Saturday, July 21, 2012

Antigone and The Hunger Games

My niece and nephew have been acting in plays put on by TBA Theater. As a good aunt I buy tickets and attend the shows, usually wonderful productions which showcase the talents of young actors and actresses. On Friday watched Antigone, a TBA show which my young relatives weren't in. They sat next to me. Wow! What a powerful show. I was particularly impressed by the portrayal of Creon, the leader of Thebes. Antigone was originally written by Euripides, a contemporary of Socrates, back in the fifth century BC. That play has been mostly lost but Sophocles wrote another version also in the fifth century BC. The Antigone put on by TBA was based on a play written by Jean Anouilh in the 1940s.

Earlier this week on Tuesday I watched the movie The Hunger Games, also an excellent show. As I stood in line to get in every teenager I spoke with had already seen the movie and was going back to watch it again. Teenagers love this movie.

It occurred to me that The Hunger Games and Antigone have nearly the same plots. They both occur in the aftermath of a rebellion. To put down the rebellion and intimidate the populace, civil authorities decide to stage an intimidating spectacle. In Antigone, this spectacle is a man's body left to rot out in the town square. In The Hunger Games it's the televised sacrifice of young people from outlying provinces. Along comes the heroine who in both dramas lives with her sister after the death of their father. The heroine, for personal reasons, defies the edict with the full expectation that she will die for doing so. In the interest of maintaining public order, civil authorities can't or won't relent. Antigone is condemned to being buried alive. Katniss, heroine of The Hunger Games, is condemned to . . .well you'll have to see the movie. Then Antigone takes her own life and the man who loves her takes his own life as well. In the play by Euripides , this double suicide is miraculously averted, making the ending of both dramas nearly the same. Both dramas are tragedies with lots of dead bodies.

I view the ancient Greeks as the originators of speculative fiction, what is sometimes called social science fiction, or dystopian science fiction or, as Margaret Atwood labels it, ustopia. Those who write such fiction follow in the footsteps of Plato in designing an imaginary society and using it to examine the relationship between the state and the individual, but most of all to tell a good story. Sir Thomas Moore continued this tradition in 1516 with his Utopia. And now here is Collins with The Hunger Games once again getting young people thinking, asking questions, and talking just as Socrates did back in the fifth century BC.  With the TBA production of Antigone, we have young people not engaging in Socratic thinking, but doing powerful interpretations of Greek tragedy. I am delighted that young people are interested in such dramas and in such discourse. It gives me much hope for the millennial generation and for the future.