What exactly is a Hunger Game? Nobody knows for sure, but through my expert employment of logical, cultural, and etymological analysis, I attempt to provide an answer. When the fine, handsome editors at the Nassau Weekly first approached me about writing an article on the ubiquitous adolescent book series, my first reaction was sheer incredulity that the eyes and interest of five beautiful gentlemen should rest upon my own humble figure. My second reaction was the horrifying realization that the fertile tentacles of American popular culture were somehow impeded from impregnating me with Suzanne Collins’s seed. My third reaction was this inner monologue: “Get a hold of yourself, Rafi. You know what hunger is, and you know what games are. You are gonna write this joint, and it’s gonna be dope.”
If I know one thing about ubiquitous adolescent book series, it’s that they tend to have a peripheral werewolf presence. Harry Potter’s got Fenrir Greyback lurking in the background, and I’ve never read Twilight but the movies have that snarky asshole Jacob Black playing a bit role as Bella’s hellspawn daughter’s pedophilic lover. I’m pretty sure The Hunger Games are fantasy or science fiction or something wacky that the kids tend to go for, there’s probably a werewolf or a robot werewolf in there somewhere. Also there were those Teen Wolf movies I never saw, and since I’ve never seen The Hunger Games either, it makes sense to me that they would feature mythological humanoids of a similar ilk.
The next step in reverse engineering The Hunger Games is tackling its vexing title. “Hunger” is, as we all know, a feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat. “Games” are a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength or luck. A Hunger Game, then, is some kind of event where players compete using skill, strength, and luck to determine who can feel the most discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the strongest desire to eat. I imagine The Hunger Games as a biting commentary on American consumerism, wherein Ms. Collins has created a world where the person who consumes the least is rewarded.
As a final clue, I will introduce the two terms I know float somewhere around the Hunger Games universe. First, Panem is the world where the story takes place. It sounds a lot like “Panera.” Perhaps the planet is made of fresh bread? That makes the Hunger Games so much more challenging because the very ground is made of nourishing carbohydrates. Shit Suzanne, that’s good. Second, a mockingjay is a bird of some sort that is important. As a compound word made up of multiple species names, it is similar in form to “turducken.” Is it too comprised of smaller birds all inside each other? And maybe they’re all cooked? Oh my god that makes the Hunger Games crazy too, because there are all these delicious bird sandwiches flying around—no, lounging —within bite range, and you can’t eat those either? Like pre-roasted dodos. Suzanne!
The Hunger Games tells the story of an unfortunate young maiden born in a callous dystopia where adults imprison teenagers within a guarded perimeter and force them to compete for their lives. The perimeter encompasses a lush landscape of pumpernickel hillocks, bearing a vast bounty of flightless, Russian doll poultry ripe for the plucking, but the teenagers’ challenge is to avoid ingestion. To make matters worse, a gang of smart-talking werewolves trolls the environment, and with their wily charm and washboard abs, they try to deceive the teenagers into taking a bite of the delicious landscape.
If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way to the Garden Theater.