History

Applicability, Schapplicability: More Mockingjay Musings

We’ve got BONUS guest posts for you this week! Check out another Mockingjay musing from Satsuma, who sees plenty of opportunity of historical parallels in the final two films!

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Here I am, trying to make more predictions about the MJ movies. My last post dealt with their possible approach to romance. This one focuses more on the politics. Specifically, whether the movies will continue to make references to historical political events that have parallels to what happens in Panem.

Sometimes we forget that people actually LIVED here

Sometimes we forget that people actually LIVED here

I say “continue to”, because both THG and CF seemed to make a directed effort to make viewers consider the parallels, in many subtle ways. Maybe it’s just me, but the “Capitol = Rome” set-up SC created seems to have actually taken a back seat, with more modern examples of tyranny and oppression being focused on more. We have the Capitol set design from THG, inspired by “brutalist” architecture used by the Nazi’s, as well as Tianamen Square; and the use of Henry River Mill village, a real life “company town” (though for a different industry than coal) for the Seam.

And while this isn’t expressly political, I was also quite struck by the Capitol equivalent of a sports book that was showcased in that movie, especially as we see gambling in all forms becoming more and more socially acceptable these days in the US, and states trying to get a cut of the action; not just the state lotteries, but, for example, how Governor Christie of New Jersey recently attempted to legalize sports gambling in his state). And while FYI I admit I never “got” the whole allure of gambling, certainly one can argue that it’s yet another way that the “powers that be” can distract citizens from more serious issues.

In CF, the D11 design actually tweaked aspects of canon, such as showing workers picking cotton instead of fruit as they did in the book, to drive the “D11 = Deep South”, not just geographically but culturally as well, to the extent of giving the Peacekeepers attack dogs that I bet Bull Connor would have loved to own. (Brief history lesson: Connor was a notorious segregationist “Commissioner of Public Safety” in Birmingham, AL, who cracked down harshly on civil rights protestors in the 1960s. I’ve even wondered if Connor’s deceptively benign job title, helped inspire the “Peacekeeper” moniker.)

And not only did CF harken back to the 1960’s, it also showed “rebellion” footage that seemed straight out of the Arab Spring. I’m sure that was no co-incidence.

Bull Connor

Bull Connor

Especially knowing that Danny Strong wrote the first scripts, I’m sure that MJ will continue to showcase these historical and political parallels. (Note that, as has been mentioned on this blog before, “Game Change” actually has a lot of similarities to MJ even though Sarah Palin is VERY different from Katniss in many ways, both feature a female character “campaigning” for a cause and frequently “going rogue” and disregarding the scripts their handlers want them to follow.)

Note that the MJ marketing again touched on the idea of “Panem field hands = African Americans”, considering the race of the woman chosen to represent the Grain district (even though she likely hailed from the Midwest, not as strongly associated with the African American civil rights struggle as the Deep South, though certainly the North had/has its own issues with racism as well.)

Unfortunately, it’s likely too late for the MJ movies to draw the obvious parallels between the MJ rebellion and what’s happening at the Ukraine-Russia border these days, right down to innocent civilians being caught in the cross-fire, with each side pointing the finger at the other as the culprit for a wartime atrocity. Much as in MJ, I wonder if we’ll ever find out the REAL story about who shot down that airliner. (On the other hand, there’s still almost two years worth of marketing to go…)

But we know that the Iraq war helped to inspire SC to write this story, as did her father’s experiences as a soldier in Vietnam. I can certainly see, for example, a shot of rebels dragging down a statue of Snow, much as Saddam Hussein’s statue bit the dust. Or perhaps we’ll see a shot of Snow being dragged out of a bunker somewhere. And while Julianne Moore’s description of D13 seems more consistent with “Jericho” and other post-apocalyptic societies than the historical Soviet Union, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some reference to the idea of “Capitol = US, D13 = USSR”; perhaps a nod to classic Cold War era movies such as “Dr. Strangelove” (which itself based the not-so-good Doctor partly on Werner von Brown, who managed to jump from serving the Nazis in WWII to directing NASA in the 1960s; hmm, that sounds almost like what Plutarch did, actually).

Finally, the reason I titled this post “Applicability”, is that the current events in Crimea really did impress me with how applicable this series is to the Ukraine/Russia conflict, even though SC wrote the books years before this conflict flared up. In both, we have rebels who want to break away from one problematic regime, yet are backed by another regime that has many problematic aspects as well. This is one reason I think this series may remain relevant for a while, even after the last MJ movie.

Satsuma

Show Me the Chair

This week we finally got the teaser trailer, and while everyone and their imaginary friend was having kittens over how creepy President Snow is, or how creepy Peeta’s turn of the head was, I was having a gay ol’ time deciphering the thing the President was sitting his creepy ass down in. Yep, I was doing my usual thing, analyzing the scenery, ’cause um– it’s fun! Also, nine times out of ten it tells us something insightful that otherwise we’d all just be ignorant of, which is fine if you’re into that whole ignorance being blissful thing.

chair.jpg

I like to call myself an amateur antique furniture expert, ’cause my stack of reference books only allow me to say amateur. Anyway, since a vast majority of the furniture President Snow surrounds himself with are antiques, or amalgamations of antique styles and designs– there’s a lot to explore! Fun stuff, huh? You’re damn right it is! Where would we be without history?! Oh yeah, Ikea. Sorry, if you’re into Swedish style furniture, it’s okay, I don’t judge! However, if the only tools you own are the tiny Allen wrenches that come with Ikea kits, then I have a problem– actually, you do.

The chair though, oh my– the chair! I saw a picture of it first of course, and quickly had a time taking out my books, and trying to find a match, or something that closely resembles the pristine, white chair. Second off, it’s not an exact replica of anything that’s still in existence from the past, it’s like I said above, an amalgamation of styles and designs. And the styles it is it this, William and Mary, with a dash of Charles II, the eras are at the tail end of the Baroque period, 1680s-90s in time frame– only you’d never ever find a white washed arm-chair like Snow’s gracing anyone’s rooms. And that my dear friends is what makes it so very Capitol. But what does it mean?! Why a William and Mary style arm-chair with sky-high -1finials?! Um,’cause they can. The thing about the Capitol is they like to take the commonplace, the fur shrug for example and give it a jab of crazy, and whammo— fashion personified times a million-zillion! In the case of their furniture however, the white washed armchair is another example of the Capitol taking what was once common, and turning it into something kind of sort of scary. And I don’t think for a second the choice of the thick white washing is an accident. Purity is one of the basic meanings behind the color, but I’m going to take it a few other steps down the line of meanings, “the Capitol are the good guys.” Why? ‘Cause the good guys where the white hats, and the bad guys where the black hats, this is what so many myths, folktales, and fairy tales have told us over the last millenia or more! Reverse psychology is such a good propaganda tool! And to top off my hypotheses, Snow is the King of Panem, only he’s titled himself “President”, he looks, at least to me, like a chess piece on the white end of the chessboard. And then there’s Peeta, well what else could he be but “a piece in their game”.

Peeta’s a Pawn, dressed in white, and standing at the ready to serve his King.

“Unlike other pieces, the pawn does not capture in the same direction as it otherwise moves. A pawn captures diagonally, one square forward and to the left or right. In the diagram to the left, the white pawn may capture either the black rook or the black knight.” – W

Them There Eyes

Erasing History

Oh look! Another post in which we analyze canon as if it’s real! Would you expect any less from us?

It’s been a long time since Panem was America! Centuries upon centuries, though nobody knows the exact date (and everyone has their own theory!) The exact number really doesn’t matter, but it does bring up a good question…

Exactly how long does it take to erase history?

If we become THIS MESS, we demand remembrance!

If we become THIS MESS, we demand remembrance!

Admittedly, the question was brought up thanks to another YA dystopian I’m reading– Legend by Marie Lu, which takes place in the much more recent future of 2130 AD. In those books, people tell stories and occasionally find relics from the old United States, despite the government’s best efforts to pretend it never existed. In The Hunger Games trilogy, things are a little more lucid. Katniss was taught in school that District 12 was once known as Appalachia. Plutarch knows that the country was once a democracy and what that entails, but he’s also a revolutionary and a scholar who has likely had access to information that others didn’t.

For the most part, The United States of America has been stripped from the record books. No character mentioned its existence by name. How did it disappear?

Think of oral history. Stories are passed down from generation to generation, sometimes in secret when the circumstances force it. We all know family history and fables by heart that we could share with others. It’s basically the oldest form of gossip and DAMN, the world is good at it! You’re telling us that an entire country rose up from the ashes of the dissolved governments of more than one nation over the course of many years and no one discussed it in detail?! Much like Katniss’ hunting skills, somebody passed the stories to their grandchildren under penalty of death, knowing that they’d be better off for having the knowledge. Was it so long ago that as the generations went on, nobody cared about the old world? Or is the information so dangerous and secret that only a few people, like Plutarch, are lucky enough to be privy to such knowledge?

We hope historically inaccurate Patriot Barbie survives!

We hope historically inaccurate Patriot Barbie survives!

Then there’s this: We have A LOT of freakin’ stuff! There are people that pretty much hoard patriotic symbols and signs of North American nations that would be relics in future worlds. Sure, the majority could have been destroyed by that whole totalitarian regime thing. Other things probably deteriorated with age, but not EVERYTHING. Somebody dropped a silver dollar in a field somewhere and eventually, somebody else is going to find it. If we’ve still got art that the Ancient Mayans made in 250 AD, Panem damn well has some masterpieces of American culture floating around somewhere!

It’s safe to assume that all of American history isn’t dead and gone. Our heroine is a teenage girl from the least privileged part of society, so her knowledge is both limited and subjective. Even when we learns about democracy, she’s not that impressed and doesn’t care much, given her circumstances at the time. It’s also very possible that information on what existed before Panem is kept to the wealthy with the exception of the most basic details. Of course, it’s likely twisted to make Panem look like a shining beacon of hope.

Either way, we know we’re in there somewhere! Right? RIGHT?!

Say The Ladies From Cities That Are Underwater in Panem,
The Girl With The Pearl

Their Beautiful Disaster

Along time ago I read The Hunger Games, okay maybe it was only a handful of years, but it has been awhile, and as the time has stretched on, a couple of things still get repeatedly questioned in my head where it comes to the series. How did the world go from what we all know it to be today, to what Suzanne Collins posited would happen some odd several hundred years from now? We’re all hopefully aware that the earth as we know it is ever-changing, be it geologically, and climate wise– even within the last 50 years the earth’s temperature has increased by 1.5 degrees, which to a layman means very little, but to sea levels, crop growth, arctic animals, and the global water-table, it means a great deal. Panem isn’t a far-fetched idea, I hope we’ve all come to grips with that, and are able to discern that even though it’s a work of fiction it is inspired by us– and that is a warning. What made Panem possible though couldn’t just be the downward spiral of humanity, no– natural disaster obviously had to play a role.

I live in a world that’s surrounded by volcanoes, no– I do not live in Italy, Hawaii, or Iceland– I live in the Pacific north-west (don’t come stalk me, I’m really boring). So when natural disasters are veiled to be part of the reason the world as we know it crumbles, and Panem is a country that rises up from the proverbial ashes, the idea’s frankly not all that strange to me, because I can see two active volcanoes on most days of the week, and know that the metro area I live in is due for a monster sized earthquake that will flatten everything that I know. Is this what happened to the world, to North America? Did the super volcano that is Yellowstone National Park, finally blow and take out the western United States as geologist say is bound to happen? Did the San Andres Fault finally drop San Francisco into the Pacific, as well as most of southern California. Did that monster earthquake created by the fussy subduction zone the Pacific north-west lives on finally snap, buckle, and roll– and allow the ocean to flood the land from the existing coast, past the Cascade Mountain Range, through the valleys, and into the high desert that is central and eastern Washington State, as well as Eastern Oregon and into Idaho? Did Mount Rainer, the giant 500,000 year old volcano that over looks Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington and Seattle, finally belch out that eruption the scientists keep talking about? What happened? Could be any number of things, but I can’t forget the social implications.

Suzanne Collins was inspired to write this series by switching back and forth between Iraq War footage on her TV, as well as footage of reality TV, namely probably the popular CBS series Survivor. It was also inspired by Ancient Greek Mythology, and Ancient Rome. In fact, most of the Capitol characters have Roman names, as well as several Tributes like Cato and Brutus. Rome fell, we all know that, and so did ancient Greece and its infamous city states like Sparta, known for its militaristic ideologies, and forthrightness. It’s no wonder Ms. Collins pared one of the most culturally ripe, and corrupt ages in western history with the looming global natural, and human disasters of contemporary times. It’s all around us, but are we going to do anything about it– meaning, are we going to attempt to not let our world fall like she’s posited?

Not up to me.

Them There Eyes