The Daily Capitalist welcomes new contributor Andre Van Doren who will write book reviews and the occasional movie review. Andre is a writer and scholar who has taught philosophy and history in Russia and the United States. He currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. You can reach him at Avandoren@rocketmail.com. I think you will find his point of view interesting and unconventional. — JH
Last week, while strolling the streets of Memphis on a tourist visit to the capital of music, I picked up a free local newspaper the Memphis Flyer. Leafing through it in search of events, good sites, and movies, I stumbled upon a jaw-dropping review of the recent blockbuster movie “The Hunger Games” by Greg Akers (“Danger Games,”). Mr. Akers turns this heroic fight against a totalitarian state into a lesson in multiculturalism.
The plot of the Hunger Games is very simple. A young girl named Katniss Everdeen lives in a dystopian world composed of 12 Districts controlled by a group of enlightened elite from the “Capitol”. These elite keep the districts in line not only by using so-called “peacekeepers” (secret police) to intimidate them but also by employing the tactics of bread and circuses. Each year, the masters from the Capitol use a lottery system called a reaping to choose twenty-four teenagers who are to compete in a deadly fight for survival: two persons from each of the 12 districts. In a grand reality show which is broadcast to all homes in districts through large flat screen TVs, teenagers are thrown into the wilderness where they compete to the death using martial arts and all kinds of cold weapons. The winner is the one who eliminates all other opponents and is celebrated by the whole country. As a reward, his/her district receives a greater allocation of food than other districts. For the starving population reduced to a concentration camp-type life style, this grand show is a big deal. Katniss steps into this deadly game by volunteering to replace her fragile younger sister who was originally chosen for the suicidal competition. This is the first of one of her many moral and courageous acts.
On the surface, infested with violence and breathtaking cat-and-mouse games amid the wildlife, the movie might appear as an ordinary teenage action-packed thriller. But people who like to use their minds will immediately feel that the plot is not flat. “The Hunger Games” is definitely not a stupefying thriller. It has several layers of meaning which resonate with all kinds of audiences. That is essentially what makes just a movie into a remarkably good movie. And that is what is stupefying about Mr. Akers’ review.
To Mr. Akers, the gist of the movie can be found in one moving scene in which a sweet little black girl, Rue, is tragically killed by one of the vicious teenagers driven by his desire to win. Katniss has killed Rue’s slayer after rounds of violence where she has outwitted those hunting her and Rue. A weeping Katniss bends over the mortally wounded girl, covers her with flowers, and says a tender goodbye by singing to her a touching farewell song. She then turns to the (ever present) camera and gives a salute of defiance. This brilliantly made episode reaches out straight to your heart and put me and my son to tears. A brief (a few seconds) scene following this one, shows District 11, Rue’s home district (populated primarily by blacks), responding to the death of the girl with a brief smashing and crashing riot. Here the movie-makers took the liberty to enhance the “blackness” of District 11; in the book that served as the blueprint for the movie, the “wretched of the earth” from this particular area are vaguely defined as dark-skinned, which, technically speaking, could mean any known “dark” race. In a few hours, President Snow, the skillful and cruel leader from the Capitol, puts the riot down, and the show goes on.
Although the scene with Rue dying is an essential one to the plot of both the book and the movie, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Akers by saying that it is not the central episode of the movie. Neither is the scene of the rioting crowd represented in the movie, by the way, not only by blacks but also by whites. Far from it. Yet to Mr. Akers, the baseline lesson of “The Hunger Games” is (brace yourself) “don’t trust whitey.” That’s right. Mr. Akers would have you believe this movie draws a line between the races, namely between poor underdog blacks and the evil rich, who are predominantly white. Moreover, he is strongly convinced that this particular baseline represents a good lesson that should be taught to our kids. No more, no less.
The more I think now about this mind-blowing review, the more I realize that there is in fact nothing strange about it, considering the fact that our culture and intellectual discourse has been already heavily saturated by the aggressive ideology of multiculturalism. Many Europeans label this painfully familiar phenomenon “Multikulti”. I like this word not only because it is better than bookish “multiculturalism” but also because, to my ear, it conveys a necessary dosage of irony. And an irony is precisely what we need to expose the ideological guardians of this tribal philosophy, which we inherited from the turbulent twentieth century when people liked to treat each other not as individuals but as members of classes, nations, ethnic, and racial groups.
If Mr. Akers wants to dissect the movie and turn it into a class and racial story by using two secondary episodes as expressing the whole concept of the movie, let me play his Multikulti game for a moment and bring to light a gender dimension — the third missing element in that sacred troika (class, race, and gender) that is so dear to hearts of ideological avatars of diversity. I will single out several other minor episodes to show that “The Hunger Games” is not only about “don’t trust whitey” but it is also about “don’t trust ‘gaytey’” . How come?
Here is the explanation. In the beginning of the movie there is a very “moving” scene where, sporting bright blue hair and vigorously wiggling his/her hips, a human being of undefined gender comes to the microphone to announce the Hunger Games. This transgendered being is shown throughout the entire movie as part of the no-less flamboyant and picturesque elite group of citizen-aristocrats. These citizens of the Capitol are privileged to not have to participate in the deadly competition in contrast to their subjugated populace from the 12 districts that not only must provide human fodder for Hunger Games but also have to perform hard manual labor in order to sustain the lifestyle of those “rainbow” folk. The crowd of these elite citizen aristocrats is shown in a moment of disgusting laughter as they sit and watch death and blood pour from the screen. The job of these citizen aristocrats is just to enjoy the show and to be entertained. Coupled with their hair colored in arrays of pinks and blues, males wearing eyeliner, and explicit transgendered outfits, these people do not look very appealing. Surely, for a potential homophobe, there is a lot of “food” for thought here.
Yet my goal is not to get involved in a deadly hunger games of the “left” and “right” Multikulti agendas. Like everybody else, I am also loaded with numerous biases. So let me share with you a movie’s scene that I am particularly fond of and which makes it an interesting movie. During the final moments in the arena, Katniss, an accomplished survivalist and archer, ends up confronting only one remaining person, Peeta Mellark, a male teenager from her district. Makers of an ordinary all-American thriller would have surely manufactured a love story here between the two unfortunate ones. In fact, that is exactly what the masters of the Hunger Games eventually come up with in their attempt to save the power of the games. The irony of the situation is that Katniss does not love Mellark and simply treats him as a good friend, which totally breaks the canon of the genre.
What is more interesting, Katniss spontaneously revolts against the system of the Hunger Games. No, she does not lead a multicultural revolt against the oppressors sitting in the Capitol. Neither do we see jubilant crowds of the victorious populace, looking at the horizon of a radiant happy future. Katniss stuns both the game masters and the populace by suggesting to her opponent to end their lives, together, which threatens to tear apart the very ideological core of the Hunger Games: there must be one winner to be held up and celebrated by the populace. According to President Snow, a single winner gives the people of the districts hope, which allows the elite to successfully coopt the common folk into the system of the government based on terror, small food perks, and live shows. The defiance of Katniss puts this ideological house of cards in disarray. In fear of losing their “winner,” the controllers of the game immediately change the rules and announce that now two remaining finalists are allowed to be winners. Thus, the omnipotent state protected by the thousands of “peacekeepers” had to bend its rules to accommodate the lonely rebel who had the guts to go against the system.
In the final scene, President Snow is caught thinking deeply about something disturbing. Mr. Akers speculates that the President frets not about Katniss’s “victory” over the state, but about the brief riot that was violently extinguished – a scene that was shown somewhere in the middle of the movie for a few seconds. How Mr. Akers concludes that the moral of the story is “don’t trust whitey” is an example of the bankrupt values of Multikulti. Somehow I am convinced that Snow is more concerned about that rebellious teenager who single-handedly put the elaborate “glass-bead” game of his carefully crafted state in total disarray. Her act of defiance is potentially a more hazardous threat than the raging crowd that was easily put-down in their place by the “peacekeepers.” As for you, my dear reader, go watch the Hunger Games and figure out for yourself.