After a bold and defiant move like that, one hardly expects Katniss to burst into tears, but that's what she does. She takes the elevator to her room, ignores calls from Effie et al., and then sobs into her pillow for a while. Awwwwwww. She fears what will become of her, but tables that when she realizes her family could be threatened, too. Eventually she concludes that the Gamemakers will get revenge by giving her a low score. Scores? Huh? This is an emerging pattern in the book: Katniss goes rambling along until she mentions a new rule or concept. She's just like, “Oh by the way, mockingjays are...” So, scores: it turns out that since the Gamekeeper demos aren't televised, the only part the public sees is a ceremony in which the board members assign a score to each fighter based on how they did. The Hunger Games have a long-ass televised roll out, huh? This is day three! Who do they think they are, American Idol?
Katniss goes to dinner and confesses her act to Peeta, Haymitch and the gang. Effie is shocked, but Haymitch is charmingly unfazed.
“Well, that's that,” says Haymitch. Then he butters a roll.
He and Peeta brush off any potential consequences, much to Katniss's relief—the Hunger Games are about the most threatening thing you can do to a person already, and the risk of public outcry would be too great for them to punish the other members of the Everdeen family (OK that part doesn't make much sense, given that we've already seen that the government controls the media and everything else. Public outcry is rarely a problem in futuristic dystopias for that very reason. So Haymitch being so dismissive of the idea that The Man would go after Prim or Mama Everdeen kind of renders the whole book a little toothless, all of the sudden; if this government isn't evil enough to kill Prim how dare they even call themselves an evil government? But whatever, oh well).
Eventually even Effie is kind of delighting in the idea of the foppish, comsumptive Gamemakers being shaken up by Katniss's arrow, and just like that our girl is past the embarrassment stage and into the self-deprecating anecdote stage. I love that stage! She even seems to make up a part of the story where one of the Gamemakers falls into a bowl of punch. Good embellishment, Katniss!
After dinner they watch the scores being announced. Peeta gets an eight, that weird little chick Rue gets a seven (huh?) and Katniss gets...ELEVEN! Oh, did I mention that it's a scale of 1-12? By the way, it's a scale of 1-12. Haymitch concludes that they must have liked her temper. “They need some players with some heat,” he says. For some reason I thought of The Real World: Hawaii, and how they selected that chick (Ruthie!) who got so drunk she basically died in the first episode. That season was when I realized exactly how crass and exploitative Reality TV had become, or maybe had always been.
Of course the argument back against the above is that Reality TV stars are willing participants in the exploitative spectacle—that our cultural values have shifted so much that any fame, whether it's infamy or whatever you call the Kardashian brand, will do. There's an element of that at work here, with the Careers who sign up eagerly for the Games. I've been saying for a while now that our culture is getting so extreme and crazy (and the 2012 elections have barely started!) that the standard hyperbole of satire barely suffices to criticize us anymore (watch Mr. Show today and it's barely even a comedy so much as a documentary). But at the very least we can be happy that we don't have people signing up to LITERALLY kill one another on a TV show. Yet.
Do people watch Reality TV because it's dumb and easy to digest? Or is there more at work there? The humor on Jersey Shore plays to a denominator so low it approaches absolute zero (ask a Jersey Shore cast member what absolute zero is and they'd probably guess a brand of body spray) but I'm not totally willing to discount the blurred lines between fiction and reality as part of the draw. Every TV show is reality TV in a way, given how conscious we are of celebrity culture and all that--it's Chandler but it's also Matthew Perry--but maybe the interplay between real and fake on a sitcom isn't enough for people. Reality TV, even the most contrived stuff, is closer to the edge. We watch reality TV to be entertained but also to think about the way media manipulates our perception. Or is that too optimistic?
The next morning Katniss watches the sun rise over the city and thinks of Gale. Incidentally Gale is also probably thinking of Katniss while HE watches the sun rise over the morning wood. HEYOOO! She thinks back to the first time she met Gale, in the woods while hunting, and it's hella boring. Like, there's a part where they're sort of flirting after a tense confrontation, and it's fine, but I will spare you. The point is, Suzanne Collins is reminding us that there are multiple possible love interests up in this bitch:
I call him my friend, but in the last year it's seemed to casual a word for what Gale is to me.
“Fuckbuddy” is better, right? A little more formal, I'd say. So Katniss finishes masturbating and goes down to breakfast, where she's weirded out by everyone's silence at the table. Haymitch eventually explains that Peeta has asked to be coached privately, away from Katniss's eleven-earning eyes. OH SNAP.
Previously: Ask Nick Sullivan, Vol. 1