Saturday, November 30, 2013

Remember Who the Real Enemy Is


"The Hunger Games – Catching Fire,” directed by Francis Lawrence, 2013 (Partial Spoiler Alert)

Hungry for revolution?  The word gets bandied around – the ‘Tea Party Revolution,’ the Syrian ‘revolution,’ the ‘Orange’ revolution, the Reagan or Thatcher ‘revolutions.’  It is clear that the bourgeois press doesn’t know the actual differences between one or another.  They use the term in a lazy way, referring to any ‘big change.’ Here in the U.S., this film has been critiqued by Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com as to what kind of a ‘revolution’ this film is talking about.  Is it a Left/Occupy one or a Right/Tea-Party one?   He doesn't know which.  O’Hehir is a red-diaper baby, but evidently this did not endow him with a consistent class analysis.  He's is fatally confused between different types of ‘populism’ or what the working class thinks. There are tips in this film as to what kind revolution is being discussed, and they are not very hidden.  

Donald Sutherland, who plays President Snow in the film and is an old ‘60s radical, said in an interview in ‘The Guardian,’ that he hopes the film inspires youth to become more politically active and actually foment some kind of ‘revolution.’  So what are the tips?  Well, the name ‘Hunger Games” certainly doesn’t discuss a topic of interest to the right-wing in any country, especially the U.S. Tea-Party Republicans.  Hunger is an exclusively left-wing issue.  In the film, Katniss’ real boyfriend in District 12, Gale, says that a life of ‘being hungry, working like a slave and being oppressed’ is not a real life.  Nearly every scene in District 12 shows miners shuffling off to work, not free-market small businessmen standing behind their shop counters.  Clearly, these issues of hunger and wage-slavery are not right-wing concerns. This is a picture of a proletarian Appalachia, not an outer suburb in Orlando.  And what of the main protagonist?  While the Tea-Party model of hero is the middle-class white male, this protagonist is a young woman who is no slouch in the 'action' department. 

While the Tea-Party opposes ‘the government’ they actually only oppose the parts of the government that benefit the poor and workers.  They endorse oppression, war and militarism - those parts of government that in the Hunger Games are represented by guys that look like Star War's stormtroopers.  

In a key scene, Katniss and Peeta visit District 11, where the dead black girl Rue was from in the first film, and Katniss makes an emotional speech about her. This is greeted by the black folks of District 11 with the ‘hand raised’ sign that has become a symbol of the revolution.  Clearly, Katniss has made a block between the mostly white District 12 and the mostly black District 11,whether she knew what she was doing or not.  Again, another sign that this revolution is not being run by aging middle-class white people, aka the ‘Tea Party.’  

If you watch this series you see that Katniss has killed only in self-defense.  In this film’s ‘game’ she makes a larger block with 5 others, including Peeta.  The new plan by Plutarch, the new game creator, is to show her to be as blood-thirsty as some of the others.  As she has become a symbol of resistance to the Capitol, this will supposedly undercut any optimism she projects.  Again in this film the “Careers” from District 1 are the main internal enemy, the most blood-thirsty and ‘careerists’ too.  A careerist is just another name for a yuppie or upscale, cutthroat business person.  Not exactly Tea-Party terminology. 

Other evidence that this is more of a ‘left-wing’ revolution – i.e. a progressive one that deals with the problems of poverty, hunger, wage slavery and state oppression?    As Marxists know, the ‘state’ in a bourgeois society (which Panem clearly is) is not an independent entity lording over everyone, but actually represents the rich and the capitalist class.  The people in Panem are disgustingly rich.  Their clothes and makeup are indicative.  One scene even features a drink that is the modern equivalent of the vomitorium of Roman times.  It will make you throw up your food so that you can 'taste' yet more food. However wealth is not a bad thing to the 'prosperity loving gospel' of the Tea Party.  They are the sometime allies of Wall Street, but definitely they want to all be rich. On the military side, the soldiers from the Capitol who occupy the Districts are called “Peacekeepers.”  Can we get any more Orwellian and true to life?  The real U.S. 'peacekeepers' in Iraq and Afghanistan were supported by many in the T-Party.

Another is the key phrase in this film.  At a pivotal point in this Hunger game, Katniss aims her arrow at another tribute and – for the first time – might let it fly outside the rules of self-defense.  The tribute she is aiming at says, “Remember who the real enemy is.”  And she aims her arrow in another direction. 

Now the phrase, ‘Remember who the real enemy is” is such a standard Marxist and leftist term that it screams so.  Not black people, not gay people, not foreigners, not the poor, but the people who run everything, who profit off of everything, in every country.  The ruling class – the corporations, the wealthy, and their politicians.  These are the real enemies. No matter their color, religion, party or nationality. 

Katniss is portrayed as mostly an emotional thinker by Suzanne Collins, who wrote the novels on which these films are based.  This is a standard trope in fiction as an attempt to link the non-political lives of most people, who supposedly experience politics ‘emotionally,’ and bring them to a more conscious and scientific political view.  Katniss gets angry, gets sad, wants to run away, just thinks about her family and others in her ‘home’ in District 12, and generally doesn’t have a plan as to how to beat the Capitol.  Until she does.  I might add, there is a subversive conspiracy afoot that helps her.
 
Now I don’t know about you, but merely calling the capital of Panem, “The Capitol” might tip off some conscious viewers that the Capitol and capitalism are linked.  Writers do not name cities at random.  Again, not a word-association a Tea-Party member would make, but then, it might have been an accident.

Collins, who in 2008 wrote the youth books on which this series is taken, based them on the juxtaposition between reality television and the war in Iraq.  2008 was a year in which the U.S. experienced an economic collapse and unnecessary wars on two fronts.  In an interview, Collins talked about how the novel deals with ‘severe poverty, starvation, oppression and the effects of war.’ (Wikipedia)  Again, not Tea-Party topics.  Is she some kind of subversive or Marxist?  Doubtful.  What is interesting about culture – especially film - is how it reflects certain issues, even against the intentions of the writers or filmmakers.  She seems on the left and probably a later sympathizer of Occupy, and never realized how her books would hit a nerve.

As to whether this film is better than the first, or worse, it is up to you.  Generally, the newness of the situation is less in a follow-up film, the characters are known and the plot line more predictable.  All this is here, so the startling newness of the first film is gone. (Read review of first film, 'Hunger Games - Mockingjay,' below)  But, as can be seen, the series is changing gears towards revolution.  

Is the film a placebo?  Televised revolution or resistance as opposed to the real thing can actually deflate, or provide a release for rebellious feelings - if the situation is not yet at a certain point.  It is like the valve on a teapot.  "I like the "Hunger Games" - therefore I'm a rebel.  "Now where's my Facebook prompt?" Most middle-class authors fall apart at the end of books, as they cannot bring on a real or true ending. They cannot follow the logic that they created to its bitter end.  Will Collins fall apart in the last installment or not? Only the readers of the books know for sure.   

Red Frog
November 30, 2013