jaune_chat (jaune_chat) wrote,

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Jaune Chat Takes on The Hunger Games

It's my turn to talk about the Hunger Games. When I saw the movies were coming out, I had precisely zero knowledge of what they were about or that there were books about them. But, hearing some good things, bought the books, read all three, and watched the movie, and found it entirely satisfying and an excellent translation of the book.

But when I went to check reviews of the movie, I found a great deal of the same complaints from many reviewers (even those who generally found it favorable or at least all right). They said there was little horror from people in the Districts about the deaths of their children, no explanation or background as to why the world had gotten the way it was. There were complains about Katniss, that she hadn't "earned" the love given to her by Peeta and Gale, and that she was too skilled with her bow. And that there was too much of a focus on the clothing and presentation.

I have my own opinions to counter those:

One, this is a Young Adult book, and while that doesn't translate into "simple," it generally means there isn't going to be super deep philosophical discussions about the morals and ethics of bloodsport. Nor are they going to get into a long history lecture about how the old USA collapsed. Remember this - This book is done in the first person. Katniss knows what she was taught in school, and has had neither reason, motivation, or opportunity to get into the politics of her world. Her life has been focused on survival, on getting along with the bare minimum, and politics and history don't fill the belly. We know what Katniss knows, as Katniss knows it.

As for Katniss being too good with her bow - Her father taught her how to use one at a young age. And then Katniss returned to using it for five solid years as the sole breadwinner for her family. The two harshest and fastest teachers in the world are hunger and survival, and I don't think anyone can argue that Katniss has very strong survival instincts. When your choice is make the shot or die, you learn quickly and you learn how to do it right. All of that adds up to a perfectly legitimate and believable reason as to why she'd be good with her chosen weapon.

The focus on clothing and presentation to the apparent detriment of the horror of televised bloodsport - Again, this is a first-person story. For Katniss, for probably everyone still living in all of Panem, this is the way it's always been. There have always been Hunger Games, always been kids killing kids, always been deprivation in the Districts and excess in the Capitol. To the people of this book, this is not unusual. Upsetting to those in the Districts? Of course. Wrong? They know they'd rather not have it happen, but there is no choice, no alternative, no other way it could ever go. There is no alternative in the world as the way Katniss knows it. There is no other place that she knows of to compare it to. She doesn't have Internet access or even free TV showing other places in the world. She's isolated, ignorant of a world without Hunger Games. To her it's a bad thing, but it's also a constant thing. A normal thing.

Those beautiful clothes and pageantry presentations are her only weapons against the wider world of the Capitol, and, being a survivor, she uses them. And to be fair, this is the first time in her life when she's not had to spend every free moment trying to keep her family going. Wouldn't you, after a lifetime in deprivation, take even just a second to appreciate a little of that beauty and luxury knowing that it could be the last time you'd ever see anything?

As for Peeta and Gale... I want to say this - Katniss is not required to "earn" their affection. She wasn't trying to compete for it in the first place. People lose their hearts to those who are oblivious all the time. Unrequited love and crushes abound, and they're not remotely logical. Peeta liked her singing, admired her beauty, or appreciated the way she took care of her family, and went head over heels. Katniss doesn't have to return his affection, even after his confession of love. Just because he loves her, she's not required to. She's not required to act like she loves him, but does it to keep them both alive. She's neither callous nor untruthful when she confesses to him that she was acting. Peeta saw deeper into her care of him than their actually was, and while it's sad that she doesn't go gaga for him, I actually appreciate that she didn't. They develop a friendship, but she doesn't go throwing her heart after him. She has severe trust issues, and it would have been contrary to her character, in my opinion, to have her go sappy. Her ambiguity about her feelings rings true to me.

The horror we feel at the situation of the Hunger Games is one of contrast, that we know what is right in our world. We feel sorrow and anger at Katniss' relative acceptance of her situation, because we think she should feel more horror. But we don't live in Katniss world. She shouldn't have to point out the wrongness of her situation, nor should the narrative hit us over the head with the political message of the dangers of government control. The inherent fright is in our reaction to the Hunger Games, on our own merits, rather than putting the words in Katniss' mouth. If you want to hear about how utterly wrong government mandated televised bloodsport is, read the Hunger Games, then listen to yourself.
Tags: commentary, hunger games

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