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December 11, 2015
By Zahra Ali, Plainfield North
For a movie with a general audience of teenage fangirls, it’s evident that Mockingjay Part 2 explores some pretty dark themes; especially since after watching it, you may have left the theater with a lingering uneasiness or dissatisfaction instead of the normal sense of triumph that follows watching an adventure movie. So what was it that made viewers feel kind of depressed? Was it the grotesque scenes of violence, the complexity of the war, or the nightmarish theme that justice is never fully served in a rebellion? Maybe it was because of the underlying realism in the social aspects of the plot. And while there are a number of factors involved, here are three disturbing ways that Mockingjay Part 2 parallels the real world:
Dehumanization of the oppressed
For starters, take a look at the current state of the Syrian refugees. Bombed by Daesh, Assad’s regime, Russia, Europe, and the U.S., these people experience the war that we only watch safely on screens.
“Russia hit us, it’s Russia that’s hitting us! She went to get food for the children—the children have become orphans—is this fair? What does Russia want from us, killing us?” shrieked a woman while talking to an AJ+ reporter in Syria.
Desperate to escape the unending killing, Syrians and other victims of war seek asylum in Europe, but aren’t always met with a welcome sentiment. In the U.S., presidential candidate Mike Huckabee compared the refugees to spoiled peanuts and asked, “Would you feed that to your kids?”
And let’s not forget Ben Carson, who likened the refugees to a “rabid dog.” With all of the negative and frankly dehumanizing regard with which political figures refer to refugees, it’s easy to see how people see them as animals or “peanuts” rather than human beings fleeing the most unthinkable situations.
Now let’s go back to the Hunger Games, and how President Snow, the corrupt dictator of Panem, created propaganda to portray all of the people from the districts as wild, bloodthirsty savages coming to destroy their society. But outside of District 13, how many men, women, and children were noncombatant civilians? How many just wanted to protect their families and survive in the middle of an inexorable civil war? Snow’s propaganda was meant to instill fear in the capitol, much like political authority does today.
What’s more, the Capitol unscrupulously murders children. In the real world, we call that murder “collateral damage” and “war is war” without thinking about the millions of innocent individual lives being destroyed. In the manner of killing without remorse, the movie subtly highlights a n unsettling truth: Dehumanization makes it a lot easier to bomb civilians.
Heroes without heroism
From the viewers’ perspective, Katniss is the protagonist and the rebels are the “good guys” who fight to liberate the districts from Snow. But as the movie progresses, Katniss notices a change in Gale, her friend from District 12 and a leader from the rebels. Before laying siege on a Capitol hideout in the mountains, Gale expresses how he wouldn’t regret killing even the innocent inside the mountain. From there forward, Katniss is haunted by how even the supposedly “good” rebels who are justified in overthrowing the Capitol echo the same mentality of devaluing human life.
Now shift back to reality and examine, with few exceptions, any revolution in human history. During the French revolution, the Jacobins were the rebels who originally intended to free the state from their corrupt government. But over time, the Jacobins themselves became corrupt and slaughtered their own at the Guillotine in droves out of paranoia. Fast forward to the 2011 Arab Spring, where rebels across north Africa and the Middle East jumped to cast out their dictators for the sake of instating democracy. And what was the result? Mass chaos, the formation of extremist parties, the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, and countless civilian deaths.
However, in Mockingjay, Katniss recognizes this recurring historical pattern when President Coin, the leader of the rebel army, suggests hosting a “symbolic Hunger Games” involving the children of the Capitol. Horrified by how quickly new power stepped into the shoes of their previous oppressor, Katniss takes action to prevent any more unfounded violence from taking place.
Unfortunately, in the real world, we don’t have Katniss as a leader to point out the immediate corruption of new power.
Desensitization to violence
The Hunger Games in unique because it presents an ironic paradox. It is a story about how despicable it is of the well-off to watch the killing of children for entertainment, and yet we sit back and watch the movie for entertainment. And of course, the guts and gore in the movie is fictional, but the realism involved should awaken the audience. If you open up Twitter and search videos of Syria, it’s starling how close the most gruesome scenes from the movie match up with reality.
Most of the time, a movie such as Mockingjay will be praised for its cinematic effects and direction, but not the symbolic tone of its plot. Typical viewers are more likely to comment on the talent of the actors than how sickening it was to even watch a fictional portrayal of a bloody war.
This idea is ever-present in the U.S. political scene. Presidential candidate Ted Cruz discussed his plan to destroy ISIL, threatening nuclear war.
“I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out,” said Cruz to The Washington Post.
Everyone can agree that ISIL needs to be obliterated, but is nuking the earth to oblivion really a practical suggestion when the cost is so severe? If current society continues to lack cognizance of dangerously real world conflicts, distressing as it sounds, we are to become the people of the Capitol.
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