On Reading For Yourself, and Not Waiting For the Movie

I have a terrible admission to make: I have never read The Hunger Games, and I’m pretty ambivalent about the movie coming out tomorrow. At least in my defense I can admit that I feel very guilty about both of these things, and feel as if I’m missing out in some way.

Watching the anticipation/excitement/fear from those I know who have read the books, as the movie was announced, cast, and slowly teased as tomorrow’s opening got closer and closer, has been completely fascinating; it’s not just that there’s been the kind of “Oh God oh God please don’t screw it up” reaction that every movie/television/transmedia adaptation of a beloved property brings with it (You should’ve seen me when the Scott Pilgrim movie was first announced. Or, better yet, after Michael Cena was announced as the lead), but something somehow… stronger, in some way? It reminded me of the reaction to the news of Harry Potter being made into movies, or the Twilight announcement, the transmogrification of something somehow sacrosanct.

That’s the thing that makes me feel like I’m missing out. Don’t get me wrong; I’d read the Potter books before the first movie was made – but not the Twilight ones – but I didn’t “get” them, not really; I thought (and still think) that they were good stories badly written, and prefer the movie versions for almost all of the seven books. But I remember seeing a press screening for the first Twilight movie, which was partially-filled by hardcore fans of the novels, and the sense of excitement and breathless anticipation was just overwhelming, and the kind of thing that left the jaded hacks of the press section in a mix of awe and astonishment. There’s something wonderful about that level of devotion to a story and its characters, and it’s something that I find myself wanting, more and more.

And yet, the snobbery of the “true fan” mentality is at play for me, here; I feel as if not having read the books before seeing the movie is somehow doing it wrong, and I can’t explain why. Logically, intellectually, I know it makes no sense, but it’s there in my head as a sign that I’ve somehow missed my chance to do it right; even if I for some reason waited to see the movie until after I’d sped-read the books, I feel like my experience would be somehow “tainted” by the knowledge that the movies exist, and… Oh, I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s not something I could explain (It’s not even a consistent rule; I’ve never read any Sherlock Holmes, and have no problem worshipping at the altar of the BBC show, for example).

And yet… There’s a particular relationship that someone can have with a book (or a comic, or whatever) that’s personal and very different from the relationship an audience can have with a movie or TV show; there’s more of an involvement and investment, in a way that it’s hard to generate with the passivity of a viewing audience. I don’t have to imagine what characters look like or sound like, how they move or interact, because I can see and hear it in front of me. If The Hunger Games is everything that I’ve been told that it is, I’m sad that I won’t be able to have that kind of experience with the story, fresh and untethered by ideas of Jennifer Lawrence or Lenny Kravitz. There’s something to be said for early adopters, and for letting stories unfold for yourself, instead of relying on Hollywood to do the heavy lifting for you.

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Comments

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    I read the first book earlier this week, kinda crap. Katniss is a bitch. Sure, she’s strong and independent. Yay Girl Power! She’s also not above totally destroying Pita Bread’s heart to win.

    SPOILERS:

    And then totally talks him into suicide at the end. Why? Because fuck logic, that’s why. Even she doesn’t know, which is a recurring point in book 2, which I’m halfway through.

    END SPOILERS

    Seriously. Fuck her. She should’ve taken the shot at the end and won and everything would’ve been FINE.

    “I thought (and still think) that they were good stories badly written,” I’m feeling this way about the books so far. There’s a GREAT plot around this ridiculous love triangle, which feels shoehorned in because the main character is female. Girl Power, right? I’d still recommend checking it out, though. It’s a quick read, very well paced, not too long, with a wonderful premise at the core. Pita Bread was just a mistake of a character all around (How come something like Boy Power is looked down upon? I find it offensive that the male tribute (and male main character) is nothing but a love-shocked baker… Gale is a much better option).

  • http://twitter.com/azadjain001 azad jain

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  • Lord Prong

    I don’t usually take cheap shots at you Graeme, but the fact that you feel both “very guilty” about not reading the book and are ambivelant the film makes you sound like a fucking idiot.  I haven’t read or seen any of the Twilight films, and I don’t go around handwringing and feeling guilty about missing out on something I’m also, in your words, totally uninterested in anyway.

    Some of your blogs are entertaining – this one is just self indulgent, masturbatory prattle.

  • Gaelbach

    ??? What the hell, Graeme?! You’re the guy who is forcing himself to watch “Enterprise.”. Why are you worried about not reading books AIMED AT TEENAGERS? If there’s something to be said for early adopters, there’s also something to be said for not mindlessly following the herd.

  • numberthirty

    Would it have killed him to shelve this article until he could explain it?

  • Anonymous

    *Teenage girls.  

  • http://nerdykibbles.net/ Spacedog2k5

    Meh. I thought the trailers (as well as having read the back of the book) made it sound like a ‘Twilight’/'Running Man’ mash-up only without the shitty sparkly vampires and Ah-nold! I thnk I’ll go pay to see ‘John Carter’ again – a film that DESERVES more attention..

  • Onatopp

    Hunger Games is not Running Man – which was a novel before Arnie got his giant mitts on it anyway. It isn’t Battle Royale. Nor is it Twilight or any other teen franchise, just like Harry Potter isn’t automatically Lord of the Rings just because it has some old dude with a beard and magic. 

  • Cjorg2

    I’ve seen Hunger Games and Running Man – the concept is the basiclally the same, but with different characters.  These type of films are a dime a dozen.

  • Vicsage

    so why comment at all graeme on something you know nothing about? 

    oh because that is what you do all the time….. 

    ???????????? <<< there are some more question marks for you

  • Timely1

    seriously can someone at CBR start listening to us and replace this poor excuse for a commentator on your site.  please start listening to us this guy brings down your whole product… he isnt up to the quality of this site… sorry…