But who is the capital if this is me?

There was Taylor Swift and Joy Williams reassuring coo “Just close your eyes / You’ll be alright” as the names floated up the screen. All I could picture was Katniss shrieking on the train, in Catching Fire, overcome by images of beasts with her fellow tributes eyes hounding her through the woods. Close your eyes? You’ll be alright? Of course, a propaganda melody disguised as a lullaby.

It was all I could do to not picture a montage of scenes of Peeta and Katniss’ journey to victory, a destroyed Cato shouting at Katniss of the futility of his life completely muted and only the strum of the guitar. I imagined Capital citizens replaying the best moments of the game in some sort of sick video loop and remembered Caesar Flickerman’s earlier declaration when we were treated to a tribute ramming his fellow tribute’s head with a brick, “There’s just that moment, when a tribute becomes a victor.”

And then, I wailed; partially an effort to drown out the distortions of truth but mainly it was me vomiting my adrenaline, my giddiness, my craze, my self-disgust into tears. Everyone wanted to rate the chemistry between Jennifer and Josh and all I could think that I had waited three months and paid ten dollars to get a front row seat at kids killing each other. My looks were too plain for the capital but my heart felt just as twisted.

On the ride home, Kevin and Tyler bemoaned the lack of love scenes between the star-crossed lovers. “I was waiting for Katniss to give Peeta the sleeping bag,” lamented Kevin. “And then there was no sleeping bag.”

Of course, who had wanted the District 12 tributes to cuddle together in the moldy cave? Who hadn’t wanted their “romance” played out for the audience’s (which one were we referring to again?) entertainment, with the kisses, the handholding, the remembering and the teasing? Who hadn’t begun counting down tributes once Peeta and Katniss were reunited? Who hadn’t been waiting for Foxface to perish, Thresh to die and Cato to be overcome all in the name of coal-mining tributes love for each other? I had been suckered in.

Declaring that I didn’t feel any delight at watching Cato, the villain we only knew via unfortunate camera shots, topple to the fangs of the menacing dogs, would shred my honesty.  I (and everyone else watching the spectacle on the screen) had wanted him dead and dead he would be.

The movie’s violence didn’t inhibit my sleeping patterns this weekend; I see this as a missed opportunity. This is the only Hunger Games novel that features kid-on-kid violence because the Quarter Quell will be all adults and it’s mostly refugee adults in Mockingjay. This is the only movie they’ll be able to make with the ability to sicken the audience enough to make them beg for this never to be the future. Instead, we all got PG-13 shaky camera violence, so that mothers didn’t spend all nights stroking their kids’ hairs.

Furthermore, remember this?

There’s almost always some wood,” Gale says. “Since that year half of them died of cold. Not much entertainment in that.”

It’s true. We spent one Hunger Games watching the players freeze to death at night. You could hardly see them because they were just huddled in balls and had no wood for fires or torches or anything. It was considered very anti-climactic in the Capitol, all those quiet bloodless deaths. Since then, there’s usually been wood to make fires.

I can remotely remember that knot in my stomach just considering how others spent their time revving up blood and violence—in the name of entertainment I suppose. And then I thought about Lion’s Gate shaking their cameras to diminish the appearance of the blood and violence, the horror of a knife in a back and knock to the skull, and how that really was all in the name of entertainment too. I mean, they wanted all the Prim-aged siblings to be able to attend the movie premiere as well, didn’t they? (Maybe it was only their dollars.)

There were four parts of the movie for me. In District 12, I almost pictured an empathetic Flickman sighing to himself, “The children are all they have.” I took on their dread and squirmed in my seat and when I saw McKenzie and Mallory as adolescents, I wondered if my voice could have projected with such conviction. Nothing redeemed the Hunger Games in the Seam.

I suppose I became infatuated with the Capital’s opulence too. Katniss’ snarky running monologue about their pretension and their ostentation absent, I put on their sparkling red glasses and saw the Olympics when they all rolled in on chariots. “And, always the torch at the end,” Elena pointed out about Peeta and Katniss’ flames. After Flickerman laughed jovially with the tributes in their interviews, I had officially contracted the Capital’s fever. The coal dust had been scrubbed down for glitter.

Once I could see the Games as a contest, I began calculating and strategizing and conniving and betting. Unlike the Capital, I could rest assured that no human beings would actually die in the making of my entertainment, so my imagination was free to wander and free to scheme. Caesar’s determination to give the audience a show was admirable; I perched on the rim of my seat, when Rue wasn’t pulling an arrow out of her abdomen and my hands enveloped in salt water.

I wonder how many saw Rue’s death as a necessary evil for Katniss to live. I wonder how many saw it has a mindless, senseless, spineless, cowardly “entertainment.” The rest of the tributes’ lacked her preciousness; none of them died a death that could be termed a “necessary evil.” Only the Capital would have had you believe that.

And so the propaganda piece played out and for some, the brainwashing appeared successful. Even after I had rinsed my mind, Panem buried me in its mud of amorality. Who can I say I am when I already await Catching Fire? Who can I say that I am?


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