Thursday, June 7, 2012

To the Death

Whenever I watch a film like The Running Man or Series 7: The Contenders or Battle Royale or The Hunger Games or Gladiator or anything else that movie hipsters insist all these other films are ripping off, I see that they all have two things in common. They are all about people fighting to the death for the entertainment of others, and most everyone involved is there against their will. The second aspect of these films is what raises a very large question for me.

Why does everyone assume that people wouldn't willingly sign up for a fight to the death?

I get that in the Hunger Games, the fight to the death is used to keep the populace demoralized and dispirited. That's pretty much the theory behind all of them, really. It's the classic "Bread and Circuses" of Rome, in which you keep the people from rising up by keeping them entertained. The Hunger Games, and it's cult predecessor Series 7 show a world in which the only way to keep the people passive is with a reality show that involves unwilling participants killing each other. Gladiator shows us that this kind of thing was once a reality back in Rome.

Reality Television is often called our modern "Bread and Circuses." We tune in each week to watch people destroy each other, be they housewives, housemates, castaways, runway models, pageant moms, dance moms, or any other breed of people we want to come to blows. We love it when it gets nasty. And as these movies warn, we're eventually going to demand to watch people actually kill each other. And given how every year reality shows have to up the ante to keep us entertained, we might start seeing fights to the death in the not to distant future.

But would they be unwilling participants? Honestly, I don't think they would.

I have no doubt that if one day people were offered the chance to kill other people for prize money, they'd sign up for that show in a heartbeat. Producers would not be at a loss for potential contestants and would be able to have the most photogenic killers they wanted. We wouldn't need armies of soldiers forcing people into this contest. In fact, the soldiers would be needed to keep everyone else out.

Now, you think that this would be due to desperation. That the only reason people would sign up for one of these shows is that they have nothing to lose. And while that might be a factor for some, others would sign up just to kill people. The chance to literally get away with murder would be a very tempting prospect. Then there would be those who did it for the fame and glory, because whoever survives this battle to the death, which would be watched by everyone, would be famous beyond belief.

Fame and money are huge motivators. People are already willing to be subjected to constant abuse inflicted upon them by British people in the pursuit of fame and fortune. Or they are forced to endure unimaginable mental and physical tortures. They sign up for these shows knowing that it might make their lives a living hell, but if they win, if they come out on top, they will be rich and famous.

Why wouldn't the same people who already volunteer for these shows be willing to fight to the death? Remember, not all the Roman Gladiators were unwilling slaves being forced to fight to the death. Some of them volunteered to get rich and impress women. (And later in the empire, guys.) Plus, they really liked killing people.

That's why the next time someone makes a movie about a Battle to the Death reality show, I want them to avoid the unrealistic cliche that people would have to be forced into it at gunpoint. For once, I'd like to see a movie about the kind of folks who'd volunteer.

1 comment:

  1. In the Hunger Games you see that most of the Tributes from the rich districts are volunteers and have spent years training for the Games. I do think that people who feel they have an advantage may in fact take you up on your new reality series.