The Island of Misfit Troikas

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 10:21 PM By crosswaysnet , In


Katniss Everdeen has a problem. Everyone who admires her wants her dead. Everyone who loves her soon will be. So what's a girl to do? Fight like Hell. It's all fatalist frustration, because she just can't seem to die. And it's not for lack of trying.  She's determined to see her one and almost love survive another round of sporting mayhem if it kills her. Unfortunately, it doesn't.

The Hunger Games have become the Hungrier Games. The unprecedented happens. The victors of previous Hunger Games must square off to appease the Hunger Gods one more time as they luxuriate in their plush vomitoriums. They're getting dyspeptic and a tickling feather won't help. Rebellion is ravaging the slave districts like a cruise ship virus. And it's putting a dent in the Capitol's menu. Used to satiating every gluttonous pang, the grumbling of a million starving bellies has become an annoyance that surround sound and 3d special effects can't drone out.

Charged with quelling the unrest with a made-for-Hallmark Channel concocted romance story, Katniss and her co-champion suitor (the ever-lovestruck, pathologically honest Peeta), fail miserably and are thrown back into the wash for one more spin cycle. If everyone in the Capitol is inebriated over the stage romance of Katniss and Peeta, the President/Emperor is not impressed. "Aim higher," he says. "Convince me." She will aim higher, but only literally. They don't, of course, succeed in stopping anything. And if they can't quell the masses or the President, the 25 year special 'Quarter Quell' Hunger Games will have to do the job.

For all the subject slaves of Panem, these Hyper Hunger Games are designed to do one thing - demonstrate that "even the strongest of them is no match for the power of the Capitol." This time, Katniss and Peeta are not expected to come out Springtime linen fresh, no matter how much the adoring public wants it. Nor will they be permitted to. Around the clock this suffocating tropical lagoon tries to poison, drown, mangle or electrocute them. As in all the previous Hunger Games the agitated guests in this death resort are roaming maniacally and armed to the teeth. There's no way out until the twenty third cannon booms, signifying only one 'Victor of Victors' remains. Most of the tributes don't believe it will happen. They strongly suspect the Gamemakers intend a twenty four cannon salute this year. Still, Peeta and Katniss keep dancing on the deck of the Titanic. It'll have to be a fast waltz, for the pace of slaughter is measured in hours, not days and weeks. We must be in Sweeps Week...

The rebels, however,  have other plans and it complicates Katniss's straightforward mission to be the one that dies for love. Yet when it comes to self-preservation, Katniss just can't help herself. If it's in her face, she eats it, kisses it or kills it. As a result she keeps herself alive - to her constant chagrin. The alliances she stumbles into are actually quite simple, and motivations even simpler. But they're not of her making, so we stumble along in the dark with her as she stubbornly refuses to admit she's not the center of  a collapsing universe.  In that, she's suddenly a recognizable teenager...

Katniss is more ready to judge in Catching Fire than she was in The Hunger Games. It's not self-righteousness.  She's just learning to live with hypocrisy. She condemns her mentor, Haymitch, for choosing solitary confinement in a bottle, while she bottles up all her potential as a woman, friend, lover and savior. She sees the image of the mother she'll never allow herself to become in the face of another tribute torn from her young children. She sees the reflection of the cracked vessel she's becoming in the howling screams of another tribute who didn't really survive her first trip into the arena. What was an abattoir the first time around becomes a whirring sausage grinder in the reunion episode. Though the depictions of dispatching violence are less descriptive, it's less that Ms. Collins is going easy on us, than that we've become inured to the horror. Just like the victor-tributes.

When the end comes, it comes quickly, with jerky convulsions. Katniss has followed her instincts, and they'll undoubtedly lead her right back onto the frontlines. It will be a madhouse, I'm sure, for her head is now a hollow echo chamber of ghosts and horrors. She has nothing to offer the masses of Panem other than her unrequited spite. She will have to bring down the Capitol, but they just can't quit her. And the oppressed have no one else to follow. This roasted bird will have to do.

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