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…

8 thoughts on “The Hunger Games are a Battle Royale Rip Off…

  1. wkovaks (@rorshachisgod)

    i take it that you never read battle royale and never heard interviews with the author. its hard to rip off previous works when you openly state which ones inspired you….sliders was not one (they didnt get that in japan) and it was the long walk, not running man (you only watched the movie, right) that takami used.

    oh, young adults read atwood…i did. i guess you mean the twilightafied version….is that gonna be her next project? atwood is certifiable now, so it should be pretty ez to rip her off.

    btw…i think you should ask king what he thinks….you might be surprised at the answer.

    1. Siobhan

      You take it wrong and I’m afraid you’ve missed the point a little bit. I also read MA as a young adult, but I think that any sensible individual would agree that Young Adult isn’t her primary market or intended audience.

      Oh, and King endorsed the Hunger Games books. So his comments are on the back cover for anyone to read.

  2. wkovaks (@rorshachisgod)

    after rereading your post and watching the hunger games movie, i believe you missed a lot more of the similarities between the two

    but use the google…plenty of sites that note them

    oh, and collin’s publisher only chose to post the king statements that were uber positive….this is what they left out

    Collins is an efficient no-nonsense prose stylist with a pleasantly dry sense of humor. Reading The Hunger Games is as addictive (and as violently simple) as playing one of those shoot-it-if-it-moves videogames in the lobby of the local eightplex; you know it’s not real, but you keep plugging in quarters anyway. Balancing off the efficiency are displays of authorial laziness that kids will accept more readily than adults. When Katniss needs burn cream or medicine for Peeta, whom she more or less babysits during the second half of the book, the stuff floats down from the sky on silver parachutes. And although the bloody action in the arena is televised by multiple cameras, Collins never mentions Katniss seeing one. Also, readers of Battle Royale (by Koushun Takami), The Running Man, or The Long Walk (those latter two by some guy named Bachman) will quickly realize they have visited these TV badlands before.

    But since this is the first novel of a projected trilogy, it seems to me that the essential question is whether or not readers will care enough to stick around and find out what comes next for Katniss. I know I will. But then, I also have a habit of playing Time Crisis until all my quarters are gone

    nice nudge,nudge, wink, wink…..wouldnt you say?

    1. Siobhan

      But again, you’re comparing the films and not the books. Of course the chose the uber-positive bits, that’s what you do with a back cover endorsement. But King will have authorised their use. We publishers always check with a reviewer before we use their quote. I think the point you’re making now is that it isn’t high literature. But of course it’s not. It’s compelling young adult fiction, but much better than a lot of the stuff out there and, in my opinion, something which will make the readers think a little bit.

      I think the Bachman bit is nudge nudge, wink wink, but I don’t read that as a negative review. It’s balanced. The books are flawed, yes, but they are also great fun.

  3. Sophie

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I have been trying to get the same point across to my brother ( a pro Battle Royale) for a couple years now. I believe I will show him this article over Christmas break! Finally, someone who understands!


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