Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/837/19831
Mockingjay: Part One
Leeds University Socialist Students member Mary Finch reviews the latest in the Hunger Games trilogy.
It's not often than mainstream cinema shows revolution - but that's exactly what the Hunger Games trilogy is all about. When we enter District 13 in Suzanne Collins' book series that inspired the films, all the districts (the poor, working class areas) are already in full rebellion against the Capitol (where the super-rich and the brutal politicians live on the fruits of the districts' labour).
Mockingjay shows the role of the masses in a revolution - the districts are depicted taking strike action, refusing to provide the Capitol with its essential goods.
This film is mainly about the leaders of the revolution trying to convince main character Katniss to take up her place as its figurehead ('the Mockingjay') and help them spread the message about the rebellion.
It's positive that Mockingjay represents groups that are oppressed in real life, and further marginalised on the big screen. Katniss, the lead character, is a working class woman. Another character, Finnick, speaks up about being 'sold by the Capitol', and being a male survivor of sexual violence, when many people believe it's not even possible for men to be raped.
Effie is made fun of in the film for her inability to adapt from the glamorous lifestyle in the Capitol to life in the districts. But her obsession with fashion and physical appearance later becomes of paramount importance. Society looks down on men and women for being interested in traditionally feminine things - while Effie's interest in them is recognised as essential when it comes to turning Katniss into the Mockingjay.
Older women with high-level careers, or any degree of power, are often demonised and attacked for it - President Coin, the leader of the rebels, receives nothing but respect.
But Mockingjay falls down at significant points. All the main characters are white; and the film's politics are confused. While showing that the masses are in action, the film's emphasis is on the role of individuals. The assumption seems to be that if Katniss plays her part as the Mockingjay, and the propaganda can be distributed to all of the districts, everyone will automatically join the struggle.
Mass movements and revolutions need leadership, but they also need socialist politics. Socialists know that ordinary people create the wealth, so ordinary people hold the power to change society. Historically, revolutions have seen strike action, mass protests and mutinies - all these things are depicted in the film.
But President Coin runs District 13 on the basis of her prerogative. A socialist revolution would empower ordinary people to decide how the struggle is organised and how society is run.
Fundamentally, nothing has changed in the new society in District 13. They have to change if a revolution is going to succeed. If the rebels succeed in implementing capitalist democracy, the repression of the Capitol might change or disappear but inequality would remain, and with it, all the prejudices that capitalism creates and uses.
Nonetheless many people will be inspired by the Hunger Games trilogy. If you consider yourself a socialist, or think we need a revolution - join Socialist Students and help us build one!
Mary has also reviewed the first two Hunger Games films, which can be found at www.socialistparty.org.uk (from issues 714 and 791 of the Socialist).
In The Socialist 10 December 2014:
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