I haven’t seen the latest “Hunger Games” movie. I tend to see things in packs, or at least with my best friend/co-reviewer, and currently our lives are a bit busy to rush out and see things. Additionally, “Mockingjay” was probably my least favorite of “The Hunger Games” novels, because I found the focus to be a bit bizarre.
But I am excited to see “Mockingjay: Part 1” because it seems like the media and the movie are finally getting to the essence of the book I’m so interested in: Katniss and her role in the war machine. And so I’ve been following reviews, essays, and any media I can get my hands on that discusses this kernel.
Which is why I was so disappointed when I read the Village Voice’s review, which seems dedicated to wholly misinterpreting Katniss’ character.
I can’t speak for the film, but I’ve always read her as an demisexual (or somewhere on the grey scale) young woman of color, who fights for herself, and–by the time we reach “Mockingjay”–is suffering from some pretty severe PTSD. It’s an element of the books that seems to have been glossed over (perhaps in an attempt to earn a PG 13 rating), but I believe that “Mockingjay” finally delves into Katniss figuring out what role she’s really playing.
Of course she’s not a big picture thinker; you show me a 17 year old who could grow up in a world like that and suddenly think they could concoct a master plan to overthrow the government. Up until now Katniss, who was raised in this totalitarian wasteland and had political messages drilled into her, has focused exclusively on how she can help her family, her friends, and herself. In an odd way this combined mix of passion and naiveté about the players around her make her the perfect face of the revolution.
As the Village Voice writes:
The narrative thrust is simply Katniss shooting several pro-revolution commercials. But it works because we’re fascinated by media fights — thousands occur online every day. Despite the dystopian setting, a story beat where a lullaby that Katniss casually sings on camera ripples onward to become the chant of four dozen civilians marching toward their own massacre feels like both high-concept tragedy and the next evolution of #AlexFromTarget. Turns out when Collins wrote Mockingjay, in 2010, she was predicting not only America in two centuries, but the accidental overnight internet instafame that was just four years away.
Though, again, I haven’t seen the movie yet, this paragraph seems to be so profoundly missing the point. Katniss is not #AlexFromTarget. She did not get her picture taken and let loose the cries of war. Collins was not predicting the overnight web fame, with her book about young people being massacred as the government looks on. “The Hunger Games” did not become a multi-billion dollar franchise by exploiting our love for “media fights.”
As we await the Ferguson decision tonight, many of us are left in the real world wondering what kind of today we live in and tomorrow we’ll wake up to. But it’s clear that the turbulence of Ferguson is more akin to “The Hunger Games'” revolution than #AlexFromTarget ever could be. Writing Katniss off as a mere teenage web star is as inaccurate as saying that Peeta vs. Gale is the focus of the series.
The ramp up after a single tragedy in a sea of thousands is a theme that’s rampant in “The Hunger Games” and an important context for the stage in Ferguson. After all, it’s not Katniss that really starts the rebellion, is it?