Monday, November 4, 2013

Slaughterhouse-2013, or The Sexual Hunger Games

I cop to the style of this entry somewhat aping Kurt Vonnegut, in particular, Slaughterhouse-Five, which I've been re-reading sections of lately. 

About a year and a half ago, I was back in my hometown Wal-Mart. I was in the book section looking for a particular book, which I was able to find the paperback version of but not the hardback, which was disappointing because I always prefer the hardback version. I decided to buy the paperback version anyway because I wanted to start reading this book, like, yesterday.

My 11-year-old nephew, James, walked up to me, and as we wandered the book section, we ran into Susan, his mom. We just happened to stop right in front of a display of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy.

The 50 Shades of Grey novels are about a recent college graduate who is sexually awakened thanks to her BDSM-loving boss. BDSM stands for bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism. I haven't read a single passage from the book, but I hear the prose is horrible, and for those involved in actual BDSM, it's depiction of certain acts are mild and tame.

I asked Susan if she had heard of the series, and her knowing look said she had and she knew what they were about. Then James announced that one of his classmates at school was reading "that book". He was pointing to the first in the trilogy. Susan and I looked at each other. We asked if he was sure, and he said yes. We made some comments about how inappropriate it was for a someone so young to be reading such a book. It wasn't inappropriate because the writing was bad. It was inappropriate because of sex. 

Then I showed Susan the book I was buying, which is also the first in a trilogy. She had read it, the entire trilogy, and had seen the movie based on the first book, and had tried to get James to read the book, but he wasn't so into it.

The book I was buying was called The Hunger Games. It's about a group of randomly-selected teenagers from the oppressed class in a dystopian future who are forced to brutally kill each other for the viewing enjoyment of the ruling class.


I know I'm not making any new or original observations here, but what's been on my mind a lot the last few days is our culture's weird relationship with depictions of violence and sex. We gladly accept several forms of the former in our storytelling - movies, TV, books. Sex, not so much. We're squeamish about it. Depictions of sex lead to awkward conversations parents don't want to have with their kids. Violence is a lot easier to understand and explain away, for some reason. 


Imagine this: The Sexual Hunger Games. It's a trilogy of books about randomly-selected teens from the oppressed class in a dystopian future who are forced to engage in sexual acts with each other for the viewing enjoyment of the ruling class.

Imagine that. Imagine those book, movies getting made, and how the public would receive them. 


A couple of years ago, I bought my then 14-year-old niece a illustrated book with various bon mots of humorous wisdom for teenagers. I only flipped through the first view pages, honestly, but it seemed sensible, and that she would enjoy it. A couple of hours after I gave it to her, her mom picked up and began flipping through it, and then threw the book in my lap, admonishing me that the book was inappropriate for Sarah, and I should be more careful selecting the things I buy for her kids. Turns out later in the book, there are a couple of sexually-suggestive items. I read them. They were fairly mild, but I agreed they seemed out of place and inappropriate for such a book. At a loss of what else to do with it, I threw it in the trash.


Sarah's favorite TV show, by the way, is M*A*S*HM*A*S*H was a 1970s-80s television situational comedy about a mobile hospital unit facing the daily horrors of the Korean War.  

It's an odd TV show for a present-day teenager to identify as her favorite, but she grew up watching it with her mom and dad, who own the entire series on DVD. 


He has dropped out since, but a few months ago, Charles Hunnam was announced to play Mr. Grey in the upcoming movie based on 50 Shades of Grey. This displeased me because the thought of Hunnam as BDSM-loving douchebag, Christian Grey was at odds with my image of him as murderous motorcycle gang member, Jax Teller, on one of my favorite TV programs, Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy is a show that surprises me most when at least one person is not killed in any given episode. 


There have been some fantastic, innovative movies in 2013. The only one I have bought advance tickets for? The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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