This is the iconic picture of lead actress Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in the motion picture Hunger Games.
When I saw the movie, the first reaction was one of skepticism. The theme is one of reality show where a ‘game’ is officially organized for 24 young boys and girls, with the goal of killing off everyone except a lone survivor. The game is organized in the form of a reality TV show.
The points that jarred in my thinking were these.
Caesar Flickerman’s smarmy, and extremely effusive smile as he chats with potential killers on the TV show was a sticky point for me. Why is he smiling so much?
Imagine this BBC news:
Effervescent news anchor Karin Giannonne reads: “And I report here the killing of yet another 16 year old.” And if she were to pose as above, I would imagine she would lose her job immediately for impropriety.
Why is Caesar portrayed as smiling or LOL and still being perceived as a good TV anchor?
And why are the kids and their parents not even protesting?
Why is there no legal redress? Are there no courts? Where is the human rights commission?
Where are all the rules and justice system of the world? All our so-called civil behavior and human rights and justice system are but skin-deep and wafer-thin facades that break down so easily.
Isn’t it celebrating the Roman amphitheater and the live fight-to-death enactments of gladiators and the delirious capacity crowds?
I thought hard and eventually Caesar’s smile game me the clue to put the picture in an allegorical perspective.
I haven’t seen this argument in any movie reviews and I am not sure if this is the idea the author Susan Collins had in mind. What if the games organizers represent providence or God or mother nature? Then there is some kind of meaning to the whole story. Aren’t we all subject to the vagaries of nature? Aren’t we all killing each other in one way or the other – sometimes physically in wars and fights, but more commonly in the form of mud-slinging and gossips and bullying? Yes, we are.
And aren’t we at least trying to smile while we are perfectly aware of the macabre dance of death around us? Caesar is right. Let him smile!
Despite the different pains life has given me, I am trying to smile like Caesar too.
We are not masters of the nature. On this fateful night of the 100th anniversary of Titanic, the lesson that I would like to converge to is exactly this, and therein lies the allegorical value of Hunger Games.
The organizers announce the beginning of the grueling killing session by saying : “Happy Hunger Games.” What is ‘happy’ about killing and being killed? In that sense, this phrase is a classical oxymoron – the words just do not gel well! But translate these words into something like ‘smile in the midst of inevitable tragedy,’ and then we have got something there.
Well, I have got to tell you- take your kids to the Hunger Games. The scenes are not too gory. Tell them the allegoric significance, if you can.
Life usually deals an unfair hand of cards. Dwight Eisenhower, 34th US president, famously once told reporters (in the link) that his mother had advised him to play his hand of cards without murmuring. Please read this story in the link. It is a great post. Her rationale was that life could deal really unfair cards. The success depends on how well we play our unfair cards.
So Jennifer Lawrence, or Kate Everdeen in the story, does play her unfair cards ably and becomes the winner and one of the two survivors in the game. Happy ending! She wins both the game and her secret lover Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). And they live happily ever after!
I just added the following from Trend Watch of Merriam Webster Online Dictionary on 4/15,2012.
When the much anticipated film “The Hunger Games” opened, many reviews useddystopia to describe its frightening futuristic setting.
Dystopia means “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.”
So the postscript to my post is this: much as I like the allegoric interpretative possibilities of the movie Hunger Games, the dystopian fantasy is not agreeable to our developed sense of civility. So see the movie by all means, but agree to disagree with the theme.