Hunger Games mania has swept the inner solar system. Here's the problem: I know very, very little about The Hunger Games. Nothing, really. Obviously I've never read the books, and the trailers don't do much beyond making me think, Huh. Well, that could be good. I feel like I'm the only one who is not a Hunger Games fanatic. If other people are in my position, boy, they're sure doing a good job of staying quiet. If there are others, then, well, I kind of feel like the one guy who's at least willing to admit that his first instinct is to always pronounce the word "epitome" as "ep-ah-tome." (Oh, come on, I know I can't be the only one.)
Knowing nothing about Twilight and, to a lesser extent, Harry Potter was almost like a badge of honor. If anyone hit you with an "Oh, heavens, you haven't read or seen Twilight?," you could easily reply, "Well, I am an adult, so, sorry. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to watch Star Wars for the 255th time." With The Hunger Games, I have the strange feeling that I am not only missing out on something but also not really invited, either. It's as if the entire world of popular culture has left me behind, and to try to catch up now would seem disingenuous. (Full disclosure: I have since caught up with Harry Potter and Twilight.)
I mean, good grief, my mom has read The Hunger Games. My mom! My mom, the person who, upon learning of Whitney Houston's death, told me, "I really liked her in The Bodyguard with that Steven Costner." My mom, who refers to Bruce Springsteen as "Bruce Bernstein," is, right now, more in tune with the culture than I am. Yes, that makes me anxious.
Here's what I think I know about The Hunger Games: Jennifer Lawrence plays a teenager named Katniss
Evergreen Everdeen who has to battle other teenagers to the death in order to bring peace and tranquility to her home city. Oh, and Woody Harrelson is in this movie. Logic would tell me that there are people on this planet who know less information than I do. I have never met one of these people.
Here's why I bring all of this up: I have found myself lying about my Hunger Games knowledge to seem "cool." Which, I'll admit, is very sad. I have found myself in conversations, nodding in agreement about character traits and something about "tributes." I have actually spoken this sentence out loud: "Oh, tributes are the worst."
I feel like I'm back in high school, faking my way through conversations that, in truth, are way over my head, making statements like "Oh, yeah, five-point-zero-liter engines are the best," and "I agree, hunting and fishing are awesome things to do," and "I like how sex feels." (To explain the second one: I grew up in Missouri.)
Like most of civilized society, I will see The Hunger Games next week. I'm already apprehensive about it: like I'm going to walk into some Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screening situation where everyone already knows every line of dialogue, not to mention one another. I'm afraid they'll look at me and think, What is THAT guy doing here? He has no business being here. Yes, I know you're thinking, For God's sakes, just read the book, already. It's too late. The Zeitgeist has already passed me by. If I read the book right now, I'd want to talk about the specific plot points of this brand new adventure, while the rest of the world would say, "Dude, stop, we're in line for the movie."
Am I overreacting? Probably. But I can't possibly be the only one who feels this way, can I? Are there others out there, like me, who want to join the party but feel like they've missed the boat?
Maybe after I see the movie, I'll feel more like part of the club. Who knows? Maybe I'll even feel like the EP-ah-tome of a true Hunger Games fan.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter