Despite the title of this post, you’ll likely be dismayed to discover nary a dragon in sight. So is there any significance to those four words? Maybe. You’ll just have to roll along with me and find out.
Originally I was going to go off on someone. There was a set of comments I saw the other morning that sorta rubbed me in the wrong way, and I felt like I needed to get on and rant about stuff. Because that’s the way I am; every so often my bullshit detector red lines and I gotta say something.
The comment had to do with someone who’d apparently seen The Hunger Games, and who’d become upset that people could find a movie about a group young teens being forced to kill each other for the entertainment of others–the others in the movie, that is, not the people in the theater–to be, well, in a word, entertaining. This person was upset that people were clapping at the end of the movie, and this was, again, another in a long line of indications that there no morality in our society–as, it would appear, there was also no sense of morality in the main character, Katniss Everdeen, either–and it was criminal that a story like this could be considered suitable for young adults.
All they needed to say was, “This is indicative of the Culture of (name of whatever thing it is that pushes your moral buttons) we live in!” and they’d have pretty much hit the trifecta. Although a comment seen later–”As long as you are doing it (participating in The Games) to protect your sister, it’s okay to kill”–is pretty much a deal sealer.
But there’s no need to get too caught up in this hullabaloo, or spend a lot of time ripping someone apart for a couple of inane lines. My twelve year old daughter has read the trilogy, and I’ve yet seen her preparing to go after the neighbors with a bow and arrow, nor is she in need of extensive waxing. If fact, good person that I am, I gave her my copy of Battle Royale to read, telling her, “You might enjoy this.” I don’t expect her to get into a life-or-death struggle with the kids at school welding only a cooking pot, though I would give her odds to come out on top were such a conflict to occur.
Nor is there any reason to speak extensively upon the morality of Katniss, either. If you know anything about the story, you’ll know Katniss is directly responsible for keeping her mother, younger sister, and herself feed. She is, eventually, the breadwinner of the family, and without her they all starve. She doesn’t go willingly into The Games; she does, indeed, enter in order to save her sister, who was originally chosen by the government to be one of the contestants to fight to the death, and Katniss knew if her sister entered the Arena, she’d quickly end up a bloody statistic. But the idea that it’s the kids who want to do this, and are okay with the killing? Please. This is something forced upon the people by the government, teaching them a “lesson” about what happens when you fight the power. And the idea that The Games are being used for entertainment is sick? Um, read a little history, and then tell me that Fox wouldn’t be the one hosting this show if it were allowed. Come to think of it, American Idol would be a far better show if the Sword of Damocles were hanging over the heads of each person being sent home every week.
And just so we are straight on this, lets go right to a direct quote: ”The idea for the trilogy was based in part on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, in which seven boys and seven girls from Athens are sent every nine years against their will to be devoured by the Minotaur, a cycle that doesn’t stop until Theseus kills the Minotaur. (Author Susan) Collins, who heard the story when she was eight years old (about the same time I heard it), was unsettled by its ruthlessness and cruelty. Collins said, ‘In her own way, Katniss is a futuristic Theseus.’ Collins also characterized the novels with the fearful sensations she experienced when her father was fighting in the Vietnam War.” So much for the story being another example this murder-fest being endemic of our immoral culture.
I know the point the person who made the original declaration was going for: that these stories happen, and people are entertained by them, because there is a singular lack of morality brought about by a singular lack of religion. I’ve heard this point made a lot, and I’ve been hearing it since I was about 7 or 8 years old–which is to say, I’ve been hearing it for close to fifty years.
And it was as much bullshit then as it is now.
Morality is learned, that is true. It is also true you can be a pious person and about as immoral an individual as one can imagine. As an Indiana native I’m very much aware of one of our favorite sons, Jim Jones, he of the People’s Temple and Guyana Cocktail fame, and it’s pretty easy to say he was both a pious man and as immoral and/or crazy as a shithouse rat. It doesn’t matter how moral you believe yourself to be; if you’re a sociopath, you’re living your own version of morality–and the odds are ever in your favor you’re extremely eager to get other people to bend to your idea of morality. Ricky Santorum, I’m lookin’ at you, babe.
By the same token, it’s easy to say one can develop a sense of right and wrong while not being very religious, or religious at all. I have to put myself in this category, as I’ve been an atheist since I was a teenager. This downward slide stared when I was kicked out of Sunday School when I was 8 or 9, because I kept asking why no one was upset when Lazareth started walking around after having been dead a few day. Nowadays he’d get a guest shot on The Walking Dead, but back there–you’re telling me no one freaked out? After class was over my parents were asked to speak with the sister in private, and when they came out they were pissed, because they’d been told I was “disruptive”, and that it would be best if I not return to class because I was “upsetting the other students with my lack of faith.”
I can tell the difference between right and wrong, and do what I can to help others where it is necessary. And as far as the characters in my stories go . . . well, a large part of Transporting–the whole third book, in fact–deals with helping people out of something that will eventually become, in a massive case of understatement on my part, “very bad” for them. The person who instigates the action to save these people–she’s an atheist, as is her eventual partner-in-crime, who is not only also a person who lives without faith, but a lesbian as well. Yeah, I know. I should burst into flames right now, shouldn’t I?
Strangely enough, I have written about characters who had considerable faith, and used it to guide them. You can find them in my story Kuntilanak: Buana, a traditional Balinese healer, and Indriani Baskoro, a paranormal investigator who is also a Muslim. Yeah, sorry about that, folks, but when one is writing about people in another country, the chances are good they might just have religious views a little different than what might be considered the “norm” here.
I suppose I have gone off on a rant, but it’s not the sort that I have been known to do. In part because, from my point of view, I only need state my point of view, enter in a few facts, and be upon my way. It’s not necessary to jump into the fray with both feet, and slaughter the innocent at the Cornucopia, much as Katniss didn’t do when she first entered The Arena. Personally, I’ll live how I like, because I find it works for me, and I’ll try to ignore the rantings of others who feel we are like the very Worst Culture EVAR, because there is a whole group of tweeners and teenagers out there who are getting enjoyment from reading the modern retelling of a three thousand year old myth.
Hang on tight to that dragon, baby. It tends to be a bumpy ride.