Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Hunger Games are a Battle Royale Rip Off…

….Real or not real?

Not real. In fact, this statement has been bugging me all week.

I started reading the books when our editorial assistant lent me the first after having enjoyed it herself. I got hooked, not only is it compelling reading, but FINALLY a young adult heroine who has some guts, fight and more important things to worry about than the love triangle she’s in.

For anyone who has been hiding under a rock with no access to any form of media, The Hunger Games has been accused of being a Battle Royale rip off because it features a contest in which teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 are forced to fight to the death, the winner being the survivor. In both books this is a means of controlling the populations of futuristic dystopias, in The Hunger Games this is overt, the games are a punishment for an uprising by the thirteen districts 75 years before, in Battle Royale it’s less overt- the government pretend it’s a military experiment.

As a result of this similarity, people have called The Hunger Games a rip off of Battle Royale. I guess it is then. In the same way that Battle Royale is a rip off of concepts like The Running Man and television programmes like Sliders which used the story line of game shows in which people fight to the death or struggle for survival prior to the publication of Battle Royale in 1999. But then if that makes any of these works bald-faced rip offs, then someone needs to have a word with Mr Shakespeare’s agents or estate because, damn, people have been ripping off the whole star-crossed lover thing that he did in Romeo and Juliet for centuries now. What? What do you mean he ripped it off from someone else?

I guess the point with any story or film is, does a work that shares a concept with a novel as striking as Battle Royale have enough originality and flair to pull it off successfully in its own right? I would argue that The Hunger Games does. The cultural commentary is less than subtle but sharp as a knife as it parodies the current obsession with reality TV and the image of its “stars”, the Capitol’s investment in Showmances and intrigues inviting the reader to take a clinical look at their own participation in a less extreme form of this culture (do any of you or have any of you watched The Hills, Jersey Shore, Big Brother or Castaway by any chance?)

If I was going to compare Suzanne Collins’ efforts with The Hunger Games to anything, it wouldn’t be Battle Royale, that’s too obvious and doesn’t do The Hunger Games justice. In many ways they are crueller and uglier than the world of Battle Royale. Terrible, yes, that adults should send children to kill each other to control a populace. Worse still that the same adults should watch it for sport. But to have adult Gamemakers pushing buttons which starve, suffocate and burn children as they are taunted by birds which scream with the voices of their loved ones being tortured? That’s worse still.

For me, The Hunger Games is like Margret Attwood for young adults with Katniss Evergreen as a Handmaid who is thrust to the forefront to become a symbol of hope in a world which seeks to destroy her. The mutations were like echoes from Oryx and Crake to me, an abuse of science which lead to pain and suffering for mankind. The smoking borders of the legendary district 13 were like the nuclear fields that characters were sent to toll in when they were deemed of no future use to society in The Handmaid’s Tale.

So are The Hunger Games a blatant rip off of Battle Royale? Only if you are too crude to read the subtleties. I enjoyed them immensely and will be going to see the film on Saturday. And possibly taking archery lessons, though Holley Maher assures me that these side effects are common and will pass with time…