Timing is everything.
On Thanksgiving, after covering a meal for the not-so-fortunate and writing about a little Alamosa girl who is taking a stand against bullies after falling victim to a group of ruthless girls, there was a late night, in home screening of the blockbuster hit, Hunger Games. It was meant only to pass a few hours, really nothing more or nothing less. It turned into an exercise of sorts, a keeping tabs on what is in and what is out and a method to understand the cool. When it was all over, the feasting, the writing and the movie, the day’s events became a glimpse into something far beyond a story, entertainment, a job or a way to fill a couple of hours.
The movie is about a society that has embraced reality television and a corrupt government. The 74th Annual Hunger Games challenges 24 young people known as tributes to death as a means to prevent district wars, and it supports media hype that rivals the 2012 presidential election. It paints a picture of a peculiar tomorrow and a frightening interpretation of how to keep the peace.
Throughout the entire film, it was hard not to think of the holiday passed working. While the blood spilled and the lies unfolded, thoughts of those gathered around La Puente’s tables for a free Thanksgiving meal and fourth grader Isabella Griffin kept circling around the room and became ever so distracting.
In the beginning, it was trying to understand how someone could place the word “hunger” next to “games” and make a million dollars. Hunger is a game, there are winners and losers everyday, but not the kind anyone should line up to pay to watch.
Towards the end, it was trying to understand why more people don’t watch international news. People are decapitated, gutted and blown to pieces everyday in reality. Their hair, however, isn’t perfect, which might be the reason the substitute is preferred. International anchors, however, are rather glamorous, but they’re not the ones doing the killing, they only point out the most brutal of moments.
While making a bold move out into an open field to acquire much needed medication for her partner, the Hunger Games heroine, Katniss, feels a competitor’s wrath. Out of nowhere, the small girl comes running and before a reaction is almost possible, throws a knife at Katniss, making a disabling gash that permits the hunter to pin her mercilessly. Instead of immediately slitting Katniss’ throat with a knife designed to carve into the deepest, toughest places of a body, she taunts her. She asks her where her savior, her lover boy, is now, and demeans everything about her play. She humiliates her with pride, arrogance and joy.
The ruthless girls that gave bullying headlines and a spot on the news might not have held a knife to her throat, but whatever they said to little Isabella slit her so that she is fighting for a thousand Mini Moose. But how will her purple, blue and white Be a Buddy, Not a Bully bracelets stand up to the accepted, revered, bought and paid for message of pain, fear and power? How can she compete with Hollywood? How can she stop the images that fester like wounds in society? Until they begin to heal, Isabella could very well again hear words that cut like daggers while grappling for her life, making the headlines they say sell newspapers.
There could be a twist, however, like the one that keeps the fictional heroine alive. In the film, another child trying to win hears the bully’s farewell speech that includes a sardonic lament for Rue, a nine-year-old tribute speared to death. He is so touched that he breaks her neck and sets Katniss free. She is able to heal her partner and the torn flesh above her eye, giving way to the inevitable victory of the silver screen. Could the catharsis, too, carry over from such fantasy into reality, and the lesson that it upstages? Will Isabella survive the game out of compassion?
Timing is everything, and next year, maybe Thanksgiving should be spent doing nothing more than giving thanks, and not messing with the whole lot.