TEASER: The Hunger Games as (Neo)libertarian Erotica

I have a confession…

It is one I have only dared to make to the most  understanding of friends.  And even they, with their broad mindedness, eclectic tastes, and tolerance for the whackiest of ideas in the name of intellectualism, hear this confession  with sadness, shame, and utter bewilderment.  Still, truth is truth.  And the truth is this….

I HATE the Hunger Games.

9780545265355_default_sso_lI don’t hate the movies because “the books were so good.”  I have never seen the movies and won’t because I hated the books so thoroughly.  I don’t hate the Hunger Games because I hate the hype, I picked them up on the front side of the hype to see what they were all about.  I don’t hate the Hunger Games because I didn’t give them a chance.  I patiently gave DAYS of my life up (that tragically will never be returned to me) reading books that I started off feeling “iffy” about and ended up loathing, because I understood that they were the biggest literary pop culture phenomena since Harry Potter and it was my professional responsibility to know them well.

You cannot write my feelings off to some careless fault or omission.  I read the books…carefully…and I flat out hate them.

But before you conclude that I am a joyless hatemonger with no soul or sense of entertainment, at least let me explain why.  You may disagree with me when all is said and done, but hopefully you will get a more holistic sense of my vitriol…and while I chose to blog about it after all this time.

A few disclaimers (BECAUSE MY BLOGS ARE ALWAYS REQUIRING SOME DAMNED DISCLAIMERS)

  • The title of this blog post does not reveal any sort of animosity toward Libertarianism as a political philosophy.  In fact I have a bit if a politico-crush on libertarians, but for reasons of my own, I must stick to my own “godless”, “anti-American”, “totally unnatural” socialism.  Rather, this title points out a contradiction in the reception of the book that many insist on perpetuating.
  • I don’t believe that a female protagonist with a below average level of agency, an active love triangle, and weapons = feminism.  Yeah yeah yeah girl power…but pass.
  • I come from a literary background.  My first degree is in literature and my first stint in graduate school was in an Creative Writing MFA program.  I care about literary craft, the integrity of literary history, and I am PICKY.  My standards in books are downright fussy, some might even say impossible.

Now that you understand where I am coming from, I will say that my hated of the Hunger Games franchise can be summarized by one extraordinarily dated concept–“false consciousness.”  False consciousness is a term rooted in Marxist thought (*gasp*) that refers to the way in which particular material and ideological processes in (presumptively capitalist) society mislead the people.  These processes are said to hide the true nature of the forces that structure human sociality.  To be honest, I am an not really thinking anything as highfalutin is universally applicable and, to be honest, have a ton of issues with this concept.
Still I find it extraordinarily apt for the Hunger Games.

I don’t dislike the franchise for what it IS, but for what is is positioned (both by it’s author and it’s fans) to be–for what it is believed to be.  That is, the Hunger Games as an artifact is utterly forgettable, but the rhetoric surrounding it is infuriating and worth a second thought.  My arguments have little to do with FACT (whatever the hell that is), but with taste…specifically my own.  These are, after all feeble options.  Feel free to shoot  them down at will.

Specifically, I believe the Hunger Games is a sensationalist, entertaining (if wildly derivative), and highly formulaic series of novels whose literary value ranks far above Twilight but far below Harry Potter (which for the record, I don’t love either).  I see why they are widely read, why they have made widely profitable movies and video games, and why they are described as the most entertaining books of the decade.  What I don’t agree with–vehemently–are the following contentions:

  • The Hunger Games is well written and original.
  • The Hunger Games narrates a radically progressive or “revolutionary” leftist politics.
  • The Hunger Games offers a nuanced critique of contemporary mediatization (with an emphasis on reality TV).
  • The Hunger Games puts forward a valuable feminist politics.

….

 

CURIOUS?  Ready to argue?  Stay tuned for the rest of this post and for what promises to be a spring of Rants!

PINT: Values Lost

Bottles. Glass, Paper Chord.

Fairly early in the writing of my doctoral dissertation, I found, like many engaged in this process do, that there are issues and questions that I could not easily pursue within the scope of the project.  These, coupled with the impulse/need to have a creative outlet for those moments when ideas want to come, but refuse to be written cogently, resulted in the development of an artistic project.  PINT: Values Lost is a series of artwork developed to compliment/complicate my interdisciplinary dissertation project.

Though created to stand independently, the five mixed-media projects together tell a multi-layered story about contemporary American culture, capitalism, power, everyday material artifacts, and the raced and gendered subjectivities that emerge in relation to such fraught and overdetermined formations.  Though I showed this work in February 2014, all pieces are still in progress.

The first piece, A Thinking Man’s Game, takes up the historically messy interconnections between the brewing industry, baseball, American identity, and black masculinity in an installation of deconstructed and re-contextualized baseball cards.  It contemplates the economic reliance of pervasive American industries, such as beer and baseball, on black male bodies and these industry’s simultaneous efforts to conceal that reliance.

A Thinking Man's Game. Collage
“[In Progress] A Thinking Man’s Game”: Collage
The second piece, Bottles, explores beer consumption as a site of meaning with reference to urban blackness.  It introduces rarely posed questions about gendered interaction in these sites of meaning making through textile-based explorations of the brown paper bag and 40oz beer bottle.  By using the same materials that circulate urban everyday life—paper and glass—in a formal engagement that makes use of a traditionally feminine art, Bottles seeks to dislocate and thus question the meanings that circulate with this object.

Bottles. Glass, Paper Chord
“Bottles”: Glass, Paper Chord

The third piece, a collection of currently untitled photographs, raises questions about the pervasive narratives that characterize America’s founding fathers as patriotic homebrewers of beer.  Given the general understanding of brewing as women’s work in the colonial era, and fact that domestic labor was organized within the apparatus of American slavery for privileged families, these photographs envision a probable (but undocumented) tradition of brewing among African-American women.

The fourth piece, an unhinged polytych, charts the brewing process as a creative interpretation and subversive response to the recipe, as an organizer of brewing practice.  Conceived simultaneously as exploratory recipe cards and archival documents of actual brewing experiences, Gravity and Other Measures contemplates the brewing process as a space of confrontation with convention as it operates within the world of brewing and beyond.

[In Progress] Gravity and Other Measures, Wood, Paint. Collage
“Gravity and Other Measures”: Wood, Paint
The fifth piece is a collection of homebrewed beers designed to compliment the four pieces of visual art in the series.  “All-American Pastime Pale Ale”, “Belgian Blue Malt Liquor”, “Brew House Negro Colonial Ale”, and the “Divine Red Ale” were brewed to be tasted in concert with the visual experience of each piece—making use of brewing techniques and experiments that are intended to extend or provide further commentary on the themes broached in the visual work.

Tasting Flight. Hand-crafted Beer
“Tasting Flight”: Hand-crafted Beer

Artists Worth a Second (or First) Look: SJPC or why I Like Hairy White Dudes

Today, ART21 (aka one of my most treasured and consistent confirmations that the world is, in fact, an awesome place) published an interview with emerging artist Sean Joseph Patrick Carney on it’s blog .  In it, we get a brief but entertaining look at this deceptively intelligent, tattooed, bearded, jort wearing artist who lures folks into his art shows with a cooler full of PBR.  In other words, a startling facsimile of a significant number of my friends.   It would be more than easy to write Mr. Carney’s work off as the kind of shitcky, “ironic,” self-indulgent nonsense that I have come to think of as hipster art, but his engagements with some of the patron saints of cultural theory (Benjamin, Baudrillard, Foucault, Kristeva) deserve a pause for consideration, however brief.

If I’ve convinced you give in to distraction for a few minutes, I highly recommend his Procession of Simulacra, an English to “American” translation of a chapter from Baudrillard’s Simulations and Simulacra (1981).  The humor in the piece (or attempts as such) is obvious, but also an acute awareness of the fragility of the theoretical debates people who do what I do for a living hang our hats on.

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Read the full text of the interview:  http://blog.art21.org/2012/11/12/new-kids-on-the-block-baudrillard-for-bozos-an-interview-with-sean-joseph-patrick-carney/?utm_source=art21.org&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=textlink&utm_campaign=Art21_HP