Katniss, Enemy Of The People


I haven’t read the Hunger Games books, I haven’t seen the movies — not on principle, I hasten to add; but the target demographic is a bit younger than I am. What I have heard of the story line, I’ve liked.

But alas, many of my fellow Lefties are quite disappointed. For all kinds of fascinating reasons. The Original Old Trot Wet Hen, Louis Proyect, has been passing along devasting Leftie critiques of the franchise, when he’s had a chance to catch his breath from cheerleading the Saudi/Israeli initiatives in Syria.

(I don’t know how he does it. Louis’ opera-omnia are going to be at least as voluminous as the Boswell Papers, if not quite so much fun to read.)

Lefties, it seems, are not immune to the impulse to fall into the story, and respond as if they were high-school students encountering the characters in the cafeteria line. This is a not unamiable trait, and shows a certain likable childlike unguardedness on the part of people whose hyper-adult conversation on other topics consists mostly of abstract nouns.

Alas, the guardedness comes back once the lights come up and the blog post is composed. It takes the form of political critique. The childlike response — bless it — provides the impulse; but it appears muffled in a kind of stiff hazmat suit, inflexible at the knees and elbows, and comically robotic in its general demeanor. Danger, Will Robinson!

Here are a few such items my man Louis passed along:

Homophobic garbage

The heroine Katniss (um, what’s up with that name?) lives in a poverty stricken, mountainous American rural mining town – it’s obviously meant to represent Appalachia. The people who live in that town appear to be predominantly God-fearing white country folk. If they lived in present day America they would be members of the extreme Christian right. But alas, Katniss must desert this tough yet wholesome country life and travel to a big city that somewhat resembles the Emerald City of Oz, except everyone who lives there appears to be homosexual, or at least ‘homosexualized’.

Ugly LGBT stereotypes — and anti-Semitism, too!

Imagine if you could make a film that pandered to the worst prejudices and false grievances of the most ignorant, privileged and socially paranoid….

The film begins in a poor, overwhelmingly white rural town, which feels disturbingly like the US Bible Belt….

Unfortunately, insane delusions about the sacrificing of innocents by cultural outsiders are nothing new. If anything they’re sadly familiar.

Indeed, a newspaper article claiming that Jews were killing Christian children to use their blood for Passover rituals sparked the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903, an infamous massacre of some 50 Jews in the Bessarabia province of the former Russian Empire.

If theatrical release of Catching Fire leads to pogroms in Williamsburg, I for one will be surprised, but no doubt anything is possible.

I have always loved these what-if narratives about fictional characters. As a parlor game, it’s great fun: What’s Becky Sharp’s favorite flavor of ice cream? (Rum raisin, I think). The ability to play this game depends on real imaginative engagement with the text. But as with any game, it’s important to remember that it is, well, a game.

The ludic character is rather lost once you start to make up an imaginary biography for Katniss in Wolfe County, Kentucky — home of my own ancestors, by the way — and enroll her in a snake-handling Proddie cult and provide her with a tortured self-hating closeted gay pastor and so on.

At that point you have started writing your own screenplay, and I wish you the best of luck getting it produced.

13 thoughts on “Katniss, Enemy Of The People

  1. If you want orientalist propaganda from soulless plagiarizers, you can watch Christian Bale dressed in a rubber BSDM suit. Regardless of how much the Hunger Games pulp copied directly from earlier Japanese work, it should serve as a blaring warning about the series that the American middle class absolutely loves it, and feels that it expresses their own reservations about empire and the police state.

    Unattributed theft of something from the Far East? Check. Written by a wealthy white person who used insider connections to get it set up for mass placement, bestseller bulk purchases, and preordained movie deals? Check.

    What “The Hunger Games” does worst, though, is exonerate America 2013, and Barack Obomba. By portraying the police state as clumsy and obvious, the dystopian leaders as openly brutal, and the rebellion against authority as simple and cute, the series’ message is to prove that the culture that appreciates its message is not suffering from those ills.

    In real life, tyrants do not laugh about starving and murdering children. Instead, they somberly address the nation about “regrettable necessities” and “shared sacrifices,” then launch more drones and cut school lunch programs yet again.

    By watching “The Hunger Games” blatant overlords laugh garishly and honestly about their evil deeds, Americans reassure themselves that they are not, themselves, participating in evil. That’s why it became so popular; that’s why all the major studios were willing to back it, and why dozens of millions of wealthy white people can’t get enough of it.

  2. “In real life, tyrants do not laugh about starving and murdering children. Instead, they somberly address the nation about “regrettable necessities” and “shared sacrifices,” then launch more drones and cut school lunch programs yet again.” — High Arka (above)

    Hmm. Maybe I used to agree with that. But lately in the course of my continuing project of developing my «Theory of Everything That Other People Prefer to Not Think About», I have come to entertain darker possibilities…

    It’s not like tyrants actually “laugh about starving and murdering children.” However. The Theory of Everything That Other People Prefer to Not Think About has come to incorporate the notion that «the concept of rich people (and even of modestly affluent people) would be bleached into meaninglessness if the poor ones ceased to exist». That is, the rich need the poor and oppressed for the sake of their own self-definition. So therefor they “launch more drones and cut school lunch programs yet again.” (Really only a neocon subset of the rich and powerful actively promote these pogroms; others just jet-set and so on.)

    As far as this “Hunger games” thing; I’ve heard the term a hundred times, but never knew if it was a rock band, movie, TV show, or a whatever. I’m slowly pulling away from the grid; perhaps will end up living in a cave in West Virginia. Maybe the hip folks will even follow my lead.

  3. wow. the appeal of the movie is that the war of all against all is a construct of the ruling class. The Glittering City on the TV and starvation in the streets. the people in katniss’ district are all starving (but not katniss. and pita. for a very obvious reason.) katniss & pita try to maintain some humanity in a world of brutality and win b/c of teamwork, luck, and b/c we are all suckers for teen love, incl. game’s audience in the movie. not b/c she’s a better killer.

    but suzanne collins (author) is a business person who ripped off the japanese, (of bread & circuses fame). ruh roh. she should have ripped off a bunch of anglo-americans like Mrs. Harry Potter did. and there are no black people in katniss’ district…but there are lots of them people furrin’ to appalachia in the movie…maybe Rue & Katniss should have had a quick lesbo scene to establish the films LGBTQMORELETTERS bona fides.

    whatever their limitations and the motivations of their creators, like V for Vendetta, movies that get it in people’s heads that their guvmint needs to be overthrown can’t be all bad.

    or we can watch “Smaug”.

  4. the books are unreadable and the 2nd movie is a remake of the 1st movie. ditto the harry potter series.

    there’s got to be some psycho-social-sexual significance to this movie trilogy thing.

  5. I saw both hunger game “hollywood hits”

    Squeezed them in between
    My episodic tatterdemalion romps

    Hardly more or less a vomit of Mythoprosaic klasskampf stew
    Then much else from lotus land

    Any time father Smiff smotes Lu Lu prodyakk
    With his logo stick
    Is fun though
    isn’t it ?

  6. paine, there are still dozens of millions of minor millionaires and family-wealthy who are able to live a (potentially delusional, yet lasting) middle-class lifestyle, and who adopt the corresponding attitudes. It is those ones who are gaga over this progressive movie of white revolution, and who are encouraging their children to read it in bulk.

    As to “it promotes revolution, therefore it’s good,” the flaw is that revolution would happen absent elite management. Consider, all of you, that things actually are quite bad for many, many people. I know you all know that. Consider also how very simple it is to figure out that all those politicians are lying, rich schmucks who are constantly ruining lower-class lives while poisoning the biosphere.

    There are many reasons why this state of affairs is allowed to perpetuate, but two of the most prominent are:

    (1) Politicians pretend that they are pursuing the greater good, and

    (2) Pop culture reassures people that they are overcoming obstacles and seeing the truth.

    The polite facade of politicians is quite necessary. Even though almost all Americans admit that they “hate politicians,” they still vote for them, and fail to revolt. The lying, smarmy politeness of politicians is a show of respect to lower class power. If a politician actually stood up and spoke honestly (e.g., if Obama and Bernanke appeared on TV to announce that they would be perpetuating inflation on purpose in order to get richer) there would be pitchforks and torches. When they do otherwise, even though the proles can sense it’s a lie, the show of respect–the facade of “helping you”–is enough to keep things polite. That’s why politicians are polite-icians–their job is to maintain an appearance of docility and manners.

    Hunger Games, and V for Vendetta, are part of the second component–they offer the proles a fantasy of revolution, in order to prevent a real one. By flattering people’s tastes for freedom, audiences come out of the movies thinking, “We Americans, through our culture, celebrate revolution against tyranny. The vast international media support for ‘The Hunger Games’ demonstrates this.”

    …and then they drive past a cop cruiser that’s searching some black dude’s car, go home, and send their 1040s and a check to the U.S. Treasury.

    The surreal stupidity of the average American, at which you all constantly marvel, is caused by the detached revolutionary erotica that Hollywood regularly produces. These badly written tales are an emotional drug, providing a false sense of justice and accomplishment to a people that, in the absence of such stimulus, would eventually revolt.

    Revolutionary tales, in and of themselves, are good. If they are done right, they are intelligent, and meaningful, and people are able to walk away from them drawing direct, applicable connections between fictional and non-fictional evil. A good revolutionary tale would be able to show how even someone as daft as the average American could connect the dots between White House, Pentagon, university, and Hollywood. No surprise that the latter does not want to produce one, anymore than the Pentagon would argue for a meaningful reduction in its own budget.


      It is after the Brookside strike ends, about four-fifths of the way through, that the film begins to lose its bearings. A succession of walkouts follows: a nationwide UMW strike, a series of wildcats set off by a variety of complaints. The film comes to a couple of false endings, which nicely suggest the sense of never-ending struggle. One militant puts it this way:

      “Once a victory is won, you gotta move onto the next one, or you’ll lose the concession. You gotta take. If you expect them to give you something, you’ll find ‘they don’t give nuthin’ for nuthin.’ You gotta give somethin’ in return.”

  7. we need a social realist Hunger Games. Hollywood is standing in the way of revolution. the barricades rise as Loews & MGM fall!

    but jennifer lawrence causes an issue..to come up…brb…

    i’m back with my Stalin-approved “Starvation Games” screenplay. SPOILER! it’s really, really boring. anyone without a BA is beaten up by Pentagon-shaped security guards dressed in white house white.

    but both Starvation & Hunger Games have the same issue: dumb people (=everybody) confuse going to the movies with revolution.

    but if we all went to the movies all the time, we’d have….Perpetual Revolution.

    is it because Smaug doesn’t appear to have any socio-political pretensions that it’s much, much easier to talk about both what a POS it is and the movie as a cultural phenomenon?

    • Oh, but it does have such pretensions. We produce and celebrate movies like “Hobbit” because they help us decide what our past was like. As we grow fat in front of the TV now, we tell ourselves it is something we earned, because our ancestors earned that privilege by nobly destroying dragons.

      Notwithstanding the above, if we understood Tolkien’s message, not yet fully washed out (that bankers are dragons and the bane of all decent people) “Hobbit” could indeed be revolutionary. Unfortunately, sitcom love triangles and iconic action have served to pervert an otherwise boring, badly-written critique into an otherwise boring, action-filled celebration.

  8. i know. and the spiders are security guards at the banks and the barrels-out-of-bonds are interest free checking. the three trolls are the three credit-rating agencies. i know that because in a fantasy-world for children that is only remotely related to any adult world, there is a lengthy aside in which tolkien discusses his life as a bank teller. did you miss that part? well, it’s in allegory form….i forget the chapter…HAPPY NEW YEAR MJS!

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