Brunch Sampler: Barrie Dunsmore

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(Host) Today we conclude our Sampler of some of the essays recorded before a live audience at the Commentator Brunch earlier this year. "When Worlds Collide" was the theme – and commentator Barrie Dunsmore took the opportunity to reflect on a recent literary and cinematic phenomenon.

(Dunsmore) I’m Barrie Dunsmore and I’m talking today about The Hunger Games. When Worlds Collide is the topic, isn’t it? Well, Worlds Collide when a seventy something man becomes part of a long line of mostly young teenage girls on the opening day of the movie version of their favorite book.

When I reached the head of the line, I said to the young ticket seller “One senior for The Hunger Games please.” She gave me a very quizzical look as if to say – are you sure?

Well, I was sure, because I wanted to know why so many young people were attracted to this violent, dystopian tale. As for the violence – there is a profoundly violent story line. The “games” are an annual, Survivor-like fight to the death among 24 impoverished teenagers – televised live to perpetuate fear and mind control over the masses.

For many of the younger ones in the audience the attraction was apparently the Romeo and Juliet part of the story – with an expected ending reflecting Shakespeare’s version. The actual on-screen violence was about what is shown in most of the previews of coming attractions.

On one level, the Hunger Games is futurist fiction. But most good science fiction from Brave New World to 1984 is something more than that. In these classics, Huxley and Orwell use the future as allegory or metaphor – to warn against present day trends.

That said, the new world that Hunger Games depicts is one in which the 99% – the masses – live confined, subsistent lives, almost like slaves. They labor to provide the food and raw materials for the 1% – the cruel rulers who live in a futuristic city with every conceivable luxury and creature comfort. In the few days before the games, the 24 teenagers are given a taste of this high-life. They are coiffed and elegantly dressed and treated like American Idol-type celebrities. Huge crowds cheer them. A TV host grovels over them – blithely ignoring the fact that all but one will be dead once these “games’ are over. Celebrity is indeed transitory.

There is action, suspense and a bit of a surprise ending. But it doesn’t take a futurist to recognize this as a cautionary tale. And from what I’ve heard, many young people have had no trouble figuring that out either. So perhaps our worlds didn’t collide after all.

Thank you.

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