Gary Ross In-Out at LionsGate? Where is Suzanne Collins?

by John on April 10, 2012

A dear friend wrote to me after seeing the Katniss Barbie doll, the one modeled on Miss Everdeen of the Esquire photo shoot, not Pippi of Panem of the novels, to express his alarm:

So, the question is: did Collins agent let her get hoodwinked and sell rights for things she’d never approve of? (Remember JKR’s promise that there would be no Harry Potter Happy Meals? I don’t think there ever was one, buy-your-own-wand aside.) Or has she in fact cheerfully and lucratively embraced the very culture she was claiming to subvert?

I mean, seriously–can you see Orwell approving little plush Napoleons?

I can see why my friend wrote me directly rather than post this thought, this note of disappointment in the Capitol-ization of the books, in that thread’s comment boxes. Who wants to say the ugly ‘sell-out’ words about the author? I sure don’t.

But I thought of Suzanne Collins this week and last during all the hullaballoo about the movie premiere. She was conspicuously absent, no? Except for the photo above (which came with a story explaining she didn’t do any interviews on the red carpet) she is out of the picture. Contrast the number of her interviews and photo shoots with those of the movie director, Gary Ross.

He is everywhere — at least as in the news as any of the stars and starlet, and with the speculation that he won’t be director any longer, he is more in the news than anyone. Ms. Collins is relatively invisible, only alluded to as justification for major changes in her screenplay and novel story line and meaning. In comparison with her triplet sisters in the Book-Become-Movie-Mania Bazillionaire Club on Roll-Out Day, Suzanne Collins makes near wall-flowers Joanne Rowling and Stephenie Meyer seem like exhibitionists off their meds and on a tequila bender.

Two thoughts:

(1) John’s Wish Fulfillment Fantasy: Ms. Collins is disgusted by Gary Ross as the living cartoon of a Gamesmaker she tried to show us in the stylists and Plutarch-on-a-bad-day in her Everdeen Saga. She is invisible because she is distancing herself from the hijacked parody of her stories coming to the screen in the movies made by Gilderoy Ross-hart. The conflict with Mr. Ross in the negotiations is her attempt to reclaim her achievement — and force Lionsgate to tell the anti-media story that Gamesmaker Ross is not able to tell.

Well, that was a lot of fun to write. Then I wake up from fantasy world with no rides.

(2) Gary Ross isn’t going anywhere. One of the reasons he is in every photo shoot and he’s doing interviews even on High School fangirl podcasts is because he’s in negotiations for control of the next film (or two). The more fans, reviewers, and the average person identifies him with this franchise, the more leverage he has in asking for percentage of profits and money for production. He’s the auteur, right?

I suspect Ms. Collins’ reserve just reflects a certain practical wisdom and self-awareness. She’s not a god and therefore doesn’t want to be entrained by the tsunami of attention and demands that engaging with reporters, photographers, and television personalities all but guarantees. She’s written about the madness of the Capitol and does not intend to become a part of it — or to try to stand in front of the Tiananmen Tank of Tinsel Town in the senseless attempt to slow or diminish its tawdry trek.

I suspect she likes what Gary Ross has done, because, bad as I may think his political allegory stripped of its spiritual and media messages, I know, she knows, we all know it could have been a lot worse. So we get the Katniss Everdeen action figure with the usual Barbie elephantiasis and disproportion… Maybe a few more young women will read the books because of this hype and nonsense, and, in that,  get to meet the real heroine and experience her choices and transformation into the mutt-Phoenix and holder of the Pearl of Great Price. Maybe a few young men will aspire to be like the Boy with the Bread.

If not, at least Ms. Collins has her personal dignity and the leisure consequent to her wealth to write more indictments of the way things are in books supposedly about a world that might be.

In her absence, Gary Ross Will Answer Reader Questions About ‘The Hunger Games’. It’s a shame, but, again, it could be worse. I doubt serious readers will be hanging on his insights or pronouncements the way we would be the thoughts of the author. I know I won’t be.

Your comments and corrections are coveted, as always.

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