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Thoughts on The Hunger Games Trilogy

So why Team Peeta? In addition to feeling like he had more to offer Katniss on several fronts, expanding and challenging her narrow existence as the Man of the House—Gale, being in the same exact position, couldn’t give her that—he’s also the type of person who doesn’t reveal himself all at once, but in small doses and only as needed. Those are the characters, in and out of fiction, that I eat up…I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of my initial attraction to Paul. I honestly feel that if Peeta had let it all hang out during his private scoring session, he would’ve walked away with a higher number than eight…maybe not even with Katniss, but sharing a ten with Cato, Clove and Thresh, at least. But that’s not how he rolls. Surely he was smart enough to understand that while Katniss’ eleven was a coup for attracting sponsors and great for the District 12 prep team’s morale, it was also a trap, that the moment they were in the arena, the Careers were going to be all over her like black on a crow. Katniss was a threat to more than the other tributes, the Gamemakers wanted her dead, and Peeta (among others, there aren’t a lot of fools in this series) knew it. But I digress. It’s also crystal that his feelings for Katniss are the real thing, whereas I think that Gale’s out-of-nowhere desire was more reactionary, triggered by jealousy and possessiveness. Not the headfucking Twilight kind, per se—Gale has too much honour for that rubbish—but for years Katniss had been his partner in crime, literally, and now that he perceives a threat, he responds by making the same gestures of affection in private that Peeta and Katniss share in the public eye. But do I feel that Gale and Katniss were, at one point, good for each other, and would have stayed that way if they'd left their hormones out of it, [spoilerspoilerspoiler]. I honestly never saw them as a couple, even from the very first page/ frame they occupied together. They’re Alpha Twins, they’re that perfect male-female bromance non-archetype that I used for Xanadu and Kyle, and it's too bad they had to lose it because it’s just so rare. Also, it’s Peeta’s plain simple good-guy persona, more than anything else, that draws me to him: a garden-variety personality trait gone exotic in a society where goodness is overridden by power trips or survival mode.

Two characters I don’t envy, despite their ostensibly cushy little lives, are Effie and Haymitch. In fact, the two of them damn near break my heart. Imagine doing what they do every year, collecting somebody’s son and somebody else’s daughter, trucking them off to the Capitol and giving them a week of luxury, advice, and training, making an effort to get to know them as individuals as well as competitors in the interest of keeping them alive, only to watch as they’re impaled or decapitated or bludgeoned or poisoned on a live television feed. That’s almost—not quite, but a big almost—as brutal as what they do to those poor kids. If I were in Haymitch’s shoes, with the added double whammy of PTSD and getting stabbed in the back for his rule-bending victory, I’d probably be a blistering lush, too. Plus I’m inclined to think that Effie’s Clueless Ditz act is the result of needing most of her brain cells to fend off some kind of psychological breakdown.

Cinna, the stylist, is probably my favourite character, and the one I feel I’d most likely inhabit in this universe. I could see myself being an espionage mastermind through a seemingly superficial and harmless medium of fashion and face paint. In a way, he’s a style geek’s dream come true. Cinna was always welcome on the page and screen, even when all he had to offer was a record-scratch WTF moment. What character doesn’t, or on that note, shouldn’t? (I’ve even taken to giving Cinna some love via my makeup once in a while—his only concession to flamboyant Capitol style is a streak of gold eyeliner, so I ran with the concept, substituting silver because my colouring likes it better.)

I think that Thresh, the ill-fated male tribute from District 10, is the other character I most identify with. He wasn’t in it to win; he was in it to survive, if that makes sense. But he was sane enough to take his chances alone, rather than join a cabal of bloodthirsty maniacs. Apart from Katniss, Peeta and Rue, I don’t think that anyone in the arena had more soul than he did, as further evidenced by his reaction to Clove taunting Katniss about Rue’s murder. I admit, the first time I read the book was at the Westfield (Massachusetts) Athenaeum—library, to all us plebs—and I’m surprised I didn’t get thrown out for barking “Yes!” when Clove got dealt with.

There is a Biblical undertone to the Games themselves, as well as the relationship between the (almighty godlike) Capitol and its (lowly human) surrounding districts. I’m not surprised that the soundtrack opens with a song called “Abraham’s Daughter”, because it really is like the story of Abraham’s test of faith on a nationwide scale: prove your devotion to your ruler by sacrificing your children. Only no one steps in at the last minute to call the whole thing off, because unlike God—whom I merely regard as a narcissistic sadist for coming up with the whole Isaac thing, a dick move for the ages—the Capitol couldn’t define “mercy” via multiple choice question. Panem makes no effort to hide who the real monsters are. If anything, the Capitol flaunts it right up in your face. Because they know that if someone else gets their hands on the throttle they’ve built by siphoning the rest of the nation’s resources, their round-the-clock fancy costume party is over.