SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT
Last Friday I watched ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ with my family back in North Dakota. Although critics are making superficial comparisons to ‘1984’ and ‘Battle Royale’, the film this most reminded me of was the John Sayles classic ‘Eight Men Out’.
The big reveal at the end of the film is that Katniss and the audience are told that the fix was in on the 75th annual hunger games, and that at least half of the “champions” were actively trying to throw the games on her behalf.
Naturally, Katniss is shocked and outraged, most likely because as most viewers noted, this mockery of the sport was probably done for the financial gain of gamblers and gangsters living in Pan Em. Presumably the other victors were promised a portion of the winnings and they were all on their way to depositing their money in an offshore bank account dubiously labelled “District 13.”
Even though this comes as a surprise, in the end, it should have been obvious that the champions in the arena had no concern for the integrity of the event. Some are given mildly humanizing reasons for wanting to throw the hunger games. Like knuckleballer Eddie Ciccotte in 1919, the girl from “Donnie Darko” is clearly disgruntled with her meager earnings from the hunger games she previously won, going so far as to call out President Snow on live television for being a cheapskate. Others, like Jeffrey Wright, seem merely opportunistic in their efforts. His character, “Beetee”, even admits that for him the game is less about killing people then it is about “staying alive”, and it’s pretty disgusting when you realize he’s only a ‘team player’ after the “allies” have already agreed to lose on purpose.
It’s not just the objective, monetary concerns, or the possibility of revolution, that makes this mockery of the hunger games so disconcerting. How can you measure the magnitude of Panem’s disenchantment when they realize that the hunger games were all a sham? That those heroes who they thought were trying their hardest, were actually just going through the motions out of vainglorious self-interest.
Joe Dimaggio once said that he always gave his all because “somewhere out there in the stands is a kid who’s never seen me play before.” (not an exact quote)
Apparently Beetee, Johanna, Finnick and their fellow conspirators don’t give a shit about the fans. They couldn’t care less that there is a whole new generation of children who had not witnessed their previous victories in the hunger games. They are in it for the sponsors, because someone told them so.
I would like to see a deleted scene where President Snow tries to console his grand-daughter, attempting to shield her from the truth that the champions were tainted and the next year’s games will be ‘different.’ (I would also like to see a deleted scene where Peeta and Haymitch follow naked Johanna out of the elevator, leaving Katniss to stand there awkwardly, accompanied by a sad trombone).
Is this film a satire or an allegory? No, I think the director deserves a lot of credit for using this fictional universe to highlight what is wrong with sports today. It seems as if the audience is not necessarily supposed to side with the “victors” in the end, instead, like Katniss, feel disenchanted with the process and distraught over the feeling that she is just a pawn in bigger, more sinister games.
Prior to the games themselves, there is plenty of allusions to PEDs and the dishonorable means athletes resort to to gain an unfair advantage. Two of the champions are dubbed the “morphlings” due to their addiction to banned stimulants. One of the girls is shown with disfigured teeth, like a vampire, which is possibly a ‘hunger games’ equivalent to testicular shrinkage caused by steroids. And what exactly is in that sugar cube Finnick is eating? Do we really think he’d pass a drug test after sucking on that?
After watching this, I realized that like in the ‘Hunger Games’, we sports fans are currently witnessing all kinds of attacks on athletic integrity, and that the players in today’s events are far more concerned with their own self-image and personal incentive than the greater glory of the game. We thought that Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, et al, were role models. They were nothing of the sort. We are left defending the indefensible, having to apologize for scum like Shawn Merriman only because we invested so much time already in watching them cheat.
Is there anything to be done about this? Unfortunately, as in real life, the ‘Hunger Games’ offers no easy solutions, other than to point out that the real ‘losers’ are those who unknowingly play alongside the cheating scum, people like Katniss Everdeen who are left to wallow in misery at the unfairness of the world. The plucky underdog. The resourceful utility infielder. They are the ones who are truly crushed by the machinery of modern sports culture.
And of course, the children.
Lastly, I don’t get the whole Peeta thing. That is, why would anyone hope for Katniss to end up with Miley Cyrus’ dopey ex-fiancee, over ANYONE? Why does that even make sense? Also, how is Katniss not in love with Peeta? The whole time we are told that she is “faking her feelings”, except she constantly looks out for him and tries to keep him safe, and share intimate moments with him, and even snuggles. I guess it’s because they don’t have sex. Katniss can’t possibly love Peeta because they’re not having sex on the train. As far as we know. Those who point out how they (or the actors) are mismatched as a couple because Peeta is too short or they don’t have sex are probably failing at life. But that’s just one Dakota’s opinion.