MARTHA THOMASES: Hunger Games, Buffy, and Goldie
I was skeptical. My friend, Goldie, usually likes different kinds of books than I do. She likes historical novels with a sense of place. She enjoys literary fiction, with Serious and Important themes. Still, she is my friend, and I was curious. “What is it?” I asked.
“The Hunger Games,” she said. “I can’t put it down.”
“Isn’t that a young adult series?” I asked. Goldie is circling 60.
“It’s so good,” she said.
The next week, I found myself sitting around a lot and I managed to plow through the entire trilogy. At the same time, another friend (also older than me) and a woman whose job required extensive medical training both told me they were reading it.
Why are four reasonably sophisticated urban women, all but me with advanced degrees, reading a science fiction series aimed at tweens? Are there others like us? Are we statistically significant? Will the lines for the upcoming movie look like the Twilight audience, but now with more feminists?
Because The Hunger Games is definitely a work for those of us who have grown up with feminism. The heroine is brave, strong, skilled and smart. There is almost no mention of her beauty, or even if she is attractive. The two men vying for her affections never comment on her appearance. The challenges she faces throughout the books are about politics, the individual’s obligations to the larger society, and the repercussions of personal choices. She does not shop, talk about shoes, or even hang out with other girls. She doesn’t dislike other girls. She simply has no time for friends.
There is no comparison to serial science fiction in comics. Perhaps Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, but only because it’s based on a (deliberately) feminist television series, one in which the producer retains creative control.
The Hunger Games seemed to me most like the Philip Pullman series, His Dark Materials, with the same mistrust of authority, the heroine with a mission whose scope is unknown to her when she begins, the complex and dystopian society. Pullman is a better writer, creating a richer world. There is no love triangle, but there are talking bears.
If you like your fictional worlds created for an adult audience, I highly recommend the books of Elizabeth Hand. The early ones especially are dense and humid, cheaper than a trip to Mexico and much longer-lasting.
Hand, along with Paul Witcover, created a series for DC in the 1990s. Anima was also big fun, mythic while also grungy and pulpy, a Rrriott Grrl for the DCU. Naturally, DC cancelled it before it could find its audience.
This is why there may be lines outside the theaters for the opening of The Hunger Games, but there won’t be lines outside the comic book store.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman