30 August 2010

I'm Not Picking Teams

I spent my Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon reading Suzanne Collins newest book -- Mockingjay -- the third book in her phenomenal and popular Hunger Games trilogy.

Last week, I saw a twitter post from a favorite author of mine proclaiming that she was part of Team Peeta and I shook my head.

Why do we have to copy ideas like that from one incident to the next? Are we not creative enough to come up with another way to describe a love triangle now that we've been inundated with Team Edward and Team Jacob? In Mockingjay, Gale and Peeta couldn't be more unlike Edward and Jacob (neither sparkles or turns into a werewolf, for starters). But because part of the story involves a girl who has to choose between two boys for whom she has strong feelings for different reasons, they get classified as Team Peeta and Team Gale. In my own Work-in-Progress, my main character is wooed by two different fellows. Is my own story subject to getting boiled down to Team Ibsen vs. Team Wes. (I cannot help but even cringe at that idea. Of course, I know what happens...)

We've done the same thing with scandals, slapping the suffix of "-gate" on them. If I were writing a real research paper, I wouldn't cite Wikipedia as an honest source, but this list shows just how pervasive the use of "-gate" has become.

Last winter's use of "snow-pocalypse" for the storms that blanketed the eastern seaboard and the word in fiction "zombiepocalypse" are likely heralds of another such trend. Google "-pocalypse" and you'll come up with a variety of clever (and not) doom-pending scenarios.

It's been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Does Suzanne Collins feel flattered that her two characters get compared in nomenclature to an angsty vampire and an over-protective werewolf? Do Woodward and Bernstein shake their heads when newspeople slam the "-gate" suffix on something so much more minor than a president covering up a break-in at the headquarters of the opposing party?

I'm not picking Team Peeta or Team Gale (or Edward or Jacob). Let's be honest -- Team Guy vs. Team Guy started a long time ago, but you don't see anyone making Facebook flair for Team King Arthur or Team Sir Lancelot.

And I'm not calling that I'm Switzerland either. I want more creativity. And I want people to stand up and say, "No, this scenario is different. This isn't Watergate. This isn't the same as Edward and Jacob. Don't draw the comparison for me."

Books, the world, politics -- they are all too nuanced. If all you know about Hunger Games is that there is Team Peeta and Team Gale, you would never know that the book is really about when government overreaches its power, about the depths of what makes us human, about what a person will do to protect those they love.

We're selling ourselves short to settle for teams.

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