Josh Sewell – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Wed, 14 Nov 2018 14:35:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Josh Sewell – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com 32 32 5 Reasons “The Hunger Games” is NOT the Next “Twilight” http://likethedew.com/2012/04/03/5-reasons-the-hunger-games-is-not-the-next-twilight/ http://likethedew.com/2012/04/03/5-reasons-the-hunger-games-is-not-the-next-twilight/#comments Wed, 04 Apr 2012 02:46:35 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=38394 Even before the movie version of The Hunger Games started making a ton of cash at the box office, it was constantly being declared the next Twilight by various magazine articles, websites and entertainment programs. Sure, the tales have surface similarities: both are classified as young adult lit, both have teen girls as the main character and both include a love triangle of sorts (though in The Hunger Games this barely counts as a subplot).

But on the whole, Suzanne Collins’ parable about a bleak dystopian future couldn’t be more different than Stephenie Meyer’s supernatural romance. Here are a few reasons why:

1.  It’s sci-fi, not a soap opera

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Even before the movie version of The Hunger Games started making a ton of cash at the box office, it was constantly being declared the next Twilight by various magazine articles, websites and entertainment programs. Sure, the tales have surface similarities: both are classified as young adult lit, both have teen girls as the main character and both include a love triangle of sorts (though in The Hunger Games this barely counts as a subplot).

But on the whole, Suzanne Collins’ parable about a bleak dystopian future couldn’t be more different than Stephenie Meyer’s supernatural romance. Here are a few reasons why:

1.  It’s sci-fi, not a soap opera
For me, hearing these two pop culture behemoths compared is like somebody describing the similarities between Star Wars and The Notebook. Granted, there are probably one or two on the surface, but they’re completely different genres. The Hunger Games is a futuristic action thriller about kids fighting to the death to appease a tyrannical regime, while Twilight is a melodramatic romance about a teenage girl trying to choose between two boys. Speaking of which…

2. The stakes are higher
Collins’ characters are struggling with forces that are literally life and death. Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of The Hunger Games, lives in a world where she must illegally hunt wild game so her family doesn’t starve to death. Then she must volunteer to take her sister’s place in a barbaric game where only one person walks out alive. Bella Swan, on the other hand, is a Mary Sue whose primary concern is whether she will end up with the right boyfriend. Sure, those are huge stakes on a personal level, but making the wrong decision isn’t going to end with Bella stepping on a land mine or being executed by the government. Those wildly different worldviews lead me to believe something else…

3. Katniss would tell Bella to stop whining and grow up
As you might imagine, this is where we go from facts into the realm of opinion. The main characters in these series represent two completely different kinds of young women. Katniss is headstrong, resourceful and aggressively self-reliant. After the death of her father, she becomes the sole provider for her family. Ultimately, her strength makes her the face of a national resistance movement. She is participating in the Hunger Games by choice, instead of by mandate, volunteering to take the place of her little sister. It pains her to ask others for help, even though it is constantly offered. There’s a wonderful complexity to her character that allows readers/viewers to see her simultaneously as a bow and arrow-wielding fighter and a terrified 16-year-old girl.

Now look at Bella: because she is a Mary Sue character, she has to be a blank slate by definition. At no time does she think or act for herself. Any decision is reactionary, based on something her two suitors say or do. Again, her entire story arc is making sure that she picks the right guy so she doesn’t feel sad. This also means that she treats her father horribly, simply because he commits the unspeakable crime of being concerned for her well being and explaining that he has a few more years of life experience. I’d love to see a conversation between Bella and Katniss about their priorities. That’s mostly because…

4. Collins is a better writer
In a little less than 1,200 pages, Collins creates dozens of complex characters, a ruthless dictatorial government that combines oppression with entertainment, throws them into chaos and wraps up the story in a fitting way (it might not be a happy ending, but it makes sense). Throughout the narrative, she wryly comments on subjects as varied as class status, modern warfare, love, parenting and reality television – all while writing from a teenage girl’s point of point of view.

Meyer also writes from a teen girl’s perspective, but in service of a much weaker narrative that accomplishes less storytelling in twice the pages. She never met an adverb she didn’t like, and any subtext found in her novels is there by accident. Sure, she just made more money in the last 10 minutes than I’ll ever see in my lifetime, but that doesn’t mask the fact that her writing skills leave a lot to be desired. I think that’s why Meyer’s books will eventually be seen as a fad, while Collins’ will likely join J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as something people will be reading 50 years from now. Why? That ties into the final difference…

5. The audience is wider than teen girls and soccer moms
There’s nothing wrong with writing a four-novel series about a high school girl with relationship issues, but it severely limits what kind of people – and how many of them – will read your stuff. As the subhead suggests, in an admittedly oversimplified fashion, the target demo for Twilight is adolescent girls and a curiously large number of middle-aged women.

The Hunger Games novels have already broken through the typical young adult lit constraints (and thankfully the comparisons to its inferior predecessor), and are being read by a wide range of demos, including the tough-to-reach preteen and teen boy group. Heck, even pop culture-curious old fogeys like myself are reading and enjoying them. And now there’s a whole new wave of readers that are just now hearing about Collins’ books due to the smash success of the movie. That bodes extremely well for the big screen incarnations of the last two installments.

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“John Carter” Disappoints at the Box Office http://likethedew.com/2012/03/14/john-carter-disappoints-at-the-box-office/ http://likethedew.com/2012/03/14/john-carter-disappoints-at-the-box-office/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2012 20:43:08 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=37953 Disney’s long-in-development “John Carter” took in $30.6 million at the box office last weekend, typically a respectable figure. So why are most media outlets calling it a bomb?

Probably because several sources (including The New York Times, in a story with the scathing headline “‘Ishtar’ Lands On Mars”) have the film’s production and marketing budget estimated at a whopping $350 million, meaning the movie has to do “Titanic”-style business to even have a shot at breaking even. Which it’s not.

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John Carter - from DisneyDisney’s long-in-development “John Carter” took in $30.6 million at the box office last weekend, typically a respectable figure. So why are most media outlets calling it a bomb?

Probably because several sources (including The New York Times, in a story with the scathing headline “‘Ishtar’ Lands On Mars”) have the film’s production and marketing budget estimated at a whopping $350 million, meaning the movie has to do “Titanic”-style business to even have a shot at breaking even. Which it’s not.

Still, “John Carter” made over $100 million when worldwide figures are included, so it’s far from an unmitigated disaster. Most of the critical feeding frenzy can be chalked up to a months-long realization that Disney has been running one of the worst marketing campaigns in recent memory. The typically savvy studio is failing to capitalize on any number of selling points the film possesses.

The movie is based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs story called “A Princess of Mars,” which served as the inspiration for modern sci-fi classics like “Star Wars” and “Avatar.” Andrew Stanton, the talented visionary behind for “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E,” directed it.

The screenplay was co-written by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon. Taylor Kitsch, who plays the titular character, had a breakout role in the critically acclaimed television drama “Friday Night Lights.”

Is any of that on the poster? Nope. Instead, Disney changed the evocative title to something ridiculously vague and slapped it on a red background that tells you nothing about the movie. The pop culture media loves schadenfreude, and the decision-making process behind the scenes of “John Carter” gave people the chance to wallow in it.

Too bad, since the film itself — although heavily flawed — is actually quite entertaining. It even provides the opportunity for something Hollywood generally loves: lots of sequels. Something tells me that won’t be happening any time soon.

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The King and I http://likethedew.com/2012/03/01/the-king-and-i/ http://likethedew.com/2012/03/01/the-king-and-i/#comments Thu, 01 Mar 2012 14:38:40 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=37509 Stephen King is arguably the most famous writer in the world, so calling him my favorite author isn’t exactly a revolutionary statement. I could say I prefer some obscure novelist who is beloved by the literary elite, but I’d be lying. He went right to the top of my list when I read It at 12, and he has remained there ever since.

So imagine how excited I was to learn that King would be giving the closing address at last month’s Savannah Book Festival. A select few would even get to have a book signed, something the author rarely does. I ordered my ticket in October — the event sold out in less than two hours — and started counting down the days.

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Stephen King is arguably the most famous writer in the world, so calling him my favorite author isn’t exactly a revolutionary statement. I could say I prefer some obscure novelist who is beloved by the literary elite, but I’d be lying. He went right to the top of my list when I read It at 12, and he has remained there ever since.

So imagine how excited I was to learn that King would be giving the closing address at last month’s Savannah Book Festival. A select few would even get to have a book signed, something the author rarely does. I ordered my ticket in October — the event sold out in less than two hours — and started counting down the days.

Josh Sewell speaks with Stephen King during a signing at the Savannah Book Festival.
Josh Sewell speaks with Stephen King during a signing at the Savannah Book Festival.

When Feb. 19 arrived, I showed up outside the Trustees Theater in Savannah several hours before the event, hoping I’d get a chance to meet the horror icon. I struck up a conversation with the nice couple in front of me (who drove all the way from Niagara, N.Y., putting my measly four-hour drive to shame) and the time flew by. After the doors opened and the crowd filed in, I found myself holding the equivalent to Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. I was going to meet one of my literary heroes.

King’s address was terrific. He began by discussing how weird it was to be recognized in public, as he believed that writers were sort of the secret agents of the creative world. When he mentioned one of his books during a story and the audience clapped for it, he got a puzzled look on his face and said it felt like he was supposed to play “Free Bird” now.

He went on to explain how life always has a way of keeping his ego in check: the first time he was asked for an autograph, it was in a posh Pennsylvania restaurant. However, it was an elderly bathroom attendant making the request while King was otherwise occupied in a stall.

The author also mentioned that he spends a lot of time at Fenway Park, rooting on his beloved Boston Red Sox, and sometimes he dons a baseball cap and sunglasses to keep from getting recognized. Usually, he said, that ends with an 8-year-old kid yelling, “Look, mom! It’s Stephen King wearing a hat and sunglasses!”

King’s talk included several other hilarious anecdotes, along with fascinating observations about his craft and a tantalizing preview of Dr. Sleep, his upcoming sequel to The Shining. He even took questions from the audience for about 20 minutes.

After that, it was time for the book signing, which he warned would be an assembly line process since he had so many to get through. As we lined up by ticket number, I got my selection ready – a limited 25th anniversary edition of It that my parents got me for Christmas. Why not pick the book that kicked off my King appreciation?

The line kept getting shorter and I still didn’t know how I was going to handle the encounter. Do I just hand him the book and say thanks? Do I attempt a clever line, knowing he’s probably heard it a million times before?

Then it was my turn and I was still clueless. My feet took me to the table and my brain continued to melt down. Someone with the festival handed him my book, he looked up at me and something came out of my mouth on its own…

“You probably get this a lot, but you’re the reason I became a writer. Thanks for that.”

He smiled and said he was glad to hear it. Then he scribbled his signature on the book, handed it back to me and I was walking out of the building. The whole thing lasted less than 15 seconds. But I walked — heck, more like floated  — back to my hotel with a big, goofy grin on my face and a story I’d get to tell for the rest of my life.

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