With the fall season underway, I’ve started watching my TV shows, and that includes reality TV: The Voice, America’s Next Top Model, even *gasp* the season premiere of Jersey Shore. I’m approaching the two year anniversary of my reading The Hunger Games trilogy, and still it’s a really jarring thing to be lazing around on the couch watching a little mindless TV, when you’re hit with it. Wham! Sitting here watching a little reality TV could eventually lead to Hunger Games.
I’ve got The Voice on, and it’s the battle rounds. They’re duking it out in an actual arena, not physically but vocally. “Fighting for their lives,” they’re saying, while we watch, dying to know who has survived, who will be eliminated and forgotten, and who will be saved by the powers that be (The Voice has now incorporated a steal button, where eliminated singers can be stolen and saved by the other coaches, to add to the intrigue). That Steal Button is like a little silver parachute or a feast. Dye Carson’s hair and stick it in a ponytail, and he’d be a dead ringer for Caesar Flickerman.
America’s Next Top Model has a much more public element to it this season, where the models’ photographs were put up online to be rated and voted on by the general public so that public opinion can act as the fourth judge. Each episode, they stress how much being popular with the fans counts and impacts the outcome of the show. Sound familiar? A major element in The Hunger Games is how the people of Panem perceive the tributes while in the arena. Finnick’s popularity with the people of Panem during his initial Games was a huge factor in his victory.
And the worst. Jersey Shore. I have a hard time even admitting that I watch the show, albeit casually. Thankfully, it’s the beginning of the end so I’ll only feel the shame for so long. But when people ask me why I watch it, I say it’s because their lives are so different from mine that it’s hard to look away, partly out of fascination and partly because it’s like watching a train wreck happen. And well, isn’t that how we imagine how so many people in Panem were able to justify watching The Hunger Games? Yes, it is mandatory viewing in Panem, but there is a voluntary aspect to it. In the movie, Gale alludes to it, exclaiming that there wouldn’t be a show if people didn’t watch. Jersey Shore made it to 6 seasons because people watched, no matter the reason. Even if for them, it’s like watching a train wreck happen. I’m sure Panem citizens watched The Hunger Games because the tragedy of it all was too compelling to ignore.
So yes, I’m guilty of it all. But who isn’t, in some way or another? What’s important is that we recognize these parallels and acknowledge them. We don’t have to stop watching reality TV all together. The Voice is helping singers fulfill their dreams, ANTM is giving girls a shot at entering the modeling world (and as it’s the college edition, they are also providing the winner with a chance to win some scholarship money), and Jersey Shore… well I have to say it’s bringing awareness to sobriety and mental health issues to a certain demographic that it wouldn’t normally. The Hunger Games has a lot to say about reality TV, and this kind of social commentary is very much needed in this day and age. With THG being so popular, I’m hoping that message isn’t lost.
And now back to the powerhouse vocals!