CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I get depressed when watching television because of the fact that easily two-thirds of the channels I have air nothing but reality shows. Bravo, MTV and E! (easily the worst offender) are content on showing us the lives of people we should care nothing about.
Whether it's showing who the god-awful cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore" is currently making the beast with two backs with, what exactly Bravo's pesky "Real Housewives" of some well populated gated community are doing, or just how those poor E!-contracted Kardashians manage to go on in the face of true disaster (Gasp! Kim is late for her photo shoot!), audiences seem to eat this "reality" up like there's no tomorrow. Exploiting people makes entertainment for the masses, apparently.
But what would happen if our culture weren't satisfied with merely letting us watch people hook up and break up? What if we as a society needed more human experience to keep us glued to our TV sets, an experience that doesn't just showcase the high and low points of life?
Suzanne Collin's widely successful "Hunger Games" trilogy ("The Hunger Games," "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay"), birthed when Collins flipped between Iraq War coverage and reality television, takes the concept of exploitation to a whole new level.
In a dystopian future, North America, now known as Panem, has been divided into districts, each one focusing on producing a particular good (electronics, fish, coal, etc.) for the Capitol, Panem's seat of government. There were originally 13 districts, but during a rebellion known as "The Dark Days," which took place 75 years before the events of the first book, the Capitol obliterated District 13.
Every year since then, as punishment, the Capitol has held the Hunger Games, a giant battle to the death that's broadcast across the nation. For this, the districts are forced to randomly choose a male and female competitor (called tributes) between the ages of 12-18 to fight.
Collin's trilogy is both a satire on what we consider entertainment and a catharsis for teenage rebellion. It follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, from District 12, who volunteers to take her sister's place in the Games. What follows is a tale of tragedy, uprising and a complex love triangle involving Katniss, her longtime friend Gale Hawthorne, and the District 12 male tribute, Peeta Mellark.
So what exactly makes people so crazy for this series? It's the mixture of adrenaline-laced action sequences -- by far some of the best in any work of literature -- and a tightly woven, intricate plot of one country's desperate attempt at mutiny over a corrupt and evil government.
And again, there's that love triangle. But it wouldn't be a satire of reality television if there weren't hookups and breakups, right?
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the "Games" trilogy is the way it turns those who are intensely against reality TV into the type of voyeur they hate most. More than just a commentary on how screwed up humanity is, these books force readers to examine exactly how they get their kicks in life -- and face the fact that they just may be twisted individuals.