Been a looong week. Started my Security/Fire Safety training, passed some FEMA certification classes and have to take an OSHA class next week so I’m kinda beat. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a few things about everyone’s new favorite YA series- The Hunger Games, or as I like to call it: Battle Royale Ripoff.
Yes, you can take an idea and make it your own. Yes, there’s only so many plots or stories out there (36 to be exact). Yes, there’s only so many ways to say the same thing. I get it. But- if you’ll allow me to mix my metaphors- it’s not the destination, but the journey that makes the story. And not only have I been down this road before, it was better paved the last time.
Every romance novel is basically the same as the others. So is every detective story, military action movie, romantic comedy, etc. Thing is, you’re not thinking about how much the Harlequin Romance you’re reading resembles the last one you read, or you’re probably gonna stop reading it. Or an alien invasion movie: how similar do you find Independence Day to Battle: LA? Or even War of the Worlds?
Here’s an example: do yourself a favor and check out AFI’s Top 100 movies list and see where West Side Story ranks. Ever seen it? If you answered yes, not only are we dating ourselves you probably know where I’m going with this. If no- forsake all else and do so immediately, as well as a few others on the list. You’ll be very glad you did.
For all its greatness, West Side Story is nothing but an updated version of Romeo and Juliet. Period. Not kidding. And I don’t mean like the one in the nineties with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes. WSS was a Broadway musical that got adapted into a movie and remains one of the best films ever made. Not only do you not notice it’s a riff on R&J, even if you do you don’t care because you’re completely caught up in the story. It’s that good. Hunger Games never evokes the same reaction, not by a longshot. Despite a few flashes of nifty storytelling not only is the book boring and takes more than half of it to even get started, it’s still too derivative to enjoy when it does. The whole time reading it I kept waiting for Arnold Schwarzenegger (Running Man) and bunch of japanese teenagers (Battle Royale) to pop up and join the party.
Which leads me to author Suzanne Collins herself. Before I read HG I did some digging to see what she said about how she created the story and her reactions to the Battle Royale comparisons. All I found were some generic promo clips from back in ’08.
Now let me be clear: I have no problem with the idea of Collins borrowing from Battle Royale to create Hunger Games. None at all. But for her to suggest that while researching the novel she never came across any references to BR not only comes off as a lie, but a stupid lie, especially after belatedly tossing out there that her editor only mentioned it when she turned in HG. There’s no way she could miss it- five seconds on any search engine would bring it up along with all the others it’s been compared to. If she’d never seen Running Man yet acknowledged its existence and similarity, why not do so with Battle Royale? Hell, even Stephen King mentioned how similar they are in his Entertainment Weekly review of Hunger Games! And there’s a story floating around about a Hollywood adaptation of BR that got scrapped because HG was already in the works- why release two versions of the same story at the same time?
Add to that her unusual silence about the franchise. Now I don’t know about everyone else, but if I’d just written a runaway bestselling series you wouldn’t be able to stop me from talking about it. But Collins remains completely silent about her franchise, refusing all interview requests even while being available for red carpet photo ops. The only other creators of a mega-franchise I can think of that refused to ever speak about their work are the Wachowski brothers on The Matrix. The boys have never, ever, not once, offered up any insight or commentary about their baby. Which isn’t surprising since they ended up getting sued for plagiarism over it. Granted, the suit was eventually dismissed due to lack of evidence, but it’s curious how they’ve never spoken about their magnum opus, preferring to let people form their own interpretations. Go check your dvds; they’ve got everyone and their brother speaking about the Matrix except themselves. It’s not hard to see why: the more you open your mouth the easier it is to stick your foot in it. Collins was paying attention in class. Yeah, it’s not solid proof of anything but this isn’t a court of law, it’s the court of my opinion and I find her lack of faith (in her work)… disturbing.
So that’s my two cents. Hunger Games may be the biggest thing since Twilight, but so far to me it’s just as empty. And Stephanie Meyer has had a few barbs about plagiarism tossed her way as well. Go figure.