Monday, November 17, 2014

Happy Fangirl Week

This past Saturday night, on a frozen field in Fayettville, for the first time in forever, the Hogs won an SEC game.  I hate that it was a shut-out of the same LSU team that a mere eight days prior took the Crimson Tide to overtime, I hate that a lot, but, as with the previous week's LSU loss, it rolled off my back relatively quickly.  If the old song is correct, & the first cut is the deepest, well, by the time you lose number four, you're immune to the pain.

Come a little closer . . . I'm going to tell you a secret.  If I could change the outcome of one football game that was played this past Saturday, I don't know that it would be the shut-out of the Tigers.  Were it within my power, I'd lean heavily toward granting my friends with cowbells the defeat of the Tide they so desperately wanted.  I was hoping Mississippi State would remain undefeated, & I was hoping Miami would beat overrated Florida State & their sketchy quarterback, & though I strongly felt they would lose, obviously I was hopeful LSU would surprise me  & defeat the Hogs.  At least Notre Dame lost again.  That's always something.  Something fabulous.

If you haven't already guessed, I will tell you that there is simply too much merriment ahead in the coming week for me to be too bothered by LSU's complete inability to generate even a hint of offense.  You go ahead & doggedly leave Jennings in the game, Les, but you're not going to ruin my mood this week, for it is the week before Thanksgiving, which means fictional men teenagers with a myriad of dramatic problems, a heaping helping of popcorn, & much anticipated time with friends await me.  I certainly hope my friends await me, as I am currently in possession of about a hundred dollars worth of movie tickets.

Five years ago this week, I joined a few friends for dinner & a movie.  I was newly married, had no children, & so it was quite a simple affair to arrange.  It went a little something like this:  Bye, Trey.  See you later.  We were all celebrating a friend's twenty-ninth birthday in perhaps the best way possible, by stuffing ourselves with an expensive dinner & then going to see New Moon, the film adaptation of the second book in the Twilight series.  A few weeks prior, the birthday girl had convinced me to read Twilight & New Moon (which I had foolishly, flippantly dismissed as child's stuff) so I'd be up to speed when we all went to the movie.  As you well know, I did read the books, &, well, I did not hate them.

My friend has the best birthday ever, as it falls the week before Thanksgiving, or as it's known in Hollywood, fangirl movie gold.  This is our week, ladies.  It's time to think about ourselves before the holidays descend in full force & it's not cool to focus only on yourself, what you want to read, what movie you want to see, how much the boots you want to buy cost, the coffee you want to sit & drink in peace in the morning while it's still hot.  Say it with me: ME, ME, ME!  

My friend will celebrate her thirty-fourth birthday this Thursday, & again, we'll be spending the evening of her big day together sitting in the theater, emotionally distraught over teenagers, which was a little creepy when we were twenty-nine, but is definitely getting weird as we hit our mid-thirties.  At least the actors who play these teens aren't themselves teenagers.  That takes a little off the weirdness edge.  Right?  Right.  Thankfully, there are a few youthful book club members in their twenties, & so I am going to sit by them so as to hopefully blend & draw fewer stares if I whimper at the sight of Peeta being held in the Capitol, or happen to holler something like, You love him, Katniss.  They took him to hurt you, can't you see!

A few weeks ago, I told you I'm working on a page that links to all the blogs I've written about books.  I continue to tinker with the page as time permits, & I recently unearthed one that I originally wrote in 2012 & simply must share with you now; it has fangirl week written all over it.  It's quite possible you've never read this before, as my mom comprised my main blog audience back in 2012.  Love you, Mom!  Also, as you'll see momentarily, I reference Maslow's hierarchy of needs, & I admit I love his hierarchy & always seek opportunities to share it with others.  If that doesn't earn me cool points, then I don't know what will.  

If you haven't read The Hunger Games series, you should.  I don't care how old you are, whether you're male or female, or how much you "aren't a reader."  I reject your excuses; I am rolling my eyes at you as I type.  I make no royalties from shamelessly plugging this series, I just honestly think it will improve your life, expand your mind, & all those other cliches that excellent fiction can accomplish.

In The Fault in Our Stars, John Green's protagonist, Hazel, says of her favorite book, "Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book."  So, yeah.  I remember reading that line for the first time & feeling such solidarity with Hazel in that moment.  There are many books I love, but I push books judiciously, considerately thinking of what those on whom I am forcing novels would genuinely enjoy.  For example, I handed my dad my copies of all three books in The Hunger Games series when I finished them; I did not hand him my copies of the books in the Twilight series, or The Bronze Horseman series.  He is usually a considerate book pusher too, understanding that I do not want to read the tall stack of books on the Ark of the Covenant that usually tops his nightstand.

So, read the books.  Yes, you should see the films, as they're well done, HOWEVER, the books are better.  Cliche, I know, but it's so true.  You will never understand my Peeta love if you don't read the books.  Nor will you know who Madge Undersee is.  Nor will you understand why this week's coffee mug is fantastic:

As promised, my initial thoughts on The Hunger Games, circa 2012 . . . which I am discovering via reading old blogs was a time when my thoughts were a little less scattered than they are now, two years, another child, & a diabetes diagnosis later:

Climbing the Rungs

At the end of the 1998 film The Truman Show, when Truman Burbank reaches the edge of the dome that has housed him his entire life & served as the set of the reality TV show in which he was unknowingly the star, he has a brief conversation with Christof, the creator of the show.  Christof, who has been with the show since its inception & manipulated the world in which Truman has lived his entire life, tells Truman that he knows him better than he knows himself, to which Truman responds, "You never had a camera in my head."

Saturday afternoon, I joined a group of good friends to see The Hunger Games, the film adaptation of the first book in a series by Suzanne Collins.  Both Catching Fire & Mockingjay, the sequels, are slated to be filmed as well, the latter broken into two films, which, if you've read it, you know is absolutely essential.  The movie was well done, so I don't want to be too critical, but I desperately missed the voice of the novel's narrator, Katniss, & I believe the film suffered somewhat from the lack of access to her thoughts & I was reminded of Truman's aforementioned line to Christof. 

The strength of the film is the visual contrast between the affluent Capitol, the ruling city of Panem, the fictitious nation that rose from the ashes of North America in Collins's novels, & the outlying Districts that are mired in poverty & exist solely to supply the Capitol with material goods, as well as entertainment in the form of the yearly Hunger Games.  As punishment for revolting against the Capitol some seventy-four years before the opening of the first novel, every year the Capitol puts on a show that is required viewing for all of Panem.  Twenty-four young men & women between the ages of twelve & eighteen, two from each District, are selected at random to be the stars of the show.  These young people are taken to the Capitol, primped & styled, put on parade, interviewed, & then locked in an arena constructed & manipulated by Gamemakers.  The goal is to be the sole survivor, literally.  Kill or be killed.  It sounds dire, obviously, & it is, but that's why there are two sequels to The Hunger Games

Collins runs the gamut of human experiences in her series.  As I read, I often had this image in the back of my mind:

This triangle is typically the visual that accompanies an explanation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  If you've ever taken a basic psychology class, you encountered Maslow.  Even before she enters the arena, Katniss's life is dominated by providing not only for her own physiological needs, but those of her mother & her younger sister.  Her father was killed in a mining accident, after which her mother shut down emotionally, leaving Katniss to fend for the three of them in one of the poorest Districts in Panem.  She learns to hunt & survive off the land, skills which serve her well when, at sixteen, she enters the arena as one of the stars of the Capitol's Hunger Games.  Katniss has been playing hunger games her entire life, &, much to the Capitol's chagrin, she shines in the arena they constructed to be her tomb. 

In contrast to Katniss is Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from District Twelve who accompanies Katniss into the arena.  Peeta's father is a baker, & while his family is by no means wealthy, Peeta's childhood isn't dominated by a fear of starvation like Katniss's is.  Thus, Peeta has time to dabble in other areas of Maslow's hierarchy.  During his interview before the Games, Peeta announces to all of Panem (literally, it's required viewing) that he has a crush on Katniss.  The reader knows that Katniss has never had the luxury of wondering or worrying about who has a crush on her, & she doesn't much care since she announces early in the first novel that she will never marry & have children, an understandable sentiment considering the daily struggle for food in her world, & the yearly Reaping Day, the day on which all twenty-four tributes are selected for participation in the Games.

In addition to developing & maintaining a crush on Katniss, a careful reader (or perhaps one who is slightly obsessed with Peeta's character) picks up on the fact that Peeta is a thinker.  While Katniss enters the arena with essentially the same survival mindset she has when she enters the woods back home to hunt, Peeta tells Katniss that, while he knows he will lose his life, he wants to find a way to show the Capitol he is more than a piece in their Game.  (I'd quote the line directly, but at present my dad has my copy of The Hunger Games.  That's right, I've become a book pusher, just like him).  One of the ways Peeta attempts to do this is by refusing to play the game by the Capitol's rules, looking out for Katniss's safety before his own. *sigh*  

As I read, I was engrossed in the world Collins creates.  When Katniss & Peeta binge on the fine food they're served in the Capitol prior to the Games, I was salivating.  While Katniss searches for water in the arena, nearing dehydration, I was thirsty.  When Katniss treats a deep leg wound Peeta receives in the arena, I was cringing.  When Peeta & Katniss search desperately for viable ways to thumb their nose at the Capitol & to change the reality of life for the citizens in Panem, I was constantly reminded of the harshness of war that always accompanies such change. 

There is, of course, a love story woven throughout the novels.  I was at times incredibly frustrated with its pace, and then I'd again recall Maslow's trusty triangle.  Not only is Katniss young, she is constantly in a fight for her life, both in and out of the arena, so she understandably doesn't usually think clearly  - or at all - about love.  To contemplate anything above those first two rungs of the triangle - physiological needs, & safety needs -  is a luxury she almost never allows herself, & so the moments when she does are quite poignant (& noticeably missing from the film, in my opinion).  

I don't want to give away the end of the series, but let me just say that while Collins delves into sobering issues, she tinges the despair that weighs heavily on her characters (& her readers!) with a story of sacrificial love that kept me up reading several nights.  I hope this part of her story is more prominent in the subsequent films.  I know the movie is never as good as the book, but I hope to not leave Catching Fire reciting all of Peeta's lines that weren't included in the film for the lucky moviegoers around me.  If you run into me in the next few weeks, I'll probably recite them for you, too. 

Most of us, certainly anyone reading this blog, live constantly in the top three tiers of Maslow's hierarchy - social needs, esteem needs, & self-actualization.  For example, because I've never a day in my life had to worry about where my next meal will come from, & I am fortunate enough to live in a country where I rarely worry about my personal safety, or the safety of my child, I am free to sit & muse about Collins's series, take a Saturday afternoon to view the film, & then eat dinner with friends so we could all bemoan the absence of our favorite Peeta lines & speculate about how exactly the second film might ramp up the romance.

When Reagan was first born, I thought about Maslow's triangle every now & then.  I realized Maslow was right, because when you aren't getting any sleep, little else matters.  Also, babies are a fine example of his hierarchy of needs.  They primarily are concerned with the first two tiers for the better part of their first year, & when a need isn't being met, they promptly let you know.  It's interesting to note how a person's definition of safety changes as they age.  I know my arms are sufficient for now, but I pray when she's older, our world is a place where Reagan doesn't have to worry about her personal safety. 

I hope Reagan never has to worry about how she will meet her physiological needs.  I pray she always feels safe, which is something most of us take for granted because it's just the norm.  It's only once these basic needs are met that people are able to move up the tier & delve into the things that make life worth living: relationships, love, music, books, complaining about lines omitted from movies, &, of course, coffee.  Interestingly, coffee is mentioned only a few times in Collins's novels.  It's considered a luxury in Panem that, like all luxuries, only Capitol citizens have regular access to . . . so, as much as I love Peeta, he probably wouldn't be enough for me, regardless of his flawlessly delivered romantic lines.  Coffee first, romance second.  That's how they shake out on my hierarchy of needs.

I hope you're anticipating the unfolding of your week as much as I am mine.  Seize your week, ladies.  Lay down the law for the men, kiss the babies goodbye, laugh & cry with friends, & relish the buttery popcorn that coats your chocolate-stained fingers.

I'll see you on the other side of fangirl week.


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