Wednesday, March 21, 2012
BLOGGING CATCHNG FIRE pt. 2: The Reverse Margaret Atwood
Part II: The Quell
Shit gets exponentially totalitarian in District 12 because President Snow is working out his anger on the rebels by punishing Katniss. What's funny is that eventually, everybody will acknowledge the fact that Katniss has only a symbolic role (albeit a powerful one) in the whole war effort--which should be obvious already given that it started without her and is now going on without her, away from her--and even Snow (eventually) seems to know this. So the fact that he'd waste so much time and energy making her miserable is weird, but whatever, and eventually he announces that since it's the 75th Hunger Games, they're going to mix it up. Former winners from each district will fight it out (So yeah, Catching Fire is to Real World/Road Rules Challenge as Inception is to Scrooge McDuck or whatever). Since Katniss is the only living female champion from D12, she's in.
So she gets drunk with Haymitch and they make a pact to protect Peeta at all costs. Now, the getting drunk thing is kind of great and subversive at first--teen drinking! Never mind that girl has SEEN SOME SHIT and deserves a drink every now and then, but still! But Katniss wakes up with like, the worst hangover of all time and makes sure to note, several more times, what a bad, bad idea drinking is. Teens: Katniss is lying to you.
Once we're back in the Capitol (Haymitch gets picked for the games, which would have been BADASS, but Peeta volunteers in his place. Fucking Peeta!) in the Capitol, the rest of part II consists of escalating acts of political subversion. Cinna dresses Katniss up in a terrifying Black Swan number for the parade through the city. Which is nice, because girl has been White Swan for a half a book too long. For real though, that section of the book is pretty gnarly.
But then another stupid thing happens. SURPRISE. Katniss is getting in a elevator and this chick Johanna Mason (who I visualized as Joanna Newsom) starts talking to her. Johanna is complaining about her outfit for the just-finished opening ceremonies, and then she just gets naked and keeps talking to Katniss. So far, so good.
But once she leaves, Peeta laughs at Katniss and tells her that the other victors are making fun of her for being prudish. That all of the weird encounters she has had with them so far have been intended to mock her purity. Peeta points out her unwillingess to see him naked back in the arena in the first book (I mean he doesn't say "Remember in the first book?" but anyway). So we already know about the sins of excess at the Capitol—they of the ipecac parties and all that shit—and the Hunger Games themselves are the crass violent fixation of a corrupt, evil society. So why do we have to bring sex and nudity into our crosshairs, too? You guys know that I am a champion of sex and nudity, so this shit really offended me.
Dig it: Katniss, our hero, is righteous and tries to avoid unecessary violence and is generous with food and money. Enemies at every turn do none of these things, as Katniss is the opposite of them. And now the other thing that bad people do is fuck. Now one of Katniss’s most important traits is that she is “pure.” She’s killed some people, but she’s a virgin. Katniss = purity, charity, nonviolence, and now ABSTINENCE. The Capitol = excessive violence, greed, and now SEX. Having sex, therefore, is essentially suggested to be as bad as killing, as bad as tyranny. All excess is the same. Except: Oddly, the only sin that seems to be okay for the righteous side of the fight is alcohol and drug abuse. Okay! I don’t feel good about these themes.
But I do like Katniss's slutty new friends, Joanna Newsom and Finnick Odair (for the record, I picture him as Michael Fassbender and I think you should too).
And if you're doubting this purity argument that I am putting forth here, well:
At the interviews before the Games, Katniss and the other victor-tributes pull on heartstrings (some of them are super old, some of them have families) to win audience support. And then Peeta causes a near riot by implying that Katniss is actually pregnant. Uh-oh. Best of all possible worlds, this could be a cynical, crass use of Potential Baby Life--Peeta exploiting the sympathies of the lay-folk to win support (like, you know, many Republicans).
But this is not a cynical, crass use of Potential Baby Life, and in fact Katniss very quickly makes sure we don’t draw that conclusion, thinking “Well, yeah, I COULD be pregnant. And after all, the Capitol DID take away my ability to safely have children.” (And before this, Suzanne Collins is even vague—OBVIOUSLY she's fucking vague—about time Katniss and Peeta spend in bed. They aren’t fucking, but it is written in such a way that you might accidentally think they are, and that she really IS knocked up, for a little while. Suzanne Collins mistakes confusion for depth.) So now the weapon against the excessive, sexually promiscuous Capitol is the potential life of a (fake but again that doesn't matter) baby! LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION, PRESIDENT SNOW! The Hunger Games are as bad as an ABORTION! Guhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Couple this with the misguided, vaguely condescending racism and the whole rationing/starvation motif and you basically have a sci-fi series written by Newt Gingrich. Or maybe Peeta IS Newt Gingrich. And Gale is John Galt. Seriously, is that guy going to ever do anything other than get his ass kicked?
I've omitted pretty much all of the depth and shading in part 2, so please fill in my blanks in the comments.