The movie turned out to be about a fictional North American future nation named Panem, which was divided into 12 districts and a Capital. The premise of the movie was that each year, two young representatives from each district took part in a lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, which was part entertainment and part brutal retribution for a past rebellion. The televised games were broadcast throughout Panem, and residents were forced to watch the 24 participants fight to the death, one by one.
After the movie, my husband and I debated if the movie was too fictional. Although he liked the movie, he thought that it was nothing more than a good way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday.
But I couldn’t help but make the correlation between the society we live and the I had just finished watching.
After all, we live in a society in which reality TV rules, and we are obsessed with seeing people’s real lives play out on the big screen. Reality stars have become bigger household names than action stars.
And it’s not just reality stars that are becoming household names. Victims of tragedies and people who commit crimes are known all over the world. (Can anyone say Andrew Zimmerman?) Nowadays, the nightly news is not just the “news” — it’s an update on the happenings of the characters we love to hate or sympathize with.
The nightly newscasters are forced to go over the same stories over and over again with new blurbs and snippets from victims of violent crimes and their teary-eyed family members crying for justice.
We live in a society in which everyone has an opinion and harbors hate for people that they’ve never met, based on whatever character the media has turned that person into.
On May 18 of this year, I had a column run in this very paper about a young man whose life ended tragically when he was shot and killed in Oakland on his way home from watching a televised boxing match at a friend’s house. In the column, I sympathized with the victims’ family, and I made sure to mention that I hoped that his death would not be in vain.
But I also wrote that we, as a community, could make the circumstances surrounding his death a teachable moment for our children. I was later shocked to see online comments many people who felt that this young man was not a victim and did not have any sympathy for his death at all.
Have we really become a society that couldn’t care less about the fact that 18-year-old boys are being shot and killed in the dead of night? Are we so callous that we really blame people for being shot?
Am I living in a day and time where people specifically turn their TVs to programs that offer up “bad girls” swinging on poles and hitting each other with wine bottles? Is there really a popular program that focuses on the lives and triumphs of unwed teen moms?
The truth is that no matter how we deny it, Americans are obsessed with tragedy and drama. We like to see people like Teresa on “Real Housewives of New Jersey” flip tables. We like to see basketball wives curse, get drunk and pull out each other’s hair.
We like to see professional fights like Mayweather vs. Cotto. In fact, we like it so much so that we spend $1.5 million to watch it on Pay-Per View.
We like to watch YouTube clippings of girl fights, and kid fights, and even grandma fights.
But the saddest thing of all is that we live in a society where people enjoy bashing our president on live television, and the fact that victims like Trayvon Martin and, more close to home, Alan Blueford, are criticized, ostracized and reduced to nothing more than evil words on a blog or portrayed by the media as thugged-out characters wearing hoodies.
The fact that we aren’t outraged when any young person’s life is cut short speaks volumes about who we are and what we are becoming.
Our community and the world we live in is becoming colder, more inhumane and more savage. Welcome to the Hunger Games.
• Kendra L. Willis, a businesswoman, mother and motivational speaker, is among a group of local residents with a rotating column in the Tracy Press.