So, the latest teen bestseller-turned-movie is an opus called “The Hunger Games.” It’s about young folks in a future dystopian world who are forced to take part in yearly government-sponsored, fight-to-the-death competitions.
The adults in the story, who are all either evil or stupid, watch the games on TV and can contribute food, weapons and other commodities in support of their favorite contestants. They keep treading water in the shallow sea of ignorance. Instead of knowing their kids, they keep ‘NO-ing’ them. The beleaguered teens are, of course, noble, kind, brave, brilliant, trustworthy, forthright, tenacious, good-natured, resourceful, cute and magnanimous. Other than that, the premise is at least slightly plausible.
By contrast, the Harry Potter franchise was full of wizards, spells and three-headed monsters. In that kind of setting, nothing has to make sense, and as far as I could tell, nothing did. Following the Harry Potter craze, the Twilight series had blood-sucking vampire heartthrobs. A vampire is like a very large mosquito. I don’t know; is that appealing? Apparently it is to millions of teenagers.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I have not seen “The Hunger Games,” nor do I intend to, but I have looked at a few of the thousands of reviews it has received. The reason for so many is, of course, that reviewers love the word “dystopian.” It sounds highbrow, and they don’t get to use it that often. They also prefer to write about movies that millions of people are interested in seeing, as opposed to, say, small independent films about dead poets. And make no mistake, “Hunger Games” is a big box office movie.
It made 400 trillion dollars in its first two days (all of which, by the way, is being used to fight world hunger). There are also a number of promotional tie-ins, like “The Hunger Games Cookbook” (fried squirrel, anyone?) and a video game where kids get to test their survival skills. (Sample question: “You see a large stone. Do you use it to a) send a text message, or b) crush your opponent’s skull?”)
Anyway, at some point, it became obvious to me that these kinds of fantasy adventure stories, where anything goes, are incredibly easy to write. You just make stuff up. I therefore decided to write my own adult-oriented response to the “Hunger Games.” It is called “Leisure Games!”
It’s set in the year 2015. President Newt Gingrich (the only president ever to be named for a lizard) has declared that, in order for the U.S. to keep pace with China economically, all children between the ages of 12 and 18 must go to work full-time in disgusting, ugly office buildings and unsafe factories for almost no pay and no benefits. It builds character, Newt insists.
But the real heroes of the story are the adults, who have finally figured out a way to totally avoid work and spend all of their time lounging by swimming pools, playing golf and listening to relaxing music, all paid for by the generous taxpayers who are still foolish enough to actually work for a living. In “Leisure Games” the only thing that has to work for most adults is their eyebrows.
Children who try to run to Canada to escape the workforce are personally hunted down by Secretary of Labor, Donald Trump, who bellows his trademark “You’re hired!” before sending them back to the coal mines. They are forced to join In-Your-Facebook, and if they ever try to run away again, they get the worst punishment of all: New Jersey’s Governor Christie gives them a lap-dance. When the working kids turn 18, a wicked wizard casts a spell on them, they become 12 again, and the whole process begins anew.
I really like this plot line so far. It makes me feel warm and happy inside, and I think the book and subsequent big-budget movie will be wildly popular among people between the ages of 40 and 100. The moral of my story is: “Be yourself…Everyone else is taken.”
I haven’t yet figured out how to end the story, but I think it will probably involve a giant five-headed magical wolverine. Or I might just leave the whole ending up in the air to ensure a large audience for the sequel. Whatever. Right now I’m just busy doing a deal with Target to sell “Leisure Games” golf shirts and coffee mugs.
I hope to have the book finished and ready for release by July 1, unless something totally dystopian happens.