These days there is a new J.K. Rowling. Ever heard of Suzanne Collins?
Maybe the name doesn’t ring a bell, but she’s the author of the suddenly-inescapable Hunger Games. Fans are enthralled with the ruthless social concept in the book: young people being forced by the government to fight to the death!
It’s a grabby concept, but as any hipster worth his vintage Chucks will tell you, that is so done.
Let’s break it down for you:
The concept: It’s the future. What remains of the United States is left in ruins, divided into twelve districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are forced to participate in the “Hunger Games.” Then the Hunger Games are broadcast so all citizens are forced to watch as the 24 participants kill each other off until one is left.
Creepy, right? It gets so much better:
The concept: Forty-two ninth grade students are captured by the government and taken to an island where they have three days to kill each other off until there is one winner left. If there is not a sole winner by day three, they all die.
Well from the looks of it, it’s a strange coincidence in writing history. Creepy all-powerful government, young people killing each other off in some form of a “game”, and romance between the two survivors.
So did Collins rip off Battle Royale? Not really.
Collins says that she based her story off of the Greek myth of Thesus and the Minotaur, but that’s just one example of this theme. Socially-forced-murders/people-killing-each-other-for-dumb-reasons run amok in Lord of the Flies, Running Man, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”… the list goes on.
Seems like as a society, we have a thing for it. Collins didn’t steal the idea from Battle Royale. In fact, they were just slightly ahead of her in borrowing from an age-old story.
The Moral of the Story
People like messed-up stories. Know your audience, and you can make it big.