Dystopia: Real or Not Real?
Yesterday, I finally got around to watching Mockingjay (Part 1), the final instalment of the Hunger Games trilogy.
Although this post will focus less on the plot than on several interesting observations I made, I’ll do the honors of making a brief statement on what I thought of the movie as a whole first: as someone who did go through the ‘Hunger Games’ phase and yes, did have a major crush on Finnick for the longest time, the movie did bring back the memories of my literary obsession. But I felt as if the movie was quite bland, stuffed with lots (and lots) of gadgety, explosive scenes for… well, for what reason I’d like to know myself. I wish they’d focused more on character and relationship development, but I guess that’s modern day, profit-making movie corporations for you. A shame. At least I was left in massive anticipation for Mockingjay (Part 2), which at least will give me some sense of closure!
Anyhow, despite my minor disappointment with the movie as a whole, there was something about what I saw that gave me chills – in a good or not so good way, you decide.
What struck me particularly about the movie was the realization that, despite its clearly fictional dystopian setting, a lot of the themes covered in the movie are hollow echoes of our reality. When the Capitol censors Peeta’s stint on television after Katniss’ ‘propo’ gets through the system: censorship and the hacking of intelligence systems. When the peacekeepers shoot members of districts for ‘sedition’: suppression of freedom of speech. When the population of Panem rise up against the Capitol, in complete disregard for their safety and in astounding unison: so many of the revolutions and protests we have witnessed several times in 2014 alone.
The label of ‘dystopia’ doesn’t cover that which is so obvious, which is the fact that a lot of the things in the Hunger Games are tangible and real. Having witnessed the Umbrella Revolution (i.e. Occupy Central) for myself, I know what it is like to see crowds of people coming together for a common purpose; the conviction that buzzes in a crowd of thousands is electric, much like the atmosphere of solidarity that is painted in various districts of Panem. When I watched President Snow justifying the murder of innocent men and women for having emblazoned the symbol of the Mockingjay, I was repulsed and upset. But look into any newspaper and there are so many examples of governments taking the lives of their own citizens: the recent scandal in Mexico where 43 students were killed is one such example. Going further back in history, during the ‘dirty war’ in Argentina from 1976-1983, countless numbers of people went missing in the hands of the government. The idea of freedom of speech and censorship is also astoundingly relevant in this day and age: just two months ago, the Chinese government sentenced an Uighur professor to life in jail for advocating independence in the province of Xinjiang, and there are definitely many more examples across the globe that, very frighteningly, we don’t even know of.
And I find that terrifying. Perhaps Suzanne Collin’s fictional world isn’t so fictional after all.
If you are planning on watching Mockingjay, keep this in mind. When our reality contains so many parallels to a dystopia, we need to be conscious of how this is so. We cannot be ignorant about the human rights abuses that are happening across the world, nor the abuse of government power against the underdogs. Because this is our world, and we’re not going to get another one.
If Peeta were somehow to be brought to our world and witness the Umbrella Revolution, the fighting in Ukraine, the actions of online spying agencies, censorship across the globe from China to Venezuela, and we asked him real or not real? I wonder what his response would be. And I hope you wonder the same.