Hip or Hype?
“Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity … Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”
— Robin Browne
This quote has been attributed to Stephen King. No matter who said it, I’m certain the Twihards would not agree, or perhaps they would point out how important it IS to have a boyfriend. I tend to agree with the quote’s assessment, but I’ll confess I’ve read the Twilight novels, and I didn’t hate them. I was not a victim of the hype, however. As for Harry Potter, I took a dear friend to the first movie because she’d loved the books. I enjoyed that so well that I became interested in reading the books. I don’t feel I was caught up in the hype on that either, although I did stand in line at midnight for the last one. LOL.
We aren’t here to talk about Twilight or Harry Potter. We’re here to talk about HYPE, and its relationship to the actual validity of a written work. The Urban Dictionary defines hype thus: “A fad. A clever marketing strategy which a product is advertized as the thing everyone must have, to the point where people begin to feel they need to consume it.” As a member of the Gothic subculture, I was deeply suspicious of hype when I was young. You may not know this about Goths, but they invented the idea that if it’s popular in the mainstream, it is unbelievably lame. With this attitude, I missed out on some stuff that turned out not to be lame after all, including several opportunities to see Marilyn Manson in concert. I later discovered I loved his music, when I had gotten over the need to appear cool.
Some people are jealous of success. This sort of person will put down the successful, claiming it’s just the hype. Sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it isn’t. However, E. L. James and Stephanie Meyer are crying all the way to the bank, I’m sure. Since I am older and hopefully more mature than my uber-cool Kindergoth self, I attempt to make my own decision on what I will read, and whether I like what I have read. I have tried to stamp out the desire to spew vitriol all over something just because a lot of people think it is awesome. It reeks of bigotry to me, and I wasn’t raised that way. It smells of snobbery, as well. Pretentious, I think, is the word I want. While I once wanted to fit in with the pretentious Elder Goths I knew, I am now pretty elder myself, and I want to encourage critical thinking among anyone I should happen to inspire.
You might call the buzz around The Hunger Games hype. Having been on the New York Times’ Children Series Bestseller List for 106 weeks, the series is undeniably popular. The movie version is the Number 1 rental On Demand this week as well. Hunger Games merchandise is ubiquitous. One can hardly walk through the mall without tripping over a mockingjay. I’d reserved my opinion, because I had not read the books. Both my mother and father had, however. I’ve always trusted their book advice, since I was a little bitty reader. Once again, it took a trip to the movies to inspire me. My dad takes me to a movie a couple of times a month and he wanted to see The Hunger Games its very first weekend. I loved it. It spoke to me about our current struggle between the 99% and our 1% overlords, and I shivered to think how close we are to Ms. Collins’ dystopian vision. I think the series resonates for just this reason.
When I’d read the books, which I did in a fevered rush, I was certain. Let the naysayers say nay. Let the haters hate. To quote the hilarious Mr. Katt Williams, “So what she/he keeps talking about you and hating on you? What do you think a hater’s job is…to hate. If you have someone hating on you right now you better think of how to get five more people hating by Christmas. You need haters to make you stronger…without haters most people wouldn’t try to become better. Just tell them, bitch, you just hate me because you can’t be me.” I believe those who have not or cannot find success love to hate those who have. Ms. Collins evokes powerful imagery, creates characters who live and breathe, love and die, and who leave a hole in the heart when they do. I can think of no higher praise for an author than that she can make me cry for her creations.
I promised when I started this blog to talk about the meaning I gleaned from things I’d read, and I have done so when I have found it. I learned as a younger person, reading The Danse Macabre, that the times an author lives in seep into his or her work with or without planning, and that the success of art lies in how well it resonates with its audience. If this is so, ignore the hype, or lack thereof, and decide what resonates with you. As a former member of the middle class, reduced to one of the (sometimes) working poor, I felt The Hunger Games viscerally in my gut. The series spoke to me about my life, and the direction in which our country is headed, and the nature of humanity and humanness. I think these are the marks of great literature, and that’s definitely more than just hype.