Two types of moviegoers will descend the theaters this weekend and flood Liongate’s coffers: those seeking entertainment — and those craving transcendence. The majority of folks who will make Mockingjay Part 1 a $400 million domestic milestone will not pour over Suzanne Collins’ prose or hang out on District 12 message boards. They will not wrap themselves in blankets, sip hot chocolate, and analyze the manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder that persists in previous victors. Some will perch enraptured and some will clandestinely text but they will stroll from the theater potentially intrigued but now disengaged.
I fall into the second camp.
Some of primary motivations for screening film adaptations of beloved books stem from a desire to visually ingest covert, longing glances, Capitol luxury, and Games’ shock and awe. My imagination does not always do justice to opulence or wretchedness. But I don’t pay to see details on a page turn into sets, props and gestures.
I spend money for truth.
I’m not spending my free time scrolling through slide shows of a gaunt and jagged Homs cityscape, but damned if I don’t see its ghosts in the ruins of Panem. I lack active and mutual relationships with Iraq or Afghanistan War mentally devastated veterans, but Katniss’ disorientation and anguish will never be abstract realities for so many Americans. I refuse to be emotionally manipulated by ISIS’ beheading YouTube submissions, but never forget that the “good guys” have their personal propaganda machine too. An uprising, an insurrection, a movement, they have the propensity to be cast romantically time zones away, but behind each one (failed and successful — whatever that means) throngs of people have left the humdrum of the status quo. Some of them have even swapped that stability, that ennui, that control, for death.
All of the films have been meta. After the first Hunger Games film, I slunk back to my house, a shell of my prior enthusiasm, questioning how my anticipation may have rivaled that of Panem’s most privileged. Surely, I wasn’t enthusiastic about watching children die. (Because they weren’t real children so it was cool, right?) It still doesn’t sit right when you discover your commonalities with the oppressor.
While amping myself for Catching Fire, I critiqued Red Carpet fashion. I devoured every Jennifer Lawrence think-piece in existence. I freely dispersed page views and video minutes to articles which elevated commercialism, stardom, and transience. Multiple of them focused on the artistry behind President Snow’s lavish party. This is of course the scene where Effie reminds her stars “There will be photographers, interviews, everyone here will be to celebrate you.” (“People are starving in Twelve. Here they’re just throwing it up to stuff more in,” says Peeta later.)
On November 20, 2014 I remembered a “real life” version of Mockingjay with more horrifying production values and a crushed movement and no end to the suffering in sight. Real or not real, these headlines?
“How do you bear it?” I ask.
Finnick looks at me in disbelief. “I don’t, Katniss! Obviously I don’t. I drag myself out of nightmares each morning and find there’s no relief in waking. Better not to give in. It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.”