every year—with their families for a nice little vacation, reliving (and relishing) every moment of the unfolding nightmare that took place there, without, of course, risking their lives or their comfort.

This reminds our friend Ben of people who read and/or watch horror and murder mysteries as entertainment. What’s entertaining about being terrified? I doubt that the folks who seem addicted to such “pleasures” would be so thrilled if Charles Manson’s ‘family’ or Hannibal Lecter or a bunch of goons burst into their home and opened fire. But it’s apparently thrilling to watch other people being tortured, killed, or terrorized.

I have to wonder if we lived in a place where starvation, natural disasters, untreated disease epidemics, routine violence and torture, and repression were commonplace, we’d find these books and films so entertaining. I read just this morning that 80 people had been officially murdered in North Korea, many just for watching films from South Korea. Jews in Hungary and Christians in Egypt are being terrorized. Neo-Nazis are marching in Kansas to celebrate Kristallnacht, the anniversary of horrific Nazi atrocity. At least ten thousand Filipino lives have been lost to the latest typhoon, and Japan is still leaking nuclear waste from its devastated plant. Do you find this fun and relaxing? Why would you find any suffering fun and entertaining?

Suzanne Collins doubtless thought she was being ironic when she turned the murder of innocents into the Capitol’s Disney World. But now Lionsgate, which produces the film versions of the Hunger Games, is turning her nightmare into reality. According to today’s headlines, Lionsgate is planning to establish Hunger Games theme parks. No doubt we’ll all be given the opportunity to enter the arena with Katniss and Peeta, watch an interview with Caesar Flickerman, and be intimidated by President Snow. The real-world irony is overwhelming.

At the fringes of fandom. August 9, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I was stunned to read this morning that Target is planning to sell replicas of the mockingjay pin worn by Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Mind you, there’s nothing stunning about Target or anyone else trying to cash in on the most popular series since Harry Potter. And I’m sure plenty of fans would love to show their loyalty to Katniss by wearing her mockingjay pin, so selling one would actually do them a service.

Here’s what’s stunning: The pin costs $999. Not $9.99 or even $99.99 (it’s 14-karat gold, so that would make sense). But $999.00. That’s more than $1,000 (once you add sales tax and/or shipping and handling) in these recessionary times, when many people don’t even have $1,000 in the bank and are living paycheck to paycheck. Assuming they’re even lucky enough to have jobs.

But Target’s apparently confident that the pins and other Hunger Games-related mechandise they’re offering will sell. You can also buy a replica of Katniss’s leather jacket, or a holographic poster signed by the cast of the movie (a steal at only $699!), on their website, www.target.com. Better rush on over before they sell out!

The sad thing is that I’m sure diehard fans will rush over and buy the stuff, whether they can afford to or not. One woman interviewed in the movie “Ringers,” about fans of The Lord of the Rings, said she’d sold her house so she could go to New Zealand for the premiere of “The Return of the King.” When asked if she regretted it, she replied that she’d do it again in a heartbeat. There are probably people out there who’d take out a home equity loan or take on a second (or third) job to buy that mockingjay pin or poster, and feel that it was money well spent. (Admittedly—but don’t tell our friend Ben!—I wouldn’t mind having a poster of Liam Hemsworth, who plays Gale Hawthorne in the films, myself. Lucky Miley Cyrus!)

But there must be a better—or at least, cheaper—way to express devotion to one’s fictional heroes than going bankrupt in their cause. There are plenty of affordable fan books, as well as serious works, out there on The Hunger Games already; search on Amazon and see for yourself. There’s a CD of the music, and the movie is due for release on DVD and Blu-Ray this month. There’s all sorts of more affordable paraphernalia, and there’s even a contest that fans can enter to win a visit to the set of the next movie in the series, “Catching Fire.” I don’t know if there are Hunger Games action figures like the ones that proved so popular after the Lord of the Rings movies were released, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

At any rate, I checked on Amazon to see if there were already mockingjay pins out there for eager fans who didn’t happen to have $1,000-plus in their pockets. And yes, there are lots of options, starting at $1.49. So please, don’t blow your budget on something you can’t afford. Leave those $999 pins to the 1% and live within your means. Perhaps you can turn your Hunger Games enthusiasm into creating something original and meaningful yourself.

            ‘Til next time,