I just saw Catching Fire at the movie theater, and its impact was much more profound than the first movie and reading all three books, and it has everything to do with El Salvador.
The difference is that this time, watching the second film in the series, I knew that it is all real, and it was shocking to see l reality on a large screen while I reclined in an excessively cushy theater seat. I know it is real because I have been living in El Salvador, where revolution and repression and uprising are part of regular vocabulary, where the violent incarnation of this is still fresh in the memory. I was reading a movie review that said:
“Catching Fire makes use of the simply horrific circumstances of this futuristic world and calls us out on the things that could go wrong. This isn’t mere fantasy: Suzanne Collins (the author of the books) makes it feel like this could actually happen, if we let it.”
It could actually happen? Futuristic? This is something that is happening, and that has already happened. It is the history of revolution. Think of the film as representing the Occupy Movement, with The Capital as the 1% and all the districts as the 99%. And the game? It’s capitalism and global economics. Because the thing is that everybody’s playing the game, but the odds will ever be in favor of The Capital, because they created the game. The game of capitalism is designed in such a way that only the 1% (the mega-rich, the owners of everything) can ever really win, and the rest of the districts will constantly be pitted against each other for meager winnings. In this game of survival, the genius of the creators of the game is that the other districts turn into one another’s enemy, while The Capital maintains this sort of protector-provider role, even while they are the ones coordinating the carnage.
El Salvador, like most of Latin America, is a country of extremes, and has historically been divided into a numerically tiny upper class that controls nearly all of the economy and property, and a giant lower class that has hardly anything but their numbers. Similarly with global leadership, there are the leaders of the few wealthy countries that control the economy, then there’s all the leaders of rest of the world. In the 1970’s and 1980’s in El Salvador, thousands of people decided that it was no longer ok that the few feast at the expense of the famine of the masses, and so they started demanding changes. (things like possibilities for poor farmers to own land, end to indentured servanthood, fair democratic government…)
The people who held the power were afraid of these ‘deviants’, so they started responding violently. Leaders of other bigger, more powerful countries were also afraid that this kind of ‘deviant’ behavior could catch on in their own backyards and disrupt the fragile system that was working so well (for those few of them). So they sent millions of dollars to combat the movement. But for every movement leader that was killed, a hundred more desperate campesinos came up in their place, much in the way that Rue’s death spurred the bold actions of her fellow District 11-ites, who suffered death for daring a 3 finger salute. Meanwhile, the powers that be were fighting desperately to distract everybody else from what was going on. The desperate campesinos were portrayed as uneducated terrorists in the limited media coverage they got, and meanwhile the rest of the world was being urged to consume more and more, for each man to fight his personal battle of achievement and wealth.
The violence and in-humanity of the conflict in El Salvador was far more grotesque than that of The Hunger Games, and like in the books, there is little resolution in the ending. In El Salvador, the revolution is still happening. There is still poverty and hunger and wealth and excess. I know this because of the brave people I work with there who remember their history, and who work every day to create a world with justice and equality for all.
And I challenge any of you who have seen the movie or who are going to see it, think beyond the scary flesh-eating monkeys or the complicated love triangle (although, I wouldn’t dare deny that those are important and valid parts of the film) and to consider how it might actually reflect our current reality. In what ways might we, the privileged classes in the U.S., beThe Capital? In what ways might we be distracting ourselves from what is really going on in the world around us? Where are the District 12’s? Who are the Katnisses of our world?