by Cary L. Tyler
It is increasingly obvious that, for some reason or another, while people may be able to read a book, they may not be able to understand what they are reading, or are intentionally oblivious to what they are reading.
The recent controversies and conversations regarding the book and movie Hunger Games have disturbed me, but what also is troubling me is that people are allegedly reading these books, yet are stunned with what they have seen on screen.
The skin color of the character Rue was never a question in Suzanne Collins’ novel, yet there were people who were stunned that Rue was actually black. But it did not stop there.
Apparently some members of the media felt that Jennifer Lawrence’s body did not match their perception of the novel. Here is an excerpt from an ABC News blog. In it, they quote The New York Times as saying: “A few years ago Ms. Lawrence might have looked hungry enough to play Katniss, but now, at 21, her seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about a people starved into submission.”
Really? While the article is referring to the psychological damage this kind of conversation can have, there is another problem here. Did anyone actually read the book?
Lawrence’s character, Katniss Everdeen, would not be emaciated. She hunts and provides for her family and also for others in District 12 as best as possible. She is routinely in the woods surrounding her home and is healthy enough to be able to contend with the “careers”.
In addition, if one actually read the book, the Capitol makes sure that the 24 contenders are well fed and strong so that the actual event is that much more “fun” to watch. It is safe to say, given the technology the Capitol possesses, that each of the tributes not only are getting plenty of food, but also plenty of nutrients that would quickly get these characters ready for the robust, brutal nature of the Hunger Games.
This is embarrassing. Teachers are expected to be educating students on analyzing literature not only for academic purposes but for recreational ones as well. I suspect my former and current students, if they paid attention for even nine weeks, will be shaking their heads in disbelief as I have at recent events. It has never been in my realm to teach to a test. I want my students to know HOW to read. Words on paper are useless if they are not going to be properly understood.
I sincerely hope that in the rush to standardized testing we have not allowed too many of a generation to only have a cursory understanding of what they read and watch. If this is the case, then the manipulators out there will have received a morbid blessing. Their job will be so much easier in the near future, because they will not have to worry about someone catching subtle yet important nuances in their contrived discourse.
This is especially the case when too many “readers” do not catch important information that is sitting right in front of them.
Additional reading: Check out this post from the New Yorker on the issue of race in the Hunger Games: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/03/hunger-games-and-trayvon-martin.html?mbid=social_mobile_tweet