What Came Before “The Hunger Games”?

Over at Salon, Andrew O’Hehir digs into the cultural precursors to Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy.

“The Hunger Games” taps into a vibrant current of pop culture and indeed of Western civilization in general, one that never really runs dry. It’s the idea that our species remains cruel and barbarous at heart, that the strong will always rule the weak by whatever means necessary, and that our collective obsession with sports and games and other forms of manufactured entertainment is a flimsy mask for sadism and voyeurism. Collins’ only real innovations to this formula are a post-Buffy female action hero at its center — clearly a crucial component of her success — and a slick, propulsive packaging with very little scene description or social context. (The first-person, present-tense, limited-omniscient narration of “The Hunger Games” feels more like a movie treatment than a conventional novel.)

If Collins didn’t rip off “Battle Royale,” there are all kinds of books and films from the past few decades that might have helped shape “The Hunger Games,” whether consciously or not, or that at the very least develop similar ideas and themes.

I feel sorry for the people who aren’t willing to give “The Hunger Games” a chance because they foolishly believe it to be derivative of other cultural artifacts. What piece of literature or art doesn’t bear an influence of a previous generation?

With that said, Andrew has put together a great list that could be considered “further reading” for fans of “The Hunger Games.”

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