I saw The Hunger Games and hated it. The film version of The Hunger Games was more sentimental than Titanic, more misleadingly tough-chick than Pretty Woman, and less well-written than Happy Feet.
But I do believe that there are lessons to be learned from the movie, important ones, and ones, most crucially, that will make the cinematic experience tax-deductible for me when I write about them.
What can tenure-track faculty learn from The Hunger Games?
1. Strategy is everything. You thought it was intelligence, work, originality, and wit? Nah. Develop your strengths, strategies, abilities to form alliances, and be very, very careful (say it in the Elmer Fudd voice) when choosing your weapons. The female lead in this blockbuster uses a bow and arrow; the male lead lifts heavy weights. How I wish those had been reversed! How I would have loved to have seen Jennifer Lawrence, magnificent in Winter’s Bone but wasted in this movie, pick up a bowling ball and toss it around like a Hacky Sack. That would have been worth the entry-price, deduction or not. So make sure you remember: Strategy is everything--except, um, for weapons. Weapons help. Also ointment is handy. Plus water. So: strategy, weapons, ointment, water. Not necessarily in that order. And nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
2. Donors and sponsors matter to those running the place, and they wield inappropriate influence. They can tilt the playing field. Big time. Tickets to a game, anyone?
3. You have to be willing to travel. Your family time will be interrupted and your loved ones will miss you, but you’ll need to be willing to move to where you can do the work you do best in order to triumph. Pack lightly.
4. Speaking of which, you can’t go wrong if you have a few very special outfits for when you’re out in a public setting (conferences, working with the media, meeting potential donors) but otherwise casual clothing is fine. Wear fabrics that breathe, permit you to move easily, and include some that catch on fire.
5. Certain people get cozy, form cliques, and just aren’t going to be part of your inner circle. It’s best to be sanguine about this and form your own support group, preferably with an ally who isn’t absolutely and entirely destined to be a victim. Avoid people with large luminous eyes and soft voices or anybody who looks like a Furby.
6. Be prepared for the fact that some colleagues might become nasty. They might try to undermine your success, especially if you have at any point indicated a lack of support for their endeavors or thrown genetically engineered lethal beehives at their heads during faculty meetings. People hold grudges.
7. Make sure you know how to whistle. You know how to whistle, dontcha? You just put your lips together and blow. Unless, of course, you’re dead.
8. Those in power say you’re competing against each other but if you rise up in protest by making the scout salute, wearing a flea market pin, or indicating another form of solidarity, you can be sure you’ll be congratulated by some--but ignored by most. You will be able, however, to feel pious and self-righteous and that’s something, anyhow.
9. PTR meetings are like bloodbaths. Stay away until the dust, screams, and pieces of cartilage are but a memory. Then, and only then, reassess your position. This will cause you, if you are wise, to run, run, run away.
10. The old guy who drinks and tells war stories about what it was like when he was at the top of his game? He really is like Woody Harrelson, except he’s far less attractive, and he never shows up to breakfast even if there is free food. Besides, you would no more want to trust his advice than you would want his breath near your nostrils. Don’t let him exhale anywhere near the hem of your fiery dress.
11. People in the cities have a lot more fun, laugh far more, and interact a whole lot more than people in the country, who mostly sit near torn screens and gum their food. Decide where you want to spend your time. Are you into dulcimer music and natural fabrics? It’s aggie schools. Artifice and spectacle? Inner city community colleges. Want to create the computer-generated doggie-monsters and wear white coats? MIT or FIT. Your pick.
12. While it might seem as if diversity is important, don’t kid yourself. Although you’re pitted against others from different regions and of various backgrounds who have mildly stereotyped accents, the currently configured narrative virtually guarantees that the attractive white woman (with long hair and no regional accent) will win the battle. Remember, however, that once you get to the higher ranks, it’s still an entirely male-controlled and male-dominated game. Donald Sutherland, once the weed-smoking untenured professor in Animal House, is now--for better or worse--part of central command.
I’ll be writing more on The Hunger Games later this week. What--you didn’t think there would be a sequel?