Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review: The Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part 1

I caught the last half of the first Hunger Games movie as a flatmate was watching it on Netflix one day, in my last year of college (first go-round). When the second film, Catching Fire, came out, I included it in a multiple-movie review I posted here. I realized that it was serving as an introduction to propaganda and deception to young people who may not have ever read Orwell's Animal Farm or 1984, let alone studied the politics of Communism in school. The last century of American -- and World -- history is a black hole for many people, seeing as the public education system goes up to the Great Depression and stops there.

That's why these films interest me, and I've been curious to see what sort of messages they're sending, subtly or overtly, to their fans.

The Hunger Games III: Mockingjay Part One

Could have been called: 1984, by Sun Tzu

POLI 201: Propaganda in Warfare
Synopsis: An unwilling hero learns how to fight with words rather than bow and arrow.

Observation One:

The dystopia is far more openly acknowledged now than in the first two movies. You had to look a little closer to catch hints that the characters were "on to" the fact that they lived in a tyrannical serfdom run by a centralized autocratic police state. It should have been obvious that something was wrong, and felt uncomfortable, but if you're not thinking about what you're seeing, you can miss it. Not so much in this movie. The rebellion is openly talked about and you see vivid examples of atrocities committed by the Capitol.

This is good. For the less conscious viewers, even if they're just floating along with the narrative, they should get something out of it. The Capitol's actions will come as more or less of a surprise based on your relative youth and experience or knowledge of totalitarianism, in fiction or reality. Naivete is best dealt with through shock. The film does a fair job at delivering on that.

Observation Two:

You don't get to control your heroes. Once you choose them, don't expect them to follow your script.

There is a scene where District 13(?)'s leadership is attempting to film a propaganda video with Katniss, the main character. They give her a script to speak and it comes out awkwardly wooden, with no heart to it. Woody Harrelson's character stands up and explains that he thinks the moments that made everyone love Katniss in the past were unscripted, when she did what was natural to her. So their solution to generating an Agitprop clip was to send Katniss to an actual conflict area. Subsequent to witnessing an atrocious act by the Capitol, she passionately delivers one of the most memorable dialogue sequences in the film.

It's true in politics, it's true in war, it's true in everyday life. And it's nowhere more true than in the case of putting your faith in Christ. No matter what foolish people may try to do, or other foolish people might accuse Christians of doing, no one gets to tell God what to do. No one can put Him in a box, or give Him a script to follow. Once you decide to stop trying to be God for yourself, you've let go of your chance to run the show. Now it's your turn to follow the leader. And the leader might not do things you expect or want them to do. The leader might require things of you that make you uncomfortable. That is the nature of following a hero.

This means that (lesson one) you need to be very careful who you select for yourselves as your heroes and leaders.

When you give someone power and influence, (speaking of humans here) you can't take it back easily. They can do lots of good or lots of bad in the mean time. And as for God, whom you don't give power, but merely submit to -- when you give your life over to Him, you don't get "takebacks." Your life is set to change dramatically and it might surprise or upset you, but you need to acknowledge that you don't have control, and stop resisting. You made your decision, and now you must follow through, so follow your Leader.

Observation Three:

The final observation is simply a reflection on the fact that the police force/military in The Hunger Games is composed of soldiers in white armor called "peacekeepers." Their primary function seems to be beating, executing, and shooting people in the back. For those who haven't read 1984, it's reminiscent of "Newspeak," where the government of Oceania attempted to manipulate and redefine the English language to limit how people were able to think or speak about things. Calling soldier-hitmen "peacekeepers" is an attempt to force every reference to them to imply that they are good, helpful, useful, important, and not at all a negative force. Talking about them in a way that suggests they are evil requires extra effort. But for the people who are aware of the truth, every reference to a word like "peacekeeper" is carried on a wave of sarcasm, and thereby undergoes still further alterations of meaning.

When words are used in a certain way extensively, then by way of gaining that association as their primary meaning, they lose their secondary (or even what used to be their primary) definitions. In the end, other words must be used to refer to something with the same intention that the now altered word originally conveyed.

Gay used to mean happy, lighthearted. No one uses it to mean that anymore.
Awesome used to mean terrible, frightening, and yes, awe-inducing. But most don't use it that way anymore.
Likewise, terrible used to mean causing fear, not necessarily something bad. You could describe yourself as terrible if you wanted to present yourself as an imposing figure.
The justice system is the place where people go to seek justice. But it doesn't always dispense it -- so there's a sense in which one could refer to it in sarcastic tones.
Girlfriend -- a friend who's a girl, right? No, now it almost always connotes a sexual partner.
Politically charged terms, like 'free market,' 'social security,' 'birth control,' 'husband and wife,' 'peace treaty,' etc all contain examples that someone could well argue do not represent what the word implies.

Something to think about. How are words changing, and why?

~ Rak Chazak

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