Sunday, December 01, 2013

Remember Who The Enemy Is

[Disclaimer: I haven't read any of the books in Suzanne Collins' wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy, though I did see the first movie version of that trilogy (The Hunger Games) last year and I just saw the second film, currently out in theaters, Catching Fire.  I'll go ahead and stipulate that the books are probably far more complicated, nuanced and interesting that their film adaptations, but I've only seen the films, so everything below has to do with the movies.]

[Okay, hold on a sec, another disclaimer:  I wouldn't call myself a fan of "fantasy" fiction, or even of "fantasy" movies, for that matter.  In fact, one of my chief complaints about millenials-- and there are many-- is that they're not only constantly infantilized, but that they also willingly enable that infantilization, long after they should know better or want otherwise.  I really do think that millennials are, for the most part, culturally conditioned to be too in thrall with commercially-packaged, fantastical imaginations of themselves and their world, which is another way of saying that they are too in thrall with being children/adolescents.  Not to be all get-offa-my-lawn curmudgeonly here but, when I was in my late-teens and early-twenties, my experience was almost the exact opposite.  The very last thing that I wanted was to re-situate myself as a child.  To wit, in 2007, when I started my first year of my tenure-track teaching at Rhodes and discovered that all of the students who were first-year college students that year were the same age as the (fictional character) Harry Potter, I was more than a little shocked at how few of them wanted to not only not disavow, but actually embrace, that association.  Wizards and vampires and werewolves?  C'mon now, kids.  Grow up already.  And, yeah, whatevs, get offa my lawn.]

I didn't think this when I saw the first installation of the Hunger Games trilogy, but Catching Fire (which, to be completely honest, I only went to see because I have a 13-yr-old niece, despite being very glad that I did see it) was something by far closer to a depiction of the kind of not-so-fantastical "fantasy" that I wish more young people would seriously engage.  No vampires, no wizards, no werewolves--thankfully-- just bona fide (and, again, not-so-fantastical) metaphors for the world in which they/we already live. 

I don't know that I've seen a film recently, maybe not ever, that so clearly made space in our collective imagination for the possibility of figuring for ourselves (even if only imaginatively) what a real revolution might look like.  Most of the reviews of Catching Fire that I've read have drawn attention to its not-at-all subtle deployment of the tropes of cutthroat, individualistic reality television, capitalist fetishism, the exploitation of the working poor, the disparity of wealth and the cultural commodification of persons.   For that, despite all my complaints about the neurotic millennial obsession with fantasy, I have to credit Catching Fire.

[Also, kudos to Collins for the choice of a heroine, and not a hero, even if reasons for her selection remain unfortunately unarticulated.]

And, in sum, that's about all I have to say about Catching Fire.  Except for maybe that the only better tagline for the film than "Remember who the enemy is" might have been "you have nothing to lose but your chains."

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