Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thoughts on watching The Hunger Games movie

I realized another way that The Hunger Games novel, the first one, didn't work for me. I was thinking about this because I was watching the Rifftrax of The Hunger Games. Anyway, uh, Peeta lives.

The Rifftrax guys were going on pretty hard about their probable impending deaths and, yes, exactly, their deaths were probably impending. Now, really, if you look at it, Katniss – a skilled hunter and gifted archer – is the precise kind of person who has a good chance of winning the games and, in fact, she's the odds on favorite to win at the start of the game. For her to win, okay. Even for Peeta to win, okay, he is a strong guy, physically fit, clever, so forth and so on. But what are the odds of BOTH of them winning? Something that had never before happened in 73 years of Hunger Games? Basically zero, of course.

But then, thinking more (as I was watching the movie), I realized having Peeta win was narrative cowardice. I know that part of what the books were supposed to be about were Katniss' feelings for both Peeta and Gale. But what's better, narratively? A weak love triangle (Gale is barely in the books and don't expect to see a bunch of him in the movies, either) or Katniss having to kill Peeta to win. Think about that. At the climax, Peeta and Katniss have the drop on each other. Neither one moves. Cut to them being told if there is no winner of the Hunger Games, their families will be executed. (You need to do something like that so Katniss remains sympathetic. She doesn't kill for the selfish reason that she wants to live, but has to make a Sophie's choice.) Then, Peeta . . . does nothing and Katniss kills him. At which point she realizes that he did, in fact, love her and none of it was a lie, and she murdered him for the entertainment of the Capitol.

OK, here's the real kicker, too. You could still have the love triangle. Rather than Gale not really being in the next two books, you can put him in there all you want and he would be competing with Peeta's ghost.  It is notoriously hard to win against a ghost.  It would have also allowed Peeta and Katniss to develop real feelings for each other in The Hunger Games.

The book and movie both tried to make you feel the horror of the Hunger Games by killing the little black girl, Rue. I . . . didn't like that in either the book of the movie. Yeah, good going, put in black people to be killed so white people feel guilty. Not just the little girl but also Cinna. Jesus fucking Christ, really? You're really just going to put black people in to be killed so white people can save the world? Fuck you.

Anyway, that's how they tried to drive home the horror of the Games. But the little girl we barely know so her death means little. For other plot reasons, they should keep it in – in particular because it also shows that Katniss is making a connection with the people and is becoming a symbol – but it didn't really drive in the horror of the games. What would do that is killing someone we, the audience, has come to like rather than someone we had barely seen. To put Katniss in the situation of having to kill this really nice guy who drive the horror home in a big way.

By having them both survive, well, it was chicken. And weakens the overall story. It was a forced on happy ending, yay, the good guys win, which was inappropriate given the material of the book and movie.


I was also just struck, again, over the general stupidity of the games. The Hunger Games is literally a show where children are forced to murder each other. Worse, the richest districts have ringers – they train kids from a young age to do nothing but win the Games. So for districts 1 and 2, they have volunteer ringers. So, not only do they win most of the time, when they lose, well, they were volunteers. The other ten districts have kids selected by lot, who generally watch their children get humiliated and butchered by the kids from districts 1 and 2.

Like, whose idea was that? Because, let me tell you, it takes a LOT less provocation than seventy-four years of graphic child murder for the amusement of the ruling class to spark a revolution among oppressed people. Every time a child is murdered, that whole family turns instantly and irrevocably anti-government. Sure, most of them won't be hardcore about it, but some will be. That's tens of thousands of people ranging from merely committed to hating the government to actively seeking it's destruction. Not even counting those who are equally committed simply over their horror and disgust over children being forced to murder each other for the amusement of the capitol.

It doesn't even take a lot of thinking to work this one through. Riots started in LA because Rodney King's attackers were exonerated in court. King lived. The living conditions in South LA aren't nearly as bad as in most districts. Uprisings would be constant, every district would be littered with resistance cells constantly plotting the overthrow of the government. The districts would be under constant and massive police violence – we're talking constant ID checks, weapons checks, cops kicking in doors, public executions, the whole lot, if you're committed to something as spectacularly stupid as the Hunger Games.

Yeah, yeah, the author says (in the book, if you just watch the movie you have no such knowledge) that a district was destroyed and that suppressed the revolution.  Except that doesn't really work.  It often creates addition opposition because then the people more forcefully believe that it is a fight of life or death.  It wasn't the destruction of Fallujah that stopped Iraqi resistance to US occupation.  It was the US getting out of Iraq, first of pulling back to our bases and then massively reducing our troop presence.  The same was true of the US in Vietnam.  Who districts were wiped out, two million Vietnamese were killed, but even after three decades of fighting overwhelmingly more powerful countries -- the Japanese, the French, the US -- they still found the will to fight.  So, no, that's not really sufficient, either.

This confirms that it's really hard to make a plot.  But it makes me realize something else, too.  It's really hard to understand a plot.  I hate to say this, but it sorta looks like plot doesn't matter very much, even in plot driven stories.

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