Book II: The Games
Which is why it is a relief that Suzanne Collins pulls the rug out from under us immediately. No! She says. Psyche! This is not your little sister's paranormal romance. This is real hardcore. Fuck what you heard.
Katniss keeps her head down and blushes through the rest of the interview ceremony as the crowd goes wild, then manages to evade Peeta and the rest of her posse on the way back to the hotel. She and Peeta get out of elevators at the same time though, so she immediately, violently shoves him into a wall. He crashes into a vase and lands in the glass shards, cutting up his hands.
Effie and the rest appear then, and Katniss starts accusing Haymitch of orchestrating the whole thing. Now, in Twilight, Bella was so consistently stupid that we were always two or three steps ahead of her. It's quite a refreshing change of pace that here Katniss is always ahead of us. Her idea that Peeta's confession was some kind of cheap gimmick to win audience affection sounds ridiculous at first, but that's because we've been swept up in the theater of it like everyone else. We all have a little Twi-hard in us, after all, but Suzanne Collins doesn't want to actually exploit it. She wants to make us aware of it. Because it turns out that yes, Peeta's heartfelt confession was a cheap gimmick to win audience affection. And Peeta and Haymitch begin showing Katniss that she benefits most of all.
“He made you look desirable! And let's face it, you can use all the help you can get in that department. You were about as romantic as dirt until he said he wanted you. Now they all do. You're all they're talking about. The star-crossed lovers from District 12!” says Haymitch.
“But we're not star-crossed lovers!” I say.
Haymitch grabs my shoulders and pins me against the wall. “Who cares? It's all a big show. It's all about how you're perceived. The most I could say about you after your interview was that you were nice enough...Now I can say you're a heartbreaker. Oh, oh, oh, how the boys back home fall longingly at your feet. Which do you think will get you more sponsors?”
Katniss comes around, especially when Cinna agrees, and then worries she didn't react well enough on camera. How about this Peeta/Katniss relash, eh? Suzanne Collins has built this relationship into such a tangled, complicated thing in a hundred and thirty pages that I can't make heads or tails of it anymore. Stephenie Meyer insisted for like, a thousand fucking pages that Bella/Jacob was “It's Complicated” when really it never was. Meyer's always at rhetorical war with her own text, insisting it is something it is not. Suzanne Collins NEVER tells us or even hints at what Peeta/Katniss REALLY is, making it way more interesting.
Because it's STILL ambiguous; after this rug-pulling antiromantic moment, Katniss and Peeta have a nice scene together on the roof of the building at night. The roof of a building a night! Is there a more romantic location (other than the back row of a movie theater)?
Katniss is keeping herself awake with worry (the Games start tomorrow) so she heads to the roof for "fresh air" (i.e. the weed Haymitch is growing in the garden up there). Surprise, Peeta's already chilling. They talk and he tells her the only thing he's worried about is dying as himself. Katniss is like “as if it matters how a man falls!” and Peeta is like “when the fall is all that's left, it matters a great deal” and Katniss is like “what the fuck did we just do?” and Peeta is like “it's from The Lion In Winter.” But no, seriously, Peeta is worried about becoming all Kurtz-like out there in the wild, and Katniss references one dude who presented a PR problem for the Games when he became a cannibal mid-fight. Which is pretty gnarly, right? Shit is getting grotesque up in here. Motherfucker was eating hearts!
“Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.”-Marlow, "Heart Of Darkness"
What's funny is that Peeta isn't so dedicated to remaining pure of heart that he won't kill. Katniss is like oh so are you going to be nonviolent? and Peeta says “No, when the time comes, I'm sure I'll kill just like everybody else.” The moral relativism of The Hunger Games is interesting in that way. After the reaping Katniss only considered not murdering people for like, one second. And I'm kind of okay with that, because the other way is played out, you know? Most Superheroes have been refusing to kill since the 60s. We get it.
(Not to endlessly compare the Hunger Games to Twilight but the moral relativism there was way more fucked up and dangerous: Virginal purity was an unironic virtue; Bella and Edward's safety was routinely considered more important than the lives of dozens of innocents. And none of it was done to ironically reflect the values of Americans or the values of teen girls, it was just accidentally reflective of them. It was unthinking. Here we have moral relativism recognized as moral relativism. And that's REALLY IMPORTANT. So good job, Suzanne Collins.)
Anyway, Katniss doesn't really understand the premise of Peeta's concern. He mentions wanting to show the Capitol that he's not just a pawn, and Katniss is like, “but we are!” We've heard Katniss had a political conscience as a young girl—where did it go? Also, how weird is it that Katniss and Peeta are having such a heady argument? Was I right about Haymitch's garden?
“Dude, but like, you have to stay the person that you are even if The Man tries to mold you, you know? I mean there's games beyond the fucking Hunger Games, Katniss.”
“Holy shit what if The Hunger Games is just like a dream that god's dog is having?” I say.
Next morning Katniss boards a hovercraft with Cinna. A tracking device is implanted in her arm and she spends a few hours in the catacombs beneath the arena, in her Launch Room. We hear that she'll be the only one to ever stay there, since each Hunger Games site is preserved and people come to them in later years on vacation. Fun vacation! “And here's Plymouth Rock, the spot where Plymouth, the tribute from District 2, bashed a girl's head open. Anyone want to pose for pictures?”
Then Cinna pins that bird pin to her chest (unimportant, I'm sure) and Katniss gets onto a platform and gets lifted up to the arena. And away we go! Next time, I mean.
Stray Notes & Questions
- I guess I was assuming the whole sponsor-getting would happen before the fighting started, but we learn instead that Effie and Haymitch will be in some kind of smoke-filled backroom for the duration, making sponsorship deals and getting supplies into the arena like bootleggers. Rad! “There's games beyond the fucking Hunger Games, yo!”-Stringer Bell
- The cannibal from past games Katniss refers to is named Titus, which may or may not be an allusion to Titus Andronicus, which is basically Shakespeare's Saw movie. Seriously, it's fucked up. If you've never read it, don't.
- While we're on the subject of names: Portia, Peeta's stylist, is also a character in Julius Caesar. She's Brutus's wife, the unwitting partner of a conspirator.
- This is funny: So You've Decided To Drink More Water (The Hairpin)
- Here's a video I made this week about politics. Someone just called me cute in the comments! That's all I ever really wanted. I just want to get up there and talk about politics and have someone say "Hey, shut your pretty little mouth."