What the Hell (Part Two) …views on the present and the future
I really appreciate the letters I got in response to my question about the “end of the world” movies and TV shows out there. No two were alike, which seems to say that there’s a lot behind the popularity of this theme.
Jazzbo writes: It’s funny that you ask this Shirelle, because my friends and me were just talking about how much our junior high school feels just like The Walking Dead. We’re the “humans” in it, and we’re surrounded by these mindless jocks, dorks who spend all day in video games, and yes the druggies – all of them are “walkers” (or zombies) to us. Maybe to you that show seems strange and off, but to us, for one hour a week, it feels like we’re understood by the world, and we can understand the world.
Wow, I can relate to that. I’m so often the outsider, especially when I’m surrounded by humans (like if Handsome has people over), and I often wonder why they’re so weird – why they’re not doing the things I’d do if I were them, like sniffing each other’s butts or jumping on each other, or eating all the food at once. And I know that teenagers often feel just that way about the other kids at their schools. I hope this doesn’t mean that you’re going to adopt a policy of shooting them in the brains, but I do understand!
Lucan writes: Shirelle I always thought you were a smart dog, but I think you’re naive about this. The world IS coming to an end! The movies about the end of times are here because we all know it’s just about to happen. Global warming’s going to destroy our farms (it’s already happening); overpopulation’s going to lead to starvation and horrible wars; we’ve put chemicals in our air, our water, and our bodies that we don’t know what they’re gonna do; and all these wars in the Middle East – it’s just exactly what was predicted would happen. Tell your friend Handsome to start praying for his soul, because this is world is about to explode.
This is the letter I most expected. And Lucan, I would love to tell you that I know you’re wrong, but of course I can’t. All those problems that you list are real, and could make things far worse than they are. But I do have one argument to offer, which is that humans have predicted the end of the world countless times over the years, and have always been wrong. The Black Plague didn’t do it. Assorted events where religions predicted it haven’t happened. World War II and the invention of the Atomic Bomb didn’t do it. So while it’s always possible that it still could happen, I want to impress on you – the odds are very very high that the world might just continue, no matter how many ways humans conspire to make it more difficult to live in. Similarly, although governments and political systems may change over time, fundamentally, people, and the way certain cultures like to run themselves, tend to stay pretty much the same. So while we’ll see big shifts (like, most clearly today, the many changes in Egypt over the last few years), but nothing like the world of “The Hunger Games.”
Speaking of which…
LaVaM writes: Thanks for asking about “The Hunger Games.” I have an answer for you: it is my life. I feel just like Katniss. I also have a little sister who I want to take care of, and would be happy if the world would just leave us alone so we could hunt and find food, but being a teenage girl today is horrible, Shirelle. Be glad you’re a dog. Just like Katniss, I’m expected to dress to shine (even when I just want to hide and be invisible), I’m supposed to smile and pretend to love all the people who control my world, and now, when I get out of school, I’m supposed to go join the rat race and compete against all my friends and try to destroy them. These are the best books ever written, as far as I can tell. They tell my story anyway.
I find this so distressing! And I’ll bet lots and lots of girls feel just this way. Their problem isn’t that they’re scared the world might turn into the “Hunger Games” setting; they feel like it’s already there. And for all the giant leaps that women have made in the last 50 years, it’s so sad that the pressure of “Be pretty, smile, and don’t have an opinion” still survives. I hope you, my beloved readers, are ready to do what you can to change this nonsense.
And last, but by no means least, Ellie writes:
I am sadly one of those people who actually want something like what’s happening in The Hunger Games to happen and never have really thought about why. And finally I have come up with reasons.
Firstly, the children of this generation want to do something with their lives instead of playing computer games and having programs tell you you’re a hero (even after failing many times) and put their name out there. You only live once after all.
Secondly, we want something different and interesting happen to the world, just so we can do something interesting that the world can know about, feel glory, save the world, have people talking about you in legends for thousands of years.
Next, nowadays i think we all have a lack of hope and if something disastrous happens we have a chance to spread our hope and be the person that kept on believing.
Finally, us who stay hunched over our computer everyday playing video games, those shy kids, want their chance to come out of their shells and act like a total badass without anybody making fun of them or freaking out because they are wearing armour and a crossbow slung over our shoulders.
I hope this helped you understand. Games I play give people creative minds to write inspiring paragraphs like I just tried to do when Im half awake.
There is so much here. If there’s anything sadder than someone thinking they live in the “Hunger Games” world, it must be someone who wishes she did. But your points make sense, Ellie.
But I’m going to try to talk you out of them anyway – and you can probably guess just how:
Ellie, and all of you: you DO live in a world where you can be heroic. The problems Lucan lists are all things you can devote yourself to helping. Maybe you won’t become world-famous (though you might), but if you can do even a small part to help the world get better, you have achieved greatness. Now if you want to be talked about in a thousand years, that’s a higher task, and it really requires you to work incredibly hard (Just think – how many people can you name who were around in 1013?!). You’d have to do something no one had ever done before. Even Katniss probably isn’t achieving anything that big (though I don’t know what happens in the second or third book!). Be the first person on Mars, write the greatest story ever, or a song that will last for eternity. I don’t know if you can do it, but I do know that no one has more chance than you – any of you – to be the one who can!
LaVaM, you probably can’t change the whole culture, and the way it treats teenage girls. But maybe you can change something in your school, or even just in your family. But if you just dress down or sulk, that won’t really change anything – people will just pay less attention to you, and notice the “shinier” girls more. But what if you excel at something else? What if you’re a great athlete, or write something amazing, or do something to save your sister? People will take notice! About fifty years ago an actress said a famous line in a movie: Another character said to her she wasn’t beautiful enough to become a star and she answered, “You think beautiful girls are going to stay in style forever? I should say not! Any minute now they’re going to be out! Finished! Then it’ll be my turn!” It’s a cute line in the movie – but the fact that it was said by the brand-new actress Barbra Streisand, who’s still a superstar half a century later, even with non-Hollywood looks… yeah it kind of rings true.
So what I really want to say to you all is – Don’t Give Up! Yes, all the problems you talk about are real, but you can do something to help change them! Back around the time Streisand was playing that role on Broadway, another not-classically-beautiful star-in-the-making sang these words: “There’s been rumors of war and wars that have been / The meaning of the life has been lost in the wind / And some people thinkin’ that the end is close by / ‘Stead of learnin’ to live they are learning to die.”
Well, I don’t want you learning to die! I want you – my Pack, the coolest most fantastic incredible wonderful group of humans ever – to embrace this life, and to take the right lessons from all these stories out there. If you’ve seen “This Is the End,” then great, do what it says: Refuse to Be a Jerk! If you’ve seen “Pacific Rim,” work, like they do, with others to save the planet, by Refusing to be overcome by jealousies. You’re a “Walking Dead” fan? Then great – LIVE! Use that glorious brain and body you’ve got: Run and laugh and get angry and fall in love and cry and learn and sing and kickbox and give too much money to someone who’s hungry and write an angry letter to a politician and kiss a stray dog (Kiss lots of dogs, and rub our tummies too). There is such a thing as contagious zombiedom – but it doesn’t come from being bitten by a zombie; it comes from letting yourself live like one! Refuse! Refuse! Be an animal instead!
And if you are (and how could you not be) a fan of “The Hunger Games,” then do what Katniss does. Look at the crazy world around you and REFUSE to obey its rules when they’re wrong. Live by your heart, by your love, by your fury. Be better than the world around you. Do good when the world says to do nothing. Be kind when the world says not to care. Be loving when the world says to hate.
And if you can do this, my dear dear friends – if you can take all the fear and negativity and hopelessness that’s out there, and turn it into hope and love and action… you will prove yourself the greatest bunch of humans ever.
And maybe, just maybe, that will be remembered a thousand years from now.