Thursday, March 20, 2014

Game Masters & Revolution: The Hunger Games Catching Fire

I am actually going to use my mom's interpretation.
For new readers, I want you to know that I do not like this story; further, last year, "socialism" and "capitalism" were the two most-looked up words on the internet and that has been reflected in art, specifically, film, where so many in Hollywood are liberals/socialists/communists, but the capitalists have made a strong stand. Having said that, I would like to provide you with my mom's views of The Hunger Games, because I think it's her perspective--rather than the film's own agenda--driving people to see it. I know there are people who will deny this is a political film; revolution, riots, protests, spying, martial law and alliances are political, and all these factors are variants in the narrative; the real question is, who does The Hunger Games: Catching Fire support?
My original interpretation of The Hunger Games, which I stand by completely (The Hunger Games: Hitler & America's Anti-Socialism), is that 74 years ago, Hitler took actions that led to World War II, and America had been living off the socialist programs of President Roosevelt throughout the Great Depression until Americans saw the horrors of socialism and communism in Europe, making Americans vow we would not become socialist, leading to a massive surge in capitalist reforms and programs, which (according to the narrative) is synomous to the Great Rebellion memorialized by the enactment of the Hunger Games each year. Capitalism is based upon competition, and the arena of the Hunger Games, for socialists, illustrates the "free market" because what the film has done is turned a business into a human being (the other contestants) and they want to convince you that any time a business "dies," it's like a human being dies, because competition is bad (don't believe me? In Catching Fire, they want you to believe that shooting a turkey is as bad as shooting a human, and YES, they did know this would be coming out right before Thanksgiving, and they want you to be thinking of this at your family feast).  Socialists hate competition in any form, usually because they themselves are mediocrities and can't compete without affirmative action sticking up for them and forcing someone to hire them for tax incentives; in validation of this interpretation, both The Internship (Vince Vaughan, Owen Wilson) and Monsters University (Billy Crystal, John Goodman) agree with this interpretation and worked references of the Hunger Games into their story lines about competition. This continues in Catching Fire: Katniss wants to destroy the arena where all competition takes place because, to destroy the arena is to destroy the government (the Capitol is where all the capitalists live). Let's take a look at a dramatically different take on the "arena," 42, the story of Jackie Robinson. Had the great Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in the major leagues, not gone into that arena (or, had the arena not existed for Robinson to even enter in the first place) how much longer would real changes in racism have been prolonged? One of the best scenes of 42 is when the Dodgers' short stop Pee Wee--who has been threatened before because of Robinson--stands with Robinson looking at the crowd, so everyone knows what Pee Wee believes in, and that is the American Dream for all people (please see Real Racism: 42 & Dimensions Of the American Dream for more). In THGCF, people are uniting with Katniss to tear something down; in 42, people unite with Jackie Robinson to build something up; which side do you want to be on? 
When my mom (a baby-boomer) saw The Hunger Games, she said the sight of such poverty, hardship and want of basic necessities made her think of communism in the Soviet Union and Europe, because those are the types of things she thinks of when she thinks of dictatorships: black markets and people starving, there never being enough and people being forced to work jobs they don't want to do because the government has told them they have to; a rich elite that doesn't care about the suffering of ordinary people and lies while spreading propaganda, continuously feeding the population instead of real news. A socialist government would create a diversion like the Hunger Games, she said, because they don't value human life, but they have to keep attention away from the corruption and greed of the government, like the people living in the capitol. This article, Hunger Games Taps the Desire For Freedom, certainly agrees with my mom's interpretation and and even mirrors the environment of George Orwell's anti-communist novel, 1984.
What's the deal with the wedding dress? President Snow wants her to wear it in hopes it will convey to people that Katniss is "married" to the Capitol, to the Games, and to Panam. Cinna wants people to know she is married to the revolution that is coming. When Katniss turns around after her interview with Ceasar, the flames burn away the wedding dress and she wears a Mockingjay costume, which gets Cinna in so much trouble, we don't even know if he's still alive or not. To Snow, the white dress aligns Katniss to him (Snow and white go together, right?) but Cinna's black Mockingjay dress is an image of death meant to inspire Katniss' devotion to the revolution. Does Peeta lie when he says that he and Katniss were married in secret? No, because in the bonding of their friendship, they have "married" each other by vowing that the other should live if it comes down to it, but Katniss has also married herself to the idea of destroying the arena, and Peeta has married himself to the idea of keeping Katniss alive for the sake of the revolution taking place, which leads us to Peeta's "second lie": the baby bomb. Yes, Katniss is pregnant, but she doesn't know it, because that baby is the revolution taking place to which she has given birth in being a "beacon of hope." When Snow calls Katniss a beacon of hope, it's to compare her to Obama, who, for socialists, has been their beacon of hope to destroy America/capitalism and bring in socialism (although Barbara Walters admitted publicly that Obama was their messiah, but is no longer due to the disasters of Obamacare).
The spying President Snow does on Katniss will probably make most people think of Obama, not Reagan or Bush, since the NSA has been given all our data by companies such as Verizon and Apple, along with Google and Facebook providing all of our records of internet use and searches, not to mention drones spying on Americans. This hasn't happened in America before 2008. We could also site, for my mom's interpretation, the lavish party and constant guest appearances which echo Obama's own social life (remember, after Benghazi, he went to Las Vegas and blew off the deaths and console attack, rather like the big party at Snow's mansion while riots are taking place on the streets in the various districts). We certainly can't ignore the unprecedented use of talk show hosts Obama has made use of (Leno, Letterman, The View and other shows on stations like MSNBC) to elevate personages like Cesar Flickermann and grant them greater political levity than they should have. But there is an even greater reason for audiences seeing Snow as a metaphor for Obama,....
An image like this is meant to idealize those pictured--the image has obviously been airbrushed, but it wants us to know it has been airbrushed--because the idealized becomes the idolized. On one side of this debate, we know this is a critique of capitalism because capitalism does this with stars in all entertainment industries; on the other hand, we can also say this "idolization" of Katniss mirrors the idolization of Barack Obama and the "worshipful" measures his supporters take in conveying his persona (more on this below). On a different note, please, remember, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is being a "dual-personality" in the story, and when an image of someone/something is presented, when "duplicity" is introduced as a narrative vehicle (like half of the contestants in the Games agreeing to help Katniss win and sacrificing themselves for her in spite of the rules and the fronts they put on) that single instance of duplicity is a warning that there are other instances of duplicity, like Snow pretending to be Katniss' friend even though he wants her exterminated, or Heavensbee pretending to be a Gamemaster when he really intends to start a revolution. Why is this important? It's the element of "self-awareness" we have discussed so many times, that the film knows you exist in a world outside of the film, and it's acknowledging that world and what happens in it; why? All art acts as a metaphor for our own culture, regardless of how fantastic or cruel or primitive that alternate universe might be, but when the film intentionally wants to communicate to you, the film bridges the divide so it's easier for the viewer to cross-over and see the "mirror imaging" taking place (exactly how the art provides a metaphor for the viewer to ponder) and that's how duplicity is being used as an agent of self-awareness: we think we look at a character and see one thing (like Heavensbee being the Gamemaster) but then look again and see he's the reverse, he's the Revolution Master. Likewise, the pattern being established by the film is meant to reflect that pattern of events we see in society; the question is, does it support or counter the way you see society, and in what ways?
It's Haymitch that tells Katniss and Peeta their job is to be a distraction, but it's Snow who insists Katniss play the good-girl who is grateful to the capitol so people will continue believing in the system. How does this reflect Obama? There have been, literally, countless scandals of felony proportions throughout his corrupt career, but--using the media, like Cesar in the film--Obama gets people to focus on things like Trayvon Martin, or the Big 8 basketball series, a party he's throwing with Beyoncé and Jay-z; we're not supposed to talk about what a failure Obamacare is, or where are the witnesses from the Benghazi attacks, or how the cartels got the American guns in the Fast and Furious scandal, or how a known anti-American terrorist (Bill Ayers) wrote Obama's memoir, or the employment of the IRS to target Obama's political enemies, etc., etc., etc., because anytime Obama is doing something, a "divergence" is created (I won't name specific instances here) for Obama to use as a political platform.
An interesting detail occurs when President Snow "visits" Katniss in the Victors' Village in District 12: he takes a bite of a cookie and asks Katniss if her mother made them, and Katniss responds, no, that Peeta did. We have seen "role reversals" in other films, and we could certainly say that even in The Hunger Games, Peeta's own mom knew Katniss had a better chance of surviving the Games than her own son, but we see Peeta acting like a mother to Katniss when he stays with her because she has the bad dreams about a little girl volunteering to go to the Games the way Katniss did, and in going to Haymitch 45 minutes before Katniss did to arrange with Haymitch that Katniss should be the one to survive the Games. Why is this important? Role reversal--or the castration of white men, to put it in another way--is necessary for feminists because without handicaps being placed on all others, feminists aren't capable of achieving anything because they believe they are entitled to positions of power because women have been historically oppressed by white men, just like other minorities. So, in achieving this role reversal (in this case, with Peeta being placed in a woman's role that we are supposed to think about because it's introduced by Snow, "Did your mother make this?" as opposed to Cinna possibly being in a "feminine role" as a fashion designerwith all these men elevating Katniss to the top of society) there is not only the reversal in sex roles, but of all nature: please recall those turkeys at the start of the show: "turkeys are people, too," they want you to believe, but actually, they want you to put turkeys above people just so they can start controlling you and demonstrating how far brainwashing has taken root. Do not take this lightly: in both Captain America the Winter Soldier and Oblivion, there is brainwashing taking place, so no, I am not crazy.
In conjunction with all this--including the NSA spying on citizens, politicians and the leaders of other countries--there is an even more sinister tie to Obama in Catching Fire that we have all ready seen in another film that viewers like my mom are sure to link to the current administration: martial law.
"Since the last games, something's changed," and Katniss asks her little sister what has changed, and Prim replies, "Hope." What was the political slogan of Obama? Hope and change. Prim, who does such a mature job of taking control when Gale is injured from the lashing, illustrates that--even though she is still just a girl--she's more capable than her mother (who, you might recall, Katniss reprimanded in The Hunger Games before she left her family and told her mother to take care of Prim, but it's obvious that Prim takes care of her mother). Why this role reversal? For at least two reasons. First, women symbolize "the motherland," and Mrs. Everdeen is the motherland that is under the control of President Snow: not productive, not aware of what's happening, useless. Prim, as a young women approaching child-bearing age, symbolizes the future of the motherland, one more active, capable and aware of what's happening, one ready and willing to sacrifice herself to make something happen.
"Daddy," the little girl asks Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) in World War Z, "what's martial law?" and he responds, "It's like house rules, but for everyone." Well, do the scenes of martial law in THGCF look like house rules to you? When did Bush or Reagan put Americans under martial law? My mother would argue, and I think this is substantial, that socialists put people under martial law because they want control, and this is absolutely correct, but to me, that's not what's happening here: they want you to associate martial law with the coming revolution so when Obama starts declaring martial law and using the federal government to seize any and all private sector industries deemed "necessary," martial law will be viewed as a good thing (again, this is brainwashing). For people like my mom, however, they are seeing through this and this validates that they don't want anymore Obama before he gets a chance at martial law or worse.
Why does Johanna take off her clothes in the elevator in front of Haymitch, Peeta and Katniss? One possible interpretation is that she's an exhibitionist, and her outspoken behavior at Cesar's show against being enrolled in the Games again certainly testifies to that; another interpretation, a solid one whenever a character's clothes have been removed, is they have been "exposed" in some lie or act of dishonesty. Towards the end of the film, when Volts is rigging the electrical shock, and Katniss and Johanna have to take the copper wiring to the water, and Johanna "attacks" Katniss we seem to see how Johanna has really behaved all this time (like in the image of her above, one arm is covered in a sleeve, the other arm is exposed) to go against Katniss, but it's not until Haymitch explains to Katniss what has happened that we understand, so, again, this is another example of duplicity: we thought we understood Johanna has being a character to "bare all" (even though her holding onto Katniss when the clock was spinning didn't make sense at the time) but this effort to save Katniss is really an effort to save Obama. Hasn't every major news organization sacrificed their self and ratings to "protect" Obama the same way Katniss is being protected? Think of all the Hollywood actors who have stood up and campaigned for Obama and now that Obamacare results are rolling in, look utterly foolish.
This is a great point: there is no such thing as being right or wrong in artistic interpretation/criticism; there are only interpretations that are more fruitful than others and, I will say, that even though my interpretation accounts for more details, I think my mother's response to the film accurately reflects more people's interaction with the events than does mine.  There is an important detail in the oldest player: Mags.
There are a number of characters to discuss in this film, but a real question we should be asking is, why does Haymitch choose Finnick O'Dair to be Katniss' ally when she doesn't choose him herself? Haymitch chooses Finnick for the same reason Katniss doesn't want him: he's bold. Finnick's strength makes him threatening to Katniss, but his strength wins Haymitch's trust that he can keep Katniss safe and lead her to her ultimate goal. This is a great example of where costume makes the character (for those who, like myself, are a fan of the SyFy channel's TV reality show competition Face Off that inspires future special effects designers, you know Ve Neill and Glen Hetrick, whose designs were used in the film). Finnick's pants and shirt, basically, don't match, but they don't need to because this costume is meant to communicate to us, not be a Effie Trinket fashion statement. Let's start with the shirt. The upper-half of the body is where our heart is located, so the upper-half are our hopes and dreams, that part where Finnick wears an open, natural colored shirt. The opening of the shirt is supposed to convey that--just as Katniss suspected him of being arrogant and vain--we think Finnick is an open book and we think we "see" him "exposed" but the strange necklace he wears around his neck is what really guides him. In the film, Katniss tells Peeta her favorite color is green, probably because green is the color of hope. The lower-half of our body symbolizes the appetites because that's where both the genitals are located and where we rid ourselves of waste created by our appetites.  Finnick's lower-half being covered in green suggests he, like Katniss, longs for hope, however, Finnick also has a lighter green, animal-textured bit of fabric, suggesting he has animal passions (like the sugar cube he offers Katniss even though they are really for the horses) mingling with his higher passions for political freedom. On his feet are black military boots: black is the color of death, either the death that comes from despair, or the positive death-to-the-world so the world doesn't control you; knowing Finnick doesn't kill anyone but in self-defense, we can deduce that his black military boots express his worldly experiences that have taught Finnick to be dead to the world even as he appears to relish and take it all in. He sits in the chair because, unlike Katniss, he has accepted the throne and place of honor accorded to him by the Capitol, even though they despise him. The white rose is the sign of Finnick's "friendship" with President Snow and his role as a victor.
Now, someone saw this commercial promoting Agenda 21 on television and started taping it. The woman is saying that the world is over-populated and can't handle the sheer number of people, and the elderly should want to leave a good world to their grandchildren:
"I have lived a good life," is another way of saying "Euthanize me." The majority of readers at this blog are Christians, as I myself am, so the idea of ending someone's life prematurely by means other than those decided by God in your destiny is repugnant and murderous. But we have to take note: the whole drive of denying the existence of the soul, of God, or "good suffering" (redemptive suffering) and following God's commands, are all designed to kill people and not think about it. Mags, when she "sacrifices herself" so that Finnick can carry Peeta rather than herself, she is acting out exactly what is in this commercial: we are a burden on the youth (they are carrying us) so we need to die in order for them to live. Forget history, role models and parenting (all that will be done by the state now, who is Nanny); the main drive towards "senior sacrifice" is to make any elderly person who doesn't want to die look selfish. If the elderly are living, history is living, and the knowledge of how things used to be and are supposed to be, that's one of two reasons why socialists love kids: one, they don't know anything and two, they don't have any property so they aren't losing anything.
Why is Katniss "the girl on fire?" Is it just because of the dress Cinna made for her? No, something about Katniss inspired him to create her to be that. Normally, to be on fire is associated with love/lust, in this case, it would be that Katniss loved her sister so much, she volunteered for Primrose so Prim would live; however, while fire is a "purging element," cleansing us of impurities through the trial of fire, fire dis also a destructive force, and Katniss "being on fire" is probably apt to unleash that fire on the capitol so, instead of being destroyed in the Games herself, she is going to destroy the capitol through the Games with the "fire of revolution," specifically, the gunfire and violence of revolution. When the film opens, we see Katniss alone, looking out over a barren winter landscape, the opposite of "the girl on fire" because there is only the cold of winter, and it's as if the narrative wants to tell us that, without the fury aroused in her by the violence of the Games, Katniss can't be the "girl on fire" because there is nothing there to stir up the burning embers that, otherwise, are just dying. This leads us back again to the importance of Cinna because he made tangible--through her costumes--the association between Katniss and fire. Why does Cinna design Snow's wedding dress to burn away and leave the black Mockingjay costume? I don't know if Cinna (probably not Effie) was in on the overthrow of the Games with Haymitch, Plutarch and Finnick, but the "catching fire" we are supposed to catch is the destructive fires of revolution to American society. 
Why is there the "Tick-tock, tick-tock" that Nuts reveals to Katniss? The pattern of when certain catastrophes are going to happen, which certainly spawns speculation about "false flag events" we have been witnessing, sponsored terrorism in our country by the federal government to advance their agenda, such as gun control. Socialists are in on all of this, but they think conservatives are too dumb to understand, so the "pattern" Nuts reveals to Katniss is really declaring that liberals are the implied viewers of the film, and not to get upset when TSHTF because it's all running on schedule.
Does this scene remind you of another film you have seen? It reminded me, at least, of Cecil B. DeMill's The Ten Commandments (Charlston Heston), when Moses saves the old woman, his own mother from the grinding stone that is going to crush her (symbolic, of course, of the "grinding labor" the Egyptians demanded of the Israelites and how the whole nation of Israel was being wiped out through slavery). Anyway, Gale saving the old woman, and being punished, then Katniss coming to save him, is supposed to invoke a Moses-like aura about her, that she will lead her people to freedom from the oppression of the capitol (remember, Moses is also associated with fire in the burning bush). Katniss as the Mockingjay, the Messianic figure, is supposed to invoke Obama who wants America to think of him as our Savior who is saving us from being Americans (we will see the same sort of Messianic conception in Darren Aronofsky's Noah with Russell Crowe). Now, on a slightly different note: does Katniss love Peeta or Gail? Well, she definitely gets closer to Peeta during this film, and seems to drift further from Gale (remember, it's Katniss' idea that Peeta and herself get married). This relationship is, perhaps, a sign that, indeed, Katniss has become "one of them" and a member of the capitol, rather than the squirrel-hunter from District 12.  Are we, as the audience, rooting for Gale or for Peeta? Perhaps Gale all ready knows he has lost and that's why he has started calling Katniss "Catnip," it's basically marijuana for cats, making them high, and in calling her this name, Gale recognizes that being famous has given Katniss a kind of high, regardless of whether she admits it or not, and he won't ever get her for himself.
Again, the "arena" is the most important symbol of the film, for the film itself and for those of us who are capitalists. Films such as The Internship, Monsters University, 42, Pitch Perfect, Moneyball and Battle Of the Year demonstrate the importance of competition and, not just because of the virtues we build up, but because it provides that chance for us to fulfill our destiny, whatever arena we may be participating in. THGCF and socialists deny that you and I have destinies because they deny that we have any being apart from that of common animals.
So, what does the film mean?
So, what's up with Gloss and Cashmere, the brother-sister team who won back-to-back Games? We have seen this all ready in The Hunger Game, The Heat, The Conjuring, Frozen and World War Z: family is a burden. In The Hunger Games, if Katniss didn't have a sister, she wouldn't have to take care of her and she wouldn't have had to volunteer to be in the Games. In The Heat (Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy), Mullins' family is a nightmare and she's constantly having to look out for her trouble-some brother (another example of role-reversal) and, if it weren't for him, she wouldn't be in the trouble she's in. If Mr. Perron didn't have so many kids, he wouldn't have had a problem finding someone to stay with in The Conjuring, and they wouldn't have needed such a big house, so they never would have moved there to begin with. Elysium blames overpopulation on the disease and problems of the world. If Ryan, Sandra Bullock's character in Gravity, had been born a boy instead of a girl, she wouldn't have a boy's name, and if she hadn't had a girl of her own, she wouldn't have gone into such a depression when the little girl died. In Frozen, if Anna's "boyfriend" Hans hadn't come from such a big family, he wouldn't have used Anna the way he did, while in World War Z, if Gerry didn't have a wife and kids, he wouldn't be going through all the troubles of having to save them from zombies, and his wife wouldn't have called when he was riding the bike and got everyone killed by the zombies. Family, for socialists, is nothing but a burden, so you better take your birth control pills, get lots of condoms, or have an abortion because you don't want to get stuck with a family. In the exact opposite direction, we see Dom and Lettie in Fast and Furious 6, "You don't turn your back on family," and even when Lettie shoots him, Dom is determined to save her at any costs (not to mention when Mia is taken as a hostage and Hobbs has to let Shaw get away to save Mia). At the end of the film, what do they want? To be back home, together as a family. In Oblivion with Tom Cruise, he sacrifices his life for his wife and (unknowingly) his daughter so his family can live. In Ender's Game, the family received special permission to have Ender because they wanted him, and having Ender--who, as a third child, was against the state's population control measure--actually ends up saving the world that would have said he couldn't even be born. In Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters, the stakes are even higher. Tyson, the Cyclops and half-brother to Percy Jackson, is un-welcomed by everyone and the film goes out of its way to emphasize how clumsy, awkward and troublesome he is, but by the end of the film, both Percy and the audience realize how perfect Tyson is and that family is everything. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is the same: the brother and sister count on each other and would do anything to save one another. In Thor the Dark World, it doesn't matter how many times or how deeply Loki has betrayed Thor, Thor still wants to get his brother back and would do anything to save and protect Loki, no burden would be too heavy for Thor to bear to save his brother. Conservatives will value the family, whereas socialists and liberals will want to paint the family and family members in a negative light and as a burden; why? Population control. If either Gloss or Cashmere want to live, they face potentially having to kill each other to survive, or have their own chances of surviving threatened by the psychological loss of the other during the Games. The film wants us to think, if neither the brother or the sister had to worry about the other, if their parents had been smart and used birth control, they wouldn't be in this situation.
On a number of levels, my mom is right: all the aspects of the film making her think of communism are correctly associated with communism and being implemented by Obama. What socialists want to do, however, is make Americans think that democracy and capitalism is what has done this to us, that the socialists are trying to save us from want, from jobs we don't want, from being torn apart from our family, being forced to play little league, etc., and socialism will be the utopia to save us from it. How can I say this? Another film flipped socialism and capitalism this exact same way, The Purge, and, like The Hunger Games, replaces "business" in capitalist competition with "people" so when they are in the arena, it's not businesses competing to get your dollar, socialists see it as actual people competing to stay alive (I know, it's utterly childish) and they do this exact same scenario in The Purge (for more, please see The Hunger Games: Hitler & America's Anti-Socialism, and The New Founding Fathers: The Purge & Releasing the Beast). But, as long as we know about it, we can keep on the look out for it and be the wiser for it.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
We see Brad Pitt wearing a similar gray scarf in World War Z.