What is it about the Hunger Games? It's hypnotic, it sucks you in and you can't escape. I've heard some people say they liked the books, but they had a hard time buying in to the premise. Then again, I've also seen some people scroll through the TV Guide and say, "You know, I can see Hunger Games working on the right network."
Detach yourself from the death and carnage factor for just a minute. And then click here to check out the Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League (like Fantasy Football, complete with competitive scoring system). Please, indulge me. I still have a major crush on Grantland.
If the Hunger Games were a real show, what would the scoring system look like? Grantland already has a solid points scoring foundation in place:
Female Crying: 5 points
Male Crying: 20 points
Saying, “I didn’t come here to make friends”: 10 points
Open-mouth kissing: 5 points per participant
Pregnancy scare: 50 points per sexual partner (and yes, I'm counting it)
Verbal Fighting: 5 points
Physical Fighting: 25 points
Decisively winning physical fight: 25 points
Throwing drink in someone’s face: 5 points
Winning elimination challenge: 10 points
Winning final challenge: 50 points
We'd probably have to add some show specific scoring options:
* Receiving a silver parachutes with gift attached: 25 points
* Figuring out how to use received gift: 50 points
(You think this is too high? Remember, not everyone gets gifts, and when they do, they get exactly what they need precisely when they need it. Potentially a dramatic shift in advantage.)
* Stealing a parachute gift from someone else: 150 points
(We never saw this happen, but we didn't see what everyone was doing at all times. It had to happen at some point - right?)
* Winning a fight with any type of mutt: 10 points
(Same as winning an elimination challenge; anything more would lead to score inflation.)
* Killing an opponent: 50 points
(Same as winning final challenge; technically, it's kind of the same thing.)
Note: We'd also have to figure out a way to get points to Foxface for hiding in the cornucopia and making off with her backpack unscathed. Also, how cool would it be to be an actress and have a character named "Foxface" on your resume?
Maybe we just wait until the movie comes out and score Katniss and Peeta based on what makes the final cut?
And speaking of the movie, a friend of mine is already planning a pre-movie tailgate. She's talking about making little silver parachutes, attaching them to Starbucks gift cards, and releasing them around the theater during the movie. I love this idea. I wish I'd come up with it myself. WE'RE ALL SPONSORS!
But back to our more "scholarly" discussion on resonance. I think what makes The Hunger Games work are the stakes - the 'unbelievable yet believable' nature of the interaction between these human beings. The contradictions are part of what makes it ring.
* Katniss is a celebrity in poverty, cold-hearted but kind, tough but vulnerable, wounded by loss while she's doing the killing.
* The Capitol is rich in materials but poor in spirit. They worship youth and beauty but relish watching its destruction in the arena and its distortion within their city (remember all of their fashion 'enhancements'?). They purge in order to feast. The things that made them powerful were also their undoing.
* Haymitch is a winner, but a loser. He's detached, but still invested. He practices self-preservation emotionally and recklessness physically.
* And then there's Peeta.
Peeta is the one honest character that you can take at face value - and yet, he's the accomplished liar, smooth talker, showman. The one most willing to sacrifice himself, and yet the one who is continuously resurrected. The soft, sunny dandelion who demonstrates unconditional love (and then, shockingly, unconditional hate).
When you read these books, you feel the rawness of the contradictions. There is so much emotion, it's exhausting. The pacing is perfect, so you can't put it down, and you get lost because you see the realness (which, again, we all play 'Real or Not Real' both with this book and within it).
Proposed Rule of Resonance: Resonance comes from emotion, and emotion comes from stakes.
We hear over and over again from industry professional that they want to feel the stakes, and there's something more at stake here than just obvious life and death. It's that 'something more' than resonates.