Monday, August 8, 2011

A Week of Pop Culture: Riveted by 'Hunger Games,' Revisiting 'Six Feet Under' and Romantic Comedies


Hunger Games: Just got back from a week’s beach vacation with the family and, pop culture-wise, I spent most of my time, when not on the beach, gobbling up the first two books in the Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series (Hunger Games, Catching Fire). I would’ve continued on to read the finale, Mockingjay, only I didn’t bring that book with me. So once I finished Catching Fire, I moved on to Jennifer Weiner’s Then Came You about a surrogate pregnancy, which I read for a column I’m planning to write. (I’ll link to the column here later once it’s written.)

I was surprised by how much I was riveted by the Hunger Games, despite its sick and twisted premise: As retribution for rebelling against an evil, brutal, dictatorial centralized government, the demoralized residents who live in one of 12 “districts” in the “ruins of North America” now called Panem, are forced to give up a boy and a girl between the ages of 12-18 to participate in a fight-to-the-death games which are viciously manipulated by the dictators for the excitement of those watching as it unfolds on television.

Its political undercurrent – of a repressive government using the very symbol of the promise of the future, children, and forcing them to kill one another or be killed – along with the stark contrast of the opulence and fatted calfness of those living in the Capitol while those in the districts starve and are forced to live like prisoners inside their districts by electrified fences where their lives are controlled by the Capitol, was creepy and compelling at the same time.

As I eagerly move onto the third book – which my happy-ending obsessed daughter said she didn’t really like, while my darker elder son liked it – I’m intrigued by the political upheaval and the resistance in the world of Panem, given the real life protests popping up all over the Middle East and now in Europe. Not that I envision a fight-to-the-death reality show along the lines of Survivor or a twisted version of Lost any time soon, but still . . .

Six Feet Under: In preparation for CliqueClack TV’s upcoming Six Feet Under week – to which I’ll be contributing two pieces – I’ve been revisiting the Fishers and their pitch black dramatic series that compelled viewers think about their lives, about the meaning of them and those people with whom they share it.

While watching these episodes, I remember anew why I was so drawn to it in the first place. It was thoughtful, edgy, risk-taking and challenged viewers’ sense of right and wrong. Plus Lauren Ambrose’s Claire Fisher and Peter Krause’s Nate Fisher were two of the best, full-fledged, well rounded and screwed up characters on TV.


Entertainment Weekly: Once I got home and poured through the stack of mail that piled up during our week away, I found two copies of Entertainment Weekly waiting for me, including a large article on The Help and a cool piece on the keys to making a truly resonant, honest romantic comedy that doesn’t insult the viewers’ intelligence, holding recent release Crazy Stupid Love as the new When Harry Met Sally.

Some of the reasons why EW writers Sara Vilkomerson and Anthony Breznican said most rom-coms turn out to be snoozers: 1. “Chemistry can’t be faked.” 2. “Men don’t want to star in romantic comedies – or go see them.” And 3. “Hollywood romances often struggle overseas, so studios can be skittish about investing in them.”

Image credits: Amazon.comHBO, Entertainment Weekly.

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