November 30, 2013

Hunger Games Catching Fire: Badass Body Count

sorry old man, I have a dress fitting to go to

Number of people killed: 15
Number of people Katniss kills: 1
Number of times she is saved by someone else: 6
Number of times she saves someone else: 0

But boy oh boy, wasn't she spectacular at practice, 9 targets in 30 seconds, and then she strings up a mannequin. Take a bow.   Badass.


For context, here is why THG is a sexist fairy tale.  It anticipates most of the criticisms.

Except one.  An insightful, even optimistic retort is that at least she's not killing, at least she's made the ethical choice to not kill anyone.

But this insight is exactly what you are supposed to think, it is an illusion, and it is why my tally above is also a lie.  She kills one person, but she is responsible for all of their deaths.  From the very beginning of the Game it was immediately true that everyone but one got killed.  From the very beginning, before anyone dies, you are guilty of  everyone's death.

That's the Game.  It's not like they went in there thinking, "I'm not going to kill anyone because I am planning to escape this Game." No one backed up their pacifism with suicide.   Katniss's thinking is basically, "I'm not butcher, but I am going to try and survive."    The movie elevates her passivity into a moral act, which it isn't, that's the trick.  This is a closed system.  Whether she shoots them down herself or waits for the psychopath in the group to do it for her, it's the same. 

What's important is that this "choice" not to kill, and the personal feeling of morality it (falsely) gives you is how the system survives.  Because you feel good about your choice, "at least I'm a good person," you fight the system much less.  You are less of a threat to the system because you are allowed to believe you're a good person and they're not.  But you're not.  You killed 15 people.  I counted them.

The true criticism of the movie isn't that it is too violent, but that it is not violent enough-- it is Disney violence, and whenever you see the word Disney you should instead see "100% in the service of the existing social structure."  The movie presents "not murdering anyone" as if it were a moral option, as if it were true; so that you are not revolted by the fact that you did kill 15 people; so that you do not fight to change the system that forces you to kill 15 people.

Just because the system tells you, "the other tributes are your enemy," doesn't mean it's a factual statement, you have to answer the Thin Red Line question: "who's doing this? Who's killing us?" 

The Game is rigged to prevent all choice but allow the illusion of choice. There are Good Samaritan laws in place which protect you from liability if you give someone CPR in good faith but inadvertently crack a rib.  But this is nonsense.  The person motivated to offer CPR NEVER thinks about a future lawsuit, he just acts; or, in the reverse, the person who is nervous about lawsuits was never going to help anyway, and thank goodness he can blame it on lawyers.  These laws have the perverse effect of allowing the us passive aggressive techonauts to observe events rather than intervene in events.  "Come on, what am I going to do, you know the litigious world we live in, besides, we have paramedics for that."  So you're telling me that, i.e. for example, my child got hit by a car on the street and instead of Airway-Breathing-Circulation your plan was to shift to Landscape mode?  "Well..." You better burn off your fingerprints and move to Siberia.

There's going to be some who will respond with the obvious: "yes, but the fact is, not killing is better than killing-- or do you think putting a gun to someone's head is really the exact same as not doing that?"  And some will counter-retort that it's like war, if you send soldiers to fight you are responsible for their killings.   Both arguments miss the point completely: NOT killing is better FOR HER, because then SHE doesn't have to feel any guilt.  But everyone dies ANYWAY.  Not killing is entirely a selfish act, not a moral one, if my kid gets hit by a bus the driver at least did it by accident, you CHOSE to not help, you are WORSE, see also Steubenville.  "But they did the rape!"  But they did it for you to see, do you not get it?

It looks like Katniss is free to make personal decisions, but no matter what her free brain decides, everyone around her dies as planned, huh, that's odd.  The only "free" choice, the only way to beat the Game, is not to play.  If you really wanted to be a moral agent in such a terrible environment, you'd have to convince the other tributes to all agree not to fight each other, knowing full well that the soldiers will therefore come-- that is the point of the maneuver, to expose the evil of the system instead of allowing them their deniability, "oh, we don't kill anyone, the kids kill each other!"  You have to sit there and Prisoner's Dilemna the hell out of this and hope none of the other tributes breaks ranks and opens fire.  It is the only anti-system choice short of revolution.

The response that this maneuver puts the individual Districts in danger, too, is, unfortunately, part of the deal. The genius of the system is that it never puts everyone at risk, it presents them with a lie: only these Tributes are at risk. If the Districts themselves don't want blowback, "we don't want trouble", if they "want" to maintain the status quo, they have to send people to participate.  You don't send a Theseus, you send a Katniss, which they did, hence another round of Hunger Games.  She'll look heroic, she'll perform badassly, and nothing will change, which it didn't, which is why even though she won the first movie there was a second movie.  

There's going to be some of you who will be confused, "are you saying Suzanne Collins planned this?  No way!  You've totally misinterpreted--"  No, no.  Collins wrote the story, yet she is not aware herself of what she wrote; she couldn't have written the story any other way than from a narcissistic perspective because that's all she knows living in this world; or, to reverse it, had she known, had she written a different kind of story with a different kind of hero, it would never have been published, let alone made into movies, we'd be on Twilight 7.

It's here that I should SPOIL that the revolutionaries who do finally fight the system DON'T EVEN TELL HER ABOUT IT.   Everyone around her is extraordinarily heroic and self-sacrificing, they literally drag her bad ass to the finish line at the cost of their own lives, so that she can survive as a symbol, and the rest of you dummies think she is the hero.  Only a taught narcissistic psychology would SEE her as heroic when right in front of you and your eyeballs you can observe she is the least heroic of all.  I'm not blaming you, this is the training we all got.  The sleight of hand of such movies is that it presents an entirely different society (full totalitarianism) in the context of TODAY, in the context of narcissism as expected, as ok, so meaningless acts become exciting and meaningful acts are obscured. Huh, Mags blew herself up with poisoned gas.  Ah well, she was old.

But in totalitarianism, there are no individual acts-- that's the whole point of the totalitarian structure, that's what it wants, what it wants you to become. Your acts appear personal and individualized but conform beautifully, they are no threat.  It would NEVER occur to a real Hunger Games hero to show off for upper management, which is why no one else did it, that would be a meaningless act, only we today would applaud this, which we did, loudly.  Badass.  Not to go ancient history on you, but Achilles was the equivalent of a comic book superhero to young boys for two thousand years, it would never have occurred to any of them to applaud him for his trick shots.  It wouldn't have made sense. It doesn't make sense.  It is madness.

There are some earnest attempts to apply Game Theory to the Hunger Games, what is the optimal solution?  But unfortunately the people who do this are bad at math.  Let me try to explain.  If 2 tributes are to be randomly selected from a District of, say, 1000 people, then the probability of you being killed is...... 100%.  You can double check me if you want, but the math is correct.  And-- and this is the point-- the math becomes correct if and only if you think it isn't.