Humans Hunting Humans

I am actually farther along than this. New photos will have to wait until tomorrow or Wednesday.

Last night I was ensconced on the couch, madly working away at Elegant Pumpkins, watching episode after episode of Supernatural.  I fail to understand how I never saw this show when it came out about 7 or 8 years ago.  The only explanation I can find is that it must have been on opposite something I was already totally hooked on. 

Progress was being made and I really wanted to finish that one section, so I started another episode, entitled Benders.  I was trying to imagine what it could be about.

I didn’t expect it to be ordinary humans with a not so ordinary hobby.  It was all about people kidnapping other people in order to hunt them.  What really gets me is the name of the Episode.  Is doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything.  I can only guess that it might be the surname for the weird family.  Not that it was ever mentioned in the episode.

On the whole, I’ve seen a lot of variations of this particular story.  Richard Connell has a lot for which to answer.  Or maybe it is the producer of school texted books.  Particularly Jr and Sr High Schools text books.  I don’t know if it is still a mainstay of English Lit textbooks or not, but when I was in school it was, and I know people up to 20 years older than me who remember it from school.  Everyone I mention it to goes, “oh yeah, that story”.  But no one remember what grade it was.

First published in 1924, the title was The Most Dangerous Game.   A famous big game hunter somehow gets stranded on an island where he is captured and invited to be part of a game.  Initially, because the owner of the island knew of him and admired him, he was invited to participate as a hunter.  But he refused.  The game was hunting humans.  He would send the out in the jungle with a weapon and food supplies.  If they survived three days they were allowed to go free.  No one had ever survived.  So the title was a play on the word game as something for entertainment and an object that is hunted.  This refusal angers his captor who then says that  he can either be the hunted or get beaten by the man’s huge bodyguard.

Being a world renown hunter, he chose to be hunted.  The ensuing three-day hunt ends with the hero diving off a cliff to escape.  The villain returns home to find the hero in his own bedroom.  The villain views the hunt as over.  He seems to be honoring the terms of letting people go if they survive the three days.  But the hero sees him as a monster, a beast that is no better than an animal himself.  They fight.  The outcome is not stated, but the hero ends the story with how he slept that night, implying that he defeated and killed the villain.  But it also ambiguous.  He ended up playing the part the villain originally wanted him to play.  He hunted another human.  He hunted his hunter, catching him unaware in his own den, and defeating him.  Did he learn the value of life and think less callously about the animals he himself hunted or did he end up turning into another hunter like the villain, who succumbed to the thrill of hunting people, losing his own humanity in the process?

At least 24 films have been influenced by this and at least 30 t.v. shows.  Every kid reads it in school.  It is a familiar story.  So every writer has it in the back of their minds as possible material.  No wonder we see it crop up so often.  There was a one serial killer in the 1980 who followed a similar pattern.  And the inventors of the Paintball game developed it after talking about an African hunting trip and developed the actual idea directly based on the story, creating a nonlethal way to experience the thrill of the hunt against an opponent who could hunt them back.

Like I said, as I watched yet another version of the story, I thought that Richard Connell had a lot for which to answer. I understand why he wrote it.  In part it was seems to be dealing with issue of killing humans not long after WWI.  There seems to be an element of working though the idea what is humane and what is inhumane and what it means to be human and what it means to kill. 

Maybe Richard Connell is not the one who has to answer for anything.  Maybe it was whomever decided this was a vital piece of literature and all school children should read this.  I know it was in the text books for decades.  I just don’t know for how many years and it if it is still there.  But it has become a part of the American psyche and I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing.

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