Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Hunger Games and looking for attention

The world will definitely be watching.

There are two things you should know about me that most people don't realize. One, I absolutely love being the center of attention. Two, I'm completely and unhealthily obsessed with The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games's protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is a lot like me, but has little desire to be noticed. It isn't until she volunteers for the Games in her sister's place that she's thrust into the spotlight. Her mentor, Haymitch, tells her she needs to get people to like her if she wants sponsors, which could mean the difference between life and death. Her stylist, Cinna, puts her in an outfit made of synthetic flames, giving her the nickname "Girl on Fire" that sticks with her throughout the series. And Peeta, her district partner and initial rival, shocks everyone the night before the Games by announcing that he has a crush on her.
But before the Games begin, before Katniss can get the sponsors she'll need so badly, she has to be scored. By the time is is her turn to impress the Gamemakers, they've already evaluated over a dozen other tributes. They're tired and hungry. Even when Katniss shoots an arrow right in the heart of her target, they're not paying her the slightest bit of attention -- until she gets frustrated and shoots at the pig they're eating from. The apple in the pig's mouth hits the wall, stunning the Gamemakers and earning Katniss one of the highest scores.

I went to high school in a small town. My school had about a thousand students, and everybody pretty much knew everybody. I was the smart, nerdy girl who did musicals, got good grades, and read Robert Jordan novels during my free time. I wasn't the pretty girl, the athletic girl, or Homecoming Queen. But I liked being the smart girl, because a less than glamorous identity was better than no identity at all.

And nerds are kind of "in" right now anyway, right? (source)

But the real world is different. The real world is made up of a lot more than a thousand people, and most of them don't care who you were when you were a kid. It's much harder to stand out and be noticed, and sometimes I feel a lot like Katniss in front of those Gamemakers, wanting to shoot arrows at people just to get them to pay attention to me.

In one particular scene in the movie, Katniss is preparing for her final interview before the Games, twirling in a pretty red dress in front of Cinna. Not for the first time, she expresses her inability to impress people. But you impressed me, Cinna notes.
"That's different," Katniss insists. "I wasn't trying."
"Exactly," Cinna says.

Trying to stand out in a crowd is difficult, and not everybody can do it. Not everybody can be the most popular, the most noticed, the most liked. There are hundreds of millions of people in the United States alone, and nobody will be important or noticed by everybody else. So what can we do? If we take our cues from Katniss, we can stop trying so hard to impress everyone. Granted, we all have to care what people think at one time or another. For most of us, we have to put on a good show in public so we won't get fired from our jobs, just like Katniss has to put on a good show in the arena if she wants to live. But people aren't stupid, and they'll see through a phony act. If you want to get the right kind of attention, being you is probably the best way to go.

Now if only I could get Josh Hutcherson to notice me...


Monday, April 8, 2013

The one where I get really personal

It's time for another edition of Let's Stand Around the Water Cooler And Talk Crap About Reality TV Stars. TV show in question tonight is Teen Mom -- or, rather, its latest incarnation, Teen Mom 2. The 16 & Pregnant spin-off follows four girls from the original show, but the one I particularly abhor is Kailyn. Kailyn has had a rough life, and when the show first started, her own parents and baby daddy were so godawful that I was willing to cut her some slack. And she has done a pretty good job of raising her son, despite the cruddy hand life dealt her. But I stopped rooting for Kailyn when she said something that struck a particular nerve with me. After breaking up with aforementioned baby daddy, she starts dating a new guy, Jordan. When it comes up that Jordan still lives with his parents while Kailyn is on her own, she remarks, "You don't know how easy you've got it."

Um, excuse me? I'm a college graduate living with my parents while working-full time, both at a day job and on a novel, hoping to write full-time one day. Every single day, I stress about money: Will I make enough to move out on my own? When will it happen? Will I ever accomplish my goals? If Kailyn or anyone else spent a day in my life, they would know that I don't have it easy. Sure, I don't have the same struggles as she does, and it's unfortunate that so many people in her life have let her down. But even though this girl isn't even aware of my existence, it felt like a personal insult.

Back when I first started blogging (well, on blogspot anyway), I wrote about emotionally connecting with an audience. Why do people care so much about celebrities we don't even know? I started off talking about Casey Anthony; sure, it's understandable that people would get outraged when they believe someone got away with murder. But why did people get so damn invested in a case where they didn't know anyone personally? I don't know exactly what it was that drew me in to the case -- maybe it was because Casey isn't that much older than me, or that I've always wanted kids, or that the entire case was (and still is) shrouded in mystery. The other day, after several months of obsessively watching Bones, I told my dad that I probably connected with that show because of the Casey Anthony case -- we'll never know for sure what happened to Caylee, and chances are nobody will ever be held legally accountable for her death. But it's comforting to sit down for an hour and watch murderers (albeit fictional ones) get caught and pay for what they did.

Plus David Boreanaz is very, um, not ugly. (source)

Our culture has a love/hate relationship with celebrities and celebrity obsession. You can't go to the grocery store without seeing the faces of various actors or musicians splashed across the covers of magazines at the checkout lanes. Even how-to articles within the magazines use celebrity examples -- get Rhianna's smoky eyes! Get Carrie Underwood's abs! Get Selena Gomez's flattering hairdo! (Not gonna lie though, I'd kill to look like Selena Gomez. Just putting it out there.)

Heck, I even named my blog after a line in one of her songs. (source)

These celebrities wouldn't be so visible and talked about if we didn't connect with them in some form or fashion. Yet any time someone gets legitimately offended at something they do, or even gets overly attached to them, they're labeled as strange or obsessive. Just today, I found an article about Drake Bell criticizing Justin Bieber via twitter. But most of his criticisms were directed toward the fans and how crazy they are. And they are crazy -- sometimes a bit too crazy for my taste. But they wouldn't be so crazy if Justin, his music, and his story didn't resonate with them so deeply.

In May 2012, the BBC produced a documentary called Music Saved My Life. I haven't watched it, but just the title is powerful. This is why so many teens and tweens get personally offended when people criticize the object of their affections. I've heard so many stories of singers and bands helping people through difficult situations -- from seemingly minor things like losing a friend or boyfriend to deeper things like the death of a parent or mental illness. You never, ever, ever know how an artist has affected someone. And if you insult the people they connect with, you could be indirectly insulting them.

There's a quote going around twitter and other social networking sites right now -- unfortunately, I don't know who to attribute it to, and there are even different versions. But I think this one sums things up quite nicely: "Many people expend tremendous energy to hide their pain, poor health, or problems just to function in this world. Be kind, we're all fighting some kind of battle."

Maybe I need to remember that one too.