Monday, April 02, 2012

Privilege Exposed! Hunger Games Edition! Spoilers!

Went to see the Hunger Games last night. It's more than a week since it was released and we still had to deal with sold-out shows and long-ass lines. But it was good. It's hard to translate a first-person narrative into a movie with no narration, so huge chunks of what Katniss is thinking and large swaths of backstory are missing. And those missing things are generally the details of the socio-economic-politcal issues. But the story is basic enough to still be very strong without it.

That's not what this post is about. The author made choices throughout the book to give voice to the others of society. The poor. The not white. The people with disabilities. They are all represented. What I have found is that people's reaction to what made it into the movie (poverty, race, gender) and what didn't (disability, mental and physical) shows just where their privilege lies or doesn't.

When you are other, when you are someone who rarely gets to see images of yourself reflected in media, you are attuned to look for examples and cling to them like a life raft. If you don't have that particular flavor of oppression, and you aren't making a conscious effort to overcome privileged thinking, then those details are skipped, ignored, tuned out in an effort to make the story conform to the narrative you have for yourself.

This explains all the screaming biggots on Twitter who suddenly didn't have a tear to shed for Rue, a black girl. The movie glosses over the slavery reference regarding Distric 11 and completely eliminates the conversation about how much worse the (mostly Black) workers in 11 are treated for eating food they harvest, versus Katniss being allowed to sneak out of the fence and hunt for her family.

It explains why women and girls, who never bought into the Twilight love triangle dynamic (seriously, the Twilight trailer before the movie got major laughs. I may have said something like "Wrong audience" loudly to the screen) are so into this series. The love triangle isn't something Katniss wants. It's something forced on her. She's a survivor. She doesn't have time or energy to think about romance. And that's obvious from the book, though without her narration it's less obvious in the movie. It's Maslov's pyramid. You can't think mushy thoughts when your belly is empty.

What was left out was the disability narrative. Haymich is a man who drinks to drown out the pain of having survived the games and then watched the Capitol kill off his family whenever he even thought of stepping out of line. If you were to put it in current lingo- he very likely suffers from PTSD. Peeta loses his leg. It's not a terrible cut that magically heals. It's removed. Cut off. He literally comes out of the games having paid with a limb. Neither of these things are in the movie. Haymich cleans up his act quickly when the kids need a real mentor. Peeta gets what amounts to a deep scratch.

But unless you live with a disability, it would be easy to write off these missing plot points as superfluous, or just to hard to fit into a movie that is already very long.

And while the movie does show the poverty of the districts versus the capitol, it missed the story about the class division and colorism within district 12. Peeta, Prim and Katniss' mom are all blue-eyed, blonde-haired, delicate flowers of the merchant class. Katniss, Gale, Haymich and Katniss' dad are the black-haired, olive-skinned members of the mining class.

Now I am interested to see if they include bisexuality and coerced sex in the next movie (spoilers!!!!!!) or if that is another thing that just doesn't make it because of time constraints or a desire for a family friendly rating. I wonder how many people even picked up on that in the book.

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