Tag Archives: Media

Cultural Reading: Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy

I think Twitter was the main reason I chose to read Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.

No, it wasn’t because my followers on Twitter suggested I read the books, or that a person I follow recommended them at large. Instead, I was becoming completely unglued at every sight of the never-ending casting announcements for the upcoming film adaptation of the first book in the series, The Hunger Games, coming in the Spring. More than any other film in recent memory, it seemed as though every single role was a piece of news, and I became too curious to resist diving into the series.

A few weeks later, I emerged with an understanding for the books’ appeal and a large pile of critical thoughts that I’m itching to discuss with other folks who have read the books. Although I rarely dive into literature around these parts (although this will likely not be the first time this summer that I do so), I figured that this is as good a place as any to consider what makes the series distinct, what makes the series an ultimate disappointment, and why I’m extremely curious to see how they plan to adapt this story given some of its particular qualities.

Spoilers for the entire Hunger Games Trilogy follow.

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The Olympic Myth: NBC’s Failure Overshadows Parenthood’s Potential Success

The Olympic Myth

March 3rd, 2010

I really should have written this post in advance so I could post it as soon as the headlines started to hit, but alas I held out hope that perhaps we could disconnect ourselves from that particular response to solid, but unspectacular, ratings for NBC’s Parenthood.

This myth that the Olympics are some sort of magical promotional tool is not without some merit, in that NBC used a lot of their airtime with a huge captive audience in order to promote the arrival of this new series, but the intense expectation it places on a show is honestly not worth the trouble. The Olympics promotion is not only supposed to increase a show’s chances at success, but it is also expected to create an audience which may not actually exist, whitewashing any of the other problems that the show might face (whether it be timeslot competition, the lack of a compatible lead-in, etc.).

It’s a situation where you have to wonder: would the show have been better off debuting to lower numbers without the hype, just so that the show might have been seen as a mild disappointment instead of another failure of NBC’s network strategy?

Since Josef Adalain has already posted an analysis of the various potential scenarios for Parenthood at The Wrap, I’m going to add this little wrinkle to the mix: in Canada, it “worked.” CTV’s new comedy series Hiccups and Dan for Mayor debuted to huge numbers (1.9 Million viewers) on Monday night after heavy Olympics promotion, which could be seen as proof that with the right show Olympics promotion can result in big numbers.

Except that people tend to focus on the “Olympic Promotion” rather than “Right Show” part of that equation.

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Post-Games Positivity: Celebration over Criticism…until Tomorrow

Post-Games Positivity…until Tomorrow

March 1st, 2010

In the post-game euphoria which followed Canada’s epic overtime victory, as the nation flooded into the streets to celebrate, CTV’s hockey commentators were still getting paid to do their jobs. And so while no one else was thinking about how Canada had given up the lead in the final moments of the game, the commentators were talking about what Canada did wrong, and James Duthie raised an important point: if he had not scored that overtime goal, and if Canada had gone on to lose that game, Sidney Crosby would have been labeled a disappointment.

Sure, he scored a big goal in the Shootout against Switzerland, but Crosby wasn’t a force to be reckoned with on the ice. If the team had lost that game, he would have been singled out as someone who didn’t live up to their potential, who failed to be the next Gretzky or Lemieux as he has been labeled. But because he did score that goal, and because Canada did win the gold medal, no one will ever remember that he had been held pointless in the nine periods which preceded that extra frame; they will only remember that “Sid the Kid” scored the golden goal.

Canada is still wrapped up in post-Olympics euphoria at this hour: sure, my Facebook feed is filled with enough cynical twenty-somethings that the music selections at the Opening ceremonies are under intense scrutiny, but for the most part Canada has exited this games with a flurry of national pride. Four gold medals over the final two days have given Canada a place in the record books as the country with the most Gold medals in a single Winter Olympics, and the hockey victory made the entire evening’s affairs really feel like one big celebration of Canada as a nation. And while I have all sorts of quasi-critical thoughts about the Ceremonies, and about some of the events over the past few days, and certainly intend to more critically analyze CTV’s coverage of the games over the past 17 days in more detail in the future, right now just doesn’t feel like the time.

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The Ends Have No End (Yet): Second Chances and Relegation at the Olympic Games

The Ends Have No End (Yet)

February 23rd, 2010

When Canada’s Kevin Martin won his tense matchup against Great Britain’s David Murdoch on Saturday night, it was a big win for Martin: it meant that he moved to 6-0, which pretty much guaranteed him a spot in the final four teams heading into the medal round, and thus a good chance of making it to the gold medal game and potentially avenging his loss in Salt Lake City. It was also a big boost for Team Canada as a whole, as it was a pretty disappointing day: despite three skaters competing in Short Track finals, and a legitimate medal contender in the Men’s 1500m at the Richmond Oval, Canada walked away without a single medal, the first day it has been held off the scoreboard thus far in the games. Martin’s win helped right the ship, so the speak, and Canadians could go to bed (or, if they didn’t stay up past midnight in the eastern half of the country, wake up) to.

However, for Scotland’s David Murdoch, it was something entirely different: that loss, his third of the tournament, put the defending World Champion at the edge of elimination, turning his Round Robin tournament into a three-game bout of sudden death. Murdoch has had an uneven tournament, and his only option after that point was to bounce back from a game that was very winnable to win three straight in order to even have a shot at making it to the Final Four. If he loses one more game, he is an Olympic athlete playing for pride, like the short track speed skaters (or Snowboard Cross competitors) relegated to the “B” Final, forced to race to decide who finishes in the positions that no one is really going to care about.

And for the sake of a great curler in David Murdoch, I hope he is able to keep from falling into their ranks.

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Scheduling Patriotism: Double the Ceremonies, Less of an Impact

Day Four: Scheduling Patriotism

February 15th, 2010

Perhaps I am simply a proponent of less is more, but there’s something about having a large percentage of the medal winners at the Olympic Games stand on two separate podiums at two separate times that seems sort of funny. I understand the logistical issues surrounding it: because the events are scattered all over the place, they don’t want to have to have that many sets of flags kicking around, nor do they want to have the medals spread all over the place for security reasons. Doing most of the medal ceremonies in controlled environments either at BC Place or at Whistler makes perfect sense, except that it creates two separate “moments” for viewers to experience.

At a point during CTV’s broadcast of the medal ceremony for Canada’s first ever Gold medal on home soil from Alexandre Bilodeau, James Duthie made the argument that now Canadians will remember precisely where they were twice: once when Bilodeau won gold, and once when he received it. Now, I would tend to believe that I am never going to be telling my grandchildren that I was sitting in my parents’ living room watching Bilodeau win gold, but I can absolutely guarantee that I will not specifically remember a night later when, free from all suspense, Bilodeau stepped onto another podium and got that medal around his neck.

Both moments are memorable, but the excitement of the former and the resonance of the latter feel disconnected by the separation, and I have to wonder if the logistics (and the networks’ desire to be able to get two separate viewership boosts) are damaging the true impact of these Olympic moments.

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Going Negative and Going Gold: Villainy and Victory as Canada takes Moguls Gold

Going Negative and Going Gold

February 14th, 2010

Earlier today, I was watching CTV’s Olympics coverage when they aired a video package surrounding Dale Begg-Smith, the defending Olympic champion in the Men’s Moguls competition. Begg-Smith, who skis for Austrailia, is of particular interest to CTV because he used to be Canadian, and used to compete for Canada as a teenager. However, like Darth Vader turning to the dark side, at a certain point he left Canada for Australia for reasons which are subject to a great deal of speculation. To give CTV some credit, they didn’t go too far into the circumstances involved, but if we trust Wikipedia (which we don’t, considering the “citation needed, “but for the sake of argument) this was the situation:

Begg-Smith was skiing for his native Canada as a teenager when his coaches told him he was spending too much time on his fledgling business, and not enough time in training. He subsequently quit the Canadian ski program because it clashed with his business interests and, along with his brother, moved to Australia at age 15.[citation needed] The brothers chose to ski for Australia because the country had a smaller ski program that offered them more attention and flexibility. This ensured that they could still successfully manage their business.

There’s a lot of other rumours surrounding just what his internet business (which has made him a millionaire) entails, and CTV isn’t interested in any of it (especially since it’s all conjecture). What the piece focused on was how Dale Begg-Smith has become a villain, how his lack of emotion on the podium in both victory and defeat makes him seem unapproachable, and how this could be seen as strange for someone who is the face of his sport. While they tried to seem disappointed that he refused an interview request, it only made the story that much more damaging, and anyone who watched the clip would be tuning in that night not only to see four Canadians take part in the Moguls competition, but also to see if anyone could unseat the cold-blooded turncoat who dared to spurn this country.

And, much to the delight of viewers across the country and CTV, Canada found its Luke Skywalker.

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It’s All That Glitters: Contextualizing Canada’s Obsession with Gold

Day Two: It’s All That Glitters

February 14th, 2010

At times watching CTV’s Olympics coverage, I swear I’m watching the third Austin Powers movie: all that glitters is gold, and anything else is a crippling disappointment.

Now, this is the case for all countries: everyone wants their athletes to win gold, and there’s always disappointment when that doesn’t quite pan out. However, the hoopla in Canada at the moment is to a degree normally associated with our Men’s Hockey Team, as the nation rallies together in a quest to place enormous pressure on athletes to earn the nation’s first gold medal on home soil. In fact, the narrative is so pervasive that even NBC picked up on it heading into tonight’s Moguls event, demonstrating that one nation’s obsession is another nation’s bit of trivia.

The problem for CTV is not that Jennifer Heil failed to win a gold medal in the Women’s Moguls competition, coming a distant second to a fantastic performance by American Hannah Kearney (playing the role of villain for Canadian viewers, heroic spoiler for Americans), but rather that they built all of their coverage around medal hopefuls who would be challenging for gold on Day 2. And after both Heil and Charles Hamelin (who failed to even qualify for his short track speed skating final in the 1500m) failed to bring that narrative to its conclusion, it continues with a whole new set of characters who are supposed to make us forget about the failures of the days before.

And that’s a problem for me.

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