The Hunger Games, and Highbrowism of The New Yorker: hobbesian, dystopian, epicene, courtier, cosseted

By Xah Lee. Date:
Hobbesian English philosopher and political theorist best known for his book Leviathan (1651), in which he argues that the only way to secure civil society is through universal submission to the absolute authority of a sovereign. (AHD) Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679)
epicene having the characteristics of both the male and the female; Effeminate; unmanly. (AHD)
overlords One in a position of supremacy or domination over others.
courtiers A courtier is a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage. Historically the court was the centre of government as well as the residence of the monarch, and social and political life were often completely mixed together. Courtiers
cosseted pamper, coddle, pet.
gladiatorial Gladiator. Armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals.

Suzanne Collins's “The Hunger Games” (the first book in a best-selling young-adult trilogy) is a sensational piece of pop primitivism — a Hobbesian war of all against all. In a dystopian society in the future, a group of wealthy, epicene overlords — authoritarians with violet hair and the vicious manners of French courtiers — threaten and control an impoverished population. Years ago, the virtuous commoners rose up, unsuccessfully, against their decadent rulers, and they've been both cosseted and terrorized ever since by a yearly lottery in which two teens from each of twelve districts are selected, trained, and turned into media stars. They are then set loose in a controlled wilderness, where they must survive hunger and one another, until only one of them is left alive. The survivor will bring home to his district both glory and food, and everyone, rich and poor, watches the events on television. Collins's idea seems to be derived from the bloodier Greek myths and Roman gladiatorial contests (the big shots have names like Seneca and Claudius); from William Golding's “Lord of the Flies”; and from TV spectacles like the myriad “Survivor” shows and sado-Trumpian elimination contests. Collins's strategy of putting girls and boys (some as young as twelve) at the center of a deadly struggle adds tense, nasty excitement to the old tales and tawdry TV rituals she draws on.

This piece is from 〔 The Current Cinema: KIDS AT Risk: “The Hunger Games” and “Bully” By David Denby. At http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2012/04/02/120402crci_cinema_denby〕.

I'm not sure its author, David Denby, has read the book and is writing about the book, or the movie, or a mix of both. But if just the movie, then this opening intro on Hunger Games is overly highbrow, badly written. Many use of words are showoff and off. For example, the description of “primitivism” and “Hobbesian” in “sensational piece of pop primitivism — a Hobbesian war of all against all.” is far-fetched. The rulers in the movie isn't “epicene” at all. And “French courtiers” doesn't fit as a description their mannerism. The word “cosseted” in the phrase “they've been both both cosseted and terrorized ever since” is completely wrong.