Fierce Nerditude: Catching Fire: In Which The Romantic Plot Tumor Eats The Rest of the Book

Monday, March 19, 2012

Catching Fire: In Which The Romantic Plot Tumor Eats The Rest of the Book

Okay, yeah, I'm doing this again. I just had to.

This is much longer than the last post, but I still couldn't touch half of the issues I came upon while reading. The TL;DR version of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins is this:

In Part 1, we hear the story of how an Evil Empire gets in the way of a teenage love triangle. Which is unforgivable *shakes fist*. Spoiler: President Snow ships Peeta/Katniss. He's also either hacking up blood in his spare time or a vampire.

In Part 2, Katniss wears a cool outfit that looks like coal and is weirdly preoccupied with Johanna's breasts, which are mentioned no fewer than three times. In contrast, Finnick's crotch is only mentioned once.

In Part 3, we get the 75th Hunger Games. People die to save Katniss and Peeta. They really shouldn't. Also, Katniss comes out as pro child labor (1). Johanna hits Katniss upside the head and cements her title as my favorite character in the series.

Without further ado, here are a few of my problems with Book 2 in the Hunger Games trilogy.

1. Catching Fire: Where internal continuity and logic get kicked in the face.

Gale won’t take Katniss’s money, but will let her hunt to feed his family. This makes no sense, for obvious reasons. If he’s being honorable in not wanting to take from her, why does he feel okay taking her meat and not her money? Also, why the heck is he denying money, aka potential food, to his apparently near starving family? One of the children is four, and the others are also in the early adolescent/preadolescent should-be-growing-like-crazy age range. It’s one thing if there isn’t any way of getting food, but if there is one and you deny them, you’re totally screwing them over for life.

Katniss hates the waste of food but doesn’t resent the ermine and jewel encrusted clothing that Cinna keeps making for her. I mean, come on, if anything is wasteful it’s fashion, and she never asks Cinna to take it down in terms of expense. Relatedly, Katniss finds the waste of food abhorrent in this book. She did it without care in the last one (in what I will henceforth be calling The Cookie Atrocity), as I pointed out before. There was also the example that got less fanfare of her throwing away entrails—rabbits’ organs are all edible to humans. She just throws away food and then acts like she’s morally superior to Capitol citizens who do the same. Not to mention when Peeta throws the alcohol away and this is portrayed as him being a good and righteous person. You can drink that for calories, you know. It shouldn’t be your only source, but it really can help assist weight gain.

Katniss says that a trip to the Black Market would’ve been too risky for most in District 12, but that’s completely unfounded. At the beginning of this very book she ran into a Peacekeeper while buying liquor and the only thing he said to her was that the liquor itself was too strong for her.

Early in the book, Katniss says that the Victory Tour is to scare the other Districts in between games. Later on she says that victors are symbols of hope.

At the beginning of one chapter she pulls an arrow on Finnick for no real reason and then a few pages later she says she'd hoped that there would be some kind of reluctance in the arena. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! YOU WERE THE FIRST ONE TO TRY AND KILL ANYONE. And the BS about Peeta being better than the rest of the tributes is just that; BS. He murdered that girl from District 8 in cold blood very early on in the 74th games. The narrative needs to stop worshiping the ground these two walk on, especially Peeta. It gets very exhausting.

Katniss says she doesn’t have many female friends because girls are ‘obsessed with clothes’ and she finds them boring except… she clearly doesn’t. Her descriptions of clothing are so involved that I just wanted her to shut up. So yeah. She obviously cares very deeply about clothing. Also, how on Earth could people who are allegedly living hand-to-mouth be engaging in consumer culture of any kind?

Katniss says she can’t watch suffering despite leaving Cato to die slowly overnight before finally putting an arrow through his head. Why not do it two minutes in instead of several hours later? She literally waits the whole night before mercy killing him. Jeez.

There’s so much more, but I’m going to stop as this section is now officially longer than a page in Microsoft Word. I'm sure you get the picture.

2. Panem: Magically Defying The Basic Logic of Economics

Okay, where the heck does the Capitol get graphite? District 13 secretly being nukes does not answer this question. They can’t firebomb District 11: all of their food grows there, except maybe the livestock in District 10. {{SPOILER: And how the heck is the Capitol going to get coal now? It’s implied that coal is a major commodity, used to heat homes, etc, etc. No coal miners, no coal. Where’s it gonna come from, President Snow?}} They put themselves in a stupid situation, and the books are acting like the best idea isn’t just to evacuate a bunch of Districts and wait it out ‘til the folks in the Capitol starve to death. War? What war? You don't need a war.

Not to mention the smallness of District 12 in comparison to other Districts makes no sense. District 12's population is supposed to be only a small fraction of 11's. They have a low population and produce coal, an apparent necessity, and yet people can simply choose to work in other professions (Peeta's family, black market, Katniss's mother), they don't work until they're 18 (and a good deal of the population must be children, because most families seem to have a bunch of kids), and can simply choose not to work (Hazelle). How does this work out? It's a logistical mystery.

3. Everything’s all about Katniss.

She’s on the resistance banners, and apparently she gave them the strength for an uprising? She never really did anything subversive. They couldn’t have acted on behalf of their own tributes? Katniss didn’t do anything creative. She did something obvious. Killing yourself for the cause, the idea of martyrdom is very simple, especially in a no-win situation where death was always a large, looming possibility. It’s so obvious, in fact, that they try to prevent it by keeping the helicopters and roof contained so tributes can’t jump to their deaths.

Peeta offers the families money, and apparently Katniss’s speech gets the District 12 salute. WHYWHYWHY? The two runaways, Bonnie and Twill, say that the rebellion is on her side. No. The rebellion is on the Districts’ side, not one person’s.

Furthermore, the lie about Katniss being pregnant: What is up with the Capitol’s reaction? I was wondering when I read the first book what they would do if one of the kids was knocked up, but then I face palmed at my own silliness. They murder twenty-four kids every year—of course they don’t care if one of the girls is pregnant. Except apparently they do? Apparently the idea of Katniss having a baby in her while she’s in the Games is enough to make the citizens of the Capitol flip out. THEY KILL 24 KIDS PER YEAR. ONE YEAR THEY EVEN KILLED 48, JUST BECAUSE THEY COULD. WHERE IS THE LOGIC?

Obviously, the answer is simple. They really don’t care about killing kids in general--they care about killing Katniss's magic assuredly awesome super baby.

And the ending scheme was interesting, but the whole point was to save Katniss. Why? Because she's "the Mockingjay"? I don't even know how to explain how ridiculous that is. It really makes no sense. Unless we suddenly find out this universe also has magic. Which would be horrible.

Katniss is just. That. Special.

Katniss goes to District 8 in the beginning of the book, but we don't get any detail. Bonnie and Twill tell us that while she was there, they were having a rehearsal for the start of their rebellion. Why didn't we get any hints for this? Because Katniss was too preoccupied with her stupid love triangle.

And Katniss wasn't involved in the ending plan either: We learn all the deets after the fact. Seriously, this story needs to be about Johanna.

4. Act of rebellion? What act of rebellion?

None of the allegedly badass, super disobedient, stick-it-to-the-man acts that Katniss/Peeta do are actually rebellious in the slightest, even though the text keeps saying they are. The flowers on Rue? Where is the rebellion here? The berries? It was just so both she and Peeta could both go back alive; no one else was allowed to survive. The painting and hanged dummy in the training session? No one but the gamemakers saw them. It’s made all the worse by the fact that Katniss knows they’ve already decided to off her. Behave however the heck you want, you ineffectual clod. You’re gonna die anyway, right?

The bits where all the Tributes started talking about not wanting to be there, etc, etc, was cool, but how did no one do this before? I was shouting about it since the last book. But of course, Katniss wasn’t in on it (even though Cinna was??) When Johanna shouted about the war in the middle of the Games, that was awesome. {{SPOILER:  And of course, the effective real act of rebellion where they escape from the Games was neat, but it was all stuff Katniss has nothing to do with.}} Why isn’t this book about Johanna?

5. If you can’t write romance, don’t.

Peeta is completely codependent on Katniss. After the games, rather than having dreams about the gruesome things he’s seen in the arena, he apparently only has dreams about her. Wow. That is ridiculous.

The entire first third of the book is the horrible Gale/Katniss/Peeta thing. The rest of the book is about the lame Peeta/Katniss thing. Loving Katniss is Peeta’s only reason for living, apparently. And Katniss? She’s not 100% on whether she’s in love with Peeta (she obviously is, stop trying to be coy about it, narration) but she’s willing to die for him. Because she just thinks he’s a better person than her. For some reason.

The author even writes that Katniss could “live a hundred lifetimes and never deserve” Peeta. That is screwed. Up.

It’s not romantic. It’s unhealthy.

In the end Katniss refuses to eat because of Peeta being kidnapped. That’s going to solve things, amirite?

Guess who I think she’s going to wind up with? Like it could be more obvious.

For all of Dragon Ball Z’s faults, at least it didn’t subject us to the development of the Vegeta/Bulma romance. Take a leaf out of that book, Collins.


6. Informed poverty and starvation.

Katniss doesn’t behave like someone who’s suffered, been in poverty, hasn’t eaten: she is beautiful, educated, has conveniently good manners. She even has enough boob to point out that she’s lost some, despite the complete unlikelihood of both this and her being poorly fed (one of them isn’t true, and it seems like the latter). Poorly fed people aren’t very traditionally attractive; hell, considering her circumstances of starving at eleven and then having to hunt and physically exert herself while still being underfed for years, she probably shouldn’t even have gone through puberty—a starving body is trying to keep you alive, and puberty would fly in the face of your body’s will because the more one grows the more calories one needs.

"Oppressed" people like Katniss shouldn't be educated—especially since they point out the schools are supposed to teach only coal mining things—then how does she know convenient trivia facts like the origin of pearls?

Additionally, in the first book, when Effie makes the offhand comment about the other kids from District 12 being slobs, she wipes her hands on the tablecloth. Later, she smashes a bunch of plates and glasses in her rage at the empire, to punish them. If she thought like a poor or underprivileged person, she wouldn’t think of those things as punishing the Capitol. She was not punishing the Capitol. They could afford to replace everything. She was punishing the servants who’d have to clean up her messes.

Katniss isn’t a poor kid from District 12. She is contextually their better in every way—she has had her upbringing because the author says so, but she isn’t in any small way hobbled by the near inevitable downfalls of her origins. She’s not a poor girl overcoming. The book makes sure it lets you know she’s better than those peons, even in all of the ways that wouldn’t have kept her from winning the Games. Katniss is just a speshulsnowflakeOMG.

7. Informed suffering (other than starvation and poverty).

No matter how injured (physically or mentally) Katniss is, it never stops her from doing a darn thing. This is actually in the last book and this one, though I didn’t notice how bad of a pattern it was until just now. Katniss breaks her heel and then walks on it the whole way home (which also doubles as stupid, because you can walk on the ball of your foot). We’re told that Katniss is suffering from horrible nightmares after the Games, but her trauma doesn’t hobble her in day to day life. If she’s supposed to be traumatized from having murdered people, then how can she continue to try and kill people for absolutely no reason? She pulls a bow on Bonnie (or was it Twill?) and aims immediately for a kill shot (her eye). She is also the first tribute in the 75th games to take aim at another tribute (Finnick). It really should not be that easy for her. These are just two examples.

8. Poor research on addictions and mental illnesses.

There’s so much general bad research that if I try to put it all together, I’m gonna scream, so instead I’ll focus in on mental illnesses and addictions.

Haymitch does not behave like a real alcoholic. In the beginning of the last Games he just decides to keep sober enough to help them? Okay, alcoholics don’t just decide not to drink when it’ll be inconvenient to be drunk and succeed. If it were that simplistic, no one would have a drinking problem.

If Katniss was mentally affected by her time in the arena it wouldn’t just go on and off with sleep. It should be affecting her while she’s awake too. If murder has traumatized her, the idea of killing again should bring up difficulty and while the author says it does, it never actually happens when the time comes—she just gets right on the killing without a second thought (when she nearly shot the then-unknown woman in the Peacekeeper uniform, anyone?). It’s a very convenient psychological issue (most likely a badly portrayed version of post traumatic stress disorder) to just stay out of the way when she needs it to.

Annie. Seriously, why does the book insist there’s something wrong with her? I had to go back to the only time she actually makes an appearance to double check if I missed something. AND I QUOTE: “A hysterical young woman with flowing brown hair is also called from [District] 4, but she’s quickly replaced by a volunteer…” What about that makes Katniss think back to this and call Annie a “poor, mad girl”? Where is the contextual evidence? All I can say is that this is a bit of awful, awful writing.

Also, the morphling addicts… where do I start? For one thing, why on Earth are they thin? No opioids that I know of do that by themselves (and ‘morphling’ seems to be a stand in for ‘morphine’): choosing to do opioids instead of eating does that. But they have plenty of money, so they can easily both eat and get high. Katniss even points this out and says the female “morphling” addict could easily afford food, but apparently the two addicts chose morphine as their sustenance. Morphine doesn’t have any calories, so if she didn’t eat, how is she alive? Honestly, Collins can make her own rules about her make-believe drugs, but it stinks of more research she was too lazy to do. I feel like the addicts’ whole involvement with the plot was a badly done anti-drug PSA.

In conclusion, alcoholism has no truly major consequences, but don’t do drugs kids, or you’ll try to hug a mutant ape and die!

9. More sexist characterization.

No female is both contextually competent and significant to the plot except for Katniss, unless they’re going to get killed or just disappear from the story. Even Hazelle who is supposed to be competent is incapable of helping to feed her family, a task left entirely to Gale and Katniss. Needless to say, this carries very unfortunate implications. My English professor once led a discussion when the class was discussing feminist literature: ‘The difference between male/female equality and overcoming the lack of a penis’.

See, Katniss isn’t portrayed as the equal of men and women in general aren’t portrayed as equals of men. There are no other women who hunt and provide. She’s better than other women because she’s overcome her not-maleness, not because girls can do these things too if they set to it. Moreover when they talk about Katniss and Madge’s new found friendship, the first thing the book does is call all girls gossipy, boy obsessed, and clothes obsessed.

Additionally, there’s a nasty pattern of mothers never being providers, even when it’s utterly necessary. Katniss’s mother: couldn’t provide for family initially so it was left entirely to Katniss, and she’s too weak to be in on Katniss’s real problems now. Gale’s mother: sympathetic but never got a sufficient job, and she doesn’t provide. Madge’s mother is bedridden with headaches, implied never to work because of this. Peeta’s mother actually did work, but the book portrays her as pretty much evil. Not a good pattern.

There’s also a lot of fridging—that is, the killing of female characters purely for dramatic value. More info on individual examples below.

Collins also has a bad habit of talking about women like animals, or beneath other people for various other reasons. It’s really terrible. She also puts all women in textual competition, even when there’s no games and no reason to do so. None of the women are competent and significant, except Johanna and maybe Katniss (and, actually, the narration keeps insisting that she’s inferior to Peeta even though she blatantly is not). You know what? It’s getting so bad, I’m gonna have to do a girl list. Dig it.


The narration readily volunteers that she’s incapable of doing any stereotypically “girly” things. She’s also emotionally stupid beyond all belief and it’s regularly asserted by the narration that she is Peeta’s inferior. Don’t get me wrong, she’s awful, but not in the ways the text says she is.

Hell, even she gets the short end of the gender stick. When Chaff kisses her against her will people only think this is worthy of being laughed at. Yup, sexual assault: it’s for the lulz. And how is it that nobody ever points out that the idea of Peeta ‘protecting’ her is utterly absurd? He’s got one good leg and is a raging incompetent in the arena. Why does no one call him on the fact that having to take care of him is going to get Katniss killed?

Prim (useless/unimportant/needs protection):

She tries to “heal” animals when hunting for food and is good at all of the girl things, including the ones that Katniss can’t master when searching for her talent (“cooking, flower arranging, playing the flute”). She’s an embodiment of femininity, not a character. I was very disappointed—at the beginning of book 1 it was said that Prim was the most important thing in the world to Katniss, but it never shows in this book. She’s probably going to get the fridge in book 3, like Rue.

Madge (useless/unimportant/competition)

The most important thing she does in the plot is give Katniss a pin in the last book and bring drugs to help heal Gale in this one (and the ending of this book implies she won’t be a major player in the third either, but we’ll see). Katniss immediately interprets her bringing medicine for Gale as romantic interest, so she becomes romantic competition for Gale, however briefly. It’s specifically said that she’s the only girl Katniss thinks isn’t boy and clothes obsessed, except Katniss goes to her house just to show her the dress she’s wearing, and she’s briefly presented as a possible romantic rival so… yeah.

Informed attributes are kind of a hallmark of this series.

Katniss’s Mother (useless/unimportant/needs protection)

Where do we start?

Well, the pattern of mothers not being providers started with her. She’s useless except for her healing, and I would argue that her healing skills aren’t that impressive as she really only knows the most basic first-aid-y things (and the author didn’t care to do the research with these, so she comes off as incompetent, albeit this is probably unintentional—I mean seriously, CPR doesn’t really fix anything, it’s just to keep people from going brain dead before they can even get to a medical professional, and since Katniss’s mom is supposed to be the medical professional, they’re screwed). She’s easily charmed by President Snow, and the language used about Katniss’s new ‘status’ makes her come off as a social snob (Katniss needs boots needing to be befitting of her status, etc).

Katniss also treats her like a child; she apparently  needs protection from the truth about Katniss’s situation with Snow. The only traits she’s actually given by narration are having good manners and having been beautiful once. Really.

Madge’s mother (unimportant/useless)

The maternal impotence thing continues. She spends most of her time bedridden. If she does anything else, it’s not mentioned.

Peeta’s mother (evil/unimportant)

She’s the only female provider I can think of in the series, but she’s also portrayed as this bad, evil person. She beats her son, and it’s implied that she doesn’t love her family (she insensitively tells Peeta that Katniss is the one who’s coming back and Peeta’s father was originally in love with Katniss’s mother, and it’s implied that he still might be).

While the other mothers are financially useless, Peeta’s mother is emotionally useless. Not every female character needs to be crippled in some way: especially when many of the male ones are not. When Peeta makes affectionate gestures to Katniss, Katniss thinks he couldn’t have learned them from watching his father “and the witch.” Ugh.

Effie (stupid)

Always treated like a child despite the fact that she genuinely looks out for Katniss and Peeta’s best interests and is very good at her job. I did not like her treatment in this book, or the last one.

At one point Katniss is a total douche to Effie, then realizes she should apologize—not because she, Katniss, was a douche, but because ‘manners’ are deeply important to Effie and Katniss’s behavior was a major breach of ‘etiquette’. Not being a douche and having proper etiquette are really not one and the same.

Octavia and Venia (stupid/worthless/unimportant/subhuman)

The female members of the prep team. They’re regularly called shallow and treated like pets rather than human beings. They have no individual characterization outside of their unit.

Portia (unimportant)

The text is neutral to her, but I don’t remember her having any significant lines. She’s just Peeta’s stylist. It might've been interesting for her to be Katniss's stylist instead. We might finally get an unhobbled and unqualified positive portrayal of a female character who is not contextual competition. Alas, it was not to be.

Avox girl (needs protection)

Her importance doesn’t have much to be said for it, but I suppose she shows up in both books… maybe Collins is building up to something? She actually has a lot of traits of a woman-in-refrigerator, but she’s not dead—her tongue’s just been cut off. This is another character who is more device than person. She’s there to give Katniss a chance to moralize, or whatever. Never mind the countless other chances she gets which are firmly ignored.

Rue (stuffed in the fridge/needs protection)

Stuffed into the fridge a couple of chapters after her introduction to the plot in the first book. Her death is used for convenient drama and all signs of characterization are forgotten in this book. She’s also compared constantly to Prim.

Glimmer (competition/subhuman/evil)

The text unfairly criticizes her, both for being “sexy” and for being a career tribute—there is really no sensible reason that would make a person evil.

She is Katniss’s first kill, yet later, after Rue dies, Katniss says that the District 1 boy is her first kill. If that’s not dehumanizing, I don’t know what is.

“Foxface” (competition/subhuman)

It’s pretty apparent that she’s treated like an animal by narration. Katniss unfairly dislikes her—she suspects that if they teamed up she’d get a knife in her back, but why on Earth wouldn’t she suspect the same of Rue? After all, with Rue, her only shot at killing Katniss would be to do it while she’s sleeping, so she has every motivation to do it that way.

 “Foxface” is never even given dialogue, characterization or an actual name. By contrast, the sequel actually does give a name to the District 1 boy (“Marvel,” if I remember correctly).

Clove (competition/subhuman/evil)

Evil to the point that it’s really unlikely; she wants to ‘savor’ Katniss’s death for reasons unknown.

Ripper (unimportant)

She’s the one armed liquor seller. That’s pretty awesome, but she’s not important to the plot. I kinda wish she were the protagonist of this book. I don’t think she gets lines, but I could be wrong.

Greasy Sae (unimportant)

Cooks in the black market. I like her, but again, she’s not important to the plot. Why on Earth would you tack Greasy onto her name, Suzanne Collins?

Rooba (unimportant)

Butcher. Not important to the plot. For some reason she’s fat, despite that not making a lot of sense considering the circumstances.

Hazelle (needs protection/useless/unimportant)

Gale’s mother. She’s unable to support her family. Her son is the primary breadwinner and, for some reason, Gale’s treated as the head of household, even when he is only fourteen. It’s implied that Gale is the one who has the authority to turn down Katniss’s money, but shouldn’t Hazelle be the one who decides whether to take it or not?

Posy (unimportant)
She’s Gale’s sister and she’s four. One could argue that she also falls into ‘needs protection’ but since she’s four, whatever. ‘Cause, you know… she’s four. Again, not important to the plot.

Bonnie and Twill (needs protection)

Katniss has to take care of them by way of feeding them, but I like them—the story about how they escaped from District 8 is really awesome. Unfortunately, they’re plot devices and not characters. I won’t be surprised if they never show up again, but a girl can dream, right?

Purnia (unimportant)

She stops Gale’s whipping, and then is never brought up again. Third book, maybe? Then again, probably not.

Leevy (unimportant)

She runs off to get Gale’s mother after the whipping. She isn’t mentioned again.

Annie (insane/useless/needs protection)

Aside from her informed insanity, she’s also described as “hysterical” over the idea of going back to the Games. “Hysterical” literally means having to do with the uterus—back in the day when medical science was in its infancy, people thought “hysterics” came from disturbances of the uterus. In other words, it’s really not a term you want to use for a woman when you have this kind of track record with female characters.

For some reason the text keeps treating her like she’s out of her gourd when the only idea Katniss has of what she’s like is seeing her being “hysterical” on TV after being reaped. Yeah, because the imminent threat of reliving what would be the most traumatic experience in most people’s lives isn’t enough to make most people cry and scream (I’m assuming that’s what she was doing, given Katniss’s reaction—her ‘hysterics’ aren’t even detailed, like I said in 8—the book just says she looks “hysterical,” which I originally thought meant that she burst into tears, or something). This isn’t even a case of Katniss not knowing what the heck she’s talking about—Finnick confirms that she’s cray cray in the end (2). Suzanne Collins’s weird grasp of psychology is grating on me.

Also, her role in the story seems to be limited to being a relationship plot device for Finnick. Maybe she’ll make a significant contribution in book 3, but I’m not holding my breath.

 One might argue that the fact that she’s now off her rocker also qualifies as perhaps her sanity being fridged (her only role, after all, is to be a dramatic source of angst for Finnick), but I don’t really buy that she’s crazy, so I’m not going to entertain that notion too much.

Oh, also, if she really is completely insane, Finnick had better not be having sex with her. That is rape.

Johanna (competition)

An awesome character who is very poorly handled. She won the Games specifically by pretending to be weak. Taking her clothes off in the elevator? That was WINFUL, but the narration seems to hate her for no reason.

She was a major player in the behind-the-scenes action, and I love her for that. But now she’s probably gonna die. Or come back and suddenly start loving Katniss. I'm not sure which would be worse. =[

Cecelia (unimportant)

She’s another mother that winds up impotent via the plot. Anywhoozle, she’s got three kids and is never given dialogue. She dies.

Mags (subhuman/stuffed in the fridge)

An eighty-something year old woman. She never gets proper speech and when the games start, she’s literally treated like a pet. First Finnick scoops her out of the water “like a puppy” and it’s all downhill from there. Between her inability to communicate and her putting her weapon in her mouth, it’s just really awful. She even eats a nut in the jungle and right afterward there’s an exchange where Katniss chastises her as if she’s a child and tells Finnick to get her to spit it out. Like Mags isn’t an adult who can make her own decisions.

And then she gets the fridge. Her death gives Finnick some brief time to angst (until, of course, he starts angsting over Annie—then Mags is completely forgotten by narration).

Enobaria (unimportant/evil)

The narration goes out of the way to condemn her for ripping someone’s throat out during the Games. Come the frick on—Suzanne Collins seems to treat things like this as random acts of cruelty rather than acts of insanity brought on by a horrific situation. Her just being naturally bloodthirsty, or something? Completely implausible.

She might be important in the next book, even though she was a minor player in this one.

Female “morphling” (unimportant/subhuman)

She never becomes humanized, is treated like an animal by narration, and is killed completely randomly to keep Peeta alive. Seriously, where the heck did she even come from? She’s never given a name.

I’m going to point out here that morphling is a substance in the Hunger Games ‘verse. The two drug addicts (male and female) quickly stop being referred to as addicts and are instead called “morphlings.” The author seems to have a huge screaming problem with drug addicts.

When the female morphling addict is dying, the narration says that “everything about her speaks of waste.” Screw you, narration. She was forced to kill people, so she turned to substance abuse to cope with her life. It’s not a good thing by any means, but she deserves some freaking compassion, especially since what drove her to it was being a victim of happenstance.

Seeder (unimportant)

Cool when she’s introduced, but she’s killed immediately when the 75th games start in the Day 1 bloodbath.

Wiress (insane/useless/needs protection/subhuman/stuffed in the fridge)

She was a little cray cray from the get go. Beetee takes care of her, and compared directly to him you can see the gender inequality. He invents computer chips and she invents a type of sewing machine? Don’t get me wrong, if that were isolated, I’d think it was a coincidence, but the pattern is getting pretty tough to argue with.

Moreover, she’s described as “intuitive” rather than “smart,” like Beetee—like an animal rather than an autonomous, reasoning person. They literally start referring to her as a canary in a coal mine. She spends her entire visible time during the Games out of commission and is killed really quickly.

10. The book is cowardly.

It seems like it wants to make a statement about wasteful consumerism, but instead it dances around the topic because it’s scared that if it holds up the mirror to say “These frivolous, wasteful idiots in the Capitol? They are YOU,” then you won’t like it. It’s like it’s trying to do that, but failing really hard because it doesn’t want to draw the direct, obvious parallels. I mean, come on, how many Hunger Games fans have been buying things like “district badges” and “mockingjay pins” without a trace of irony?

The latter is an exact behavior that happens in the book. I don’t mean that as a slight at Hunger Games fans (I love getting in on fandom merch as much as the next nerd), but the behavior couldn’t be more perfect for exactly what the book seems to be speaking against. It’d be clever—downright laudable, even—if it weren’t immediately undercut by the residents of the capitol vomiting up food, and the book acting like this is somehow worse than the other things they do. This has no real parallel in real life, unless you count bulimia (and if this is a statement on bulimia, the author needs to have a serious discussion with someone who understands mental illness, because that’s just infuriating). The Capitol’s luxury comes at the expense of the Districts, regardless of what those luxuries are—they literally siphon off the Districts’ wealth, kill their children (both by negligence and for entertainment). Their vomiting up food is a tiny, tiny part of that, and it’s no worse than Katniss stuffing herself senseless, because that’s just as much of a waste. Conversely, it’s much less bad than the extravagant clothing she constantly wears one time and then gets rid of (but she’s got no issue with that--blarg).

BTW, for the record I don’t think the throwing up was a statement on bulimia, thank goodness. It was however, another problem in the book that I need to address again separately from what I said above. Do you guys know what a vomitorium is? My Latin teacher in HS told me that Romans had a room specifically to vomit up food so they could eat more. It’s apparently a common misconception that I believed right up until I Googled it to double check if it was true. The Capitol has vomitoria—the book is made up of a huge number of references to Ancient Rome (names, the games being like a Coliseum, etc, etc). Once again, the research did not happen. Not even a Google search. Not even a glance at wikipedia.

Also,  is the author trying to comment on modern culture or on Ancient Roman culture? It comes off as more the latter. Criticizing the Roman Empire through literature. How very brave.

11. Evil Empiring: yer doin’ it wrong!

Okay, firstly, why on Earth is there a victory tour if they want to keep the Districts separate? Victors return to their own Districts knowing what the other Districts are like. This is how information can spread. Which the Empire does not want. Moreover, they’re exposing Capitol citizens (Effie, Cinna, the prep team) to things they wouldn’t want them to know. The Capitol citizens seem to be okay with the idea of the District folks living hand to mouth, but it’s heavily implied by the way Peeta lies to Effie and some of Effie’s other behaviors that some government workers in direct contact with the Districts wouldn’t be okay with the people being completely brutalized (though this doesn't make much sense given the premise of the books, ho hum).

Get it together, folks in charge.

They do nothing efficiently. When they bombed that District 8 factory and killed all those people? They were stupidly risking getting exactly what they got: Survivors. Do they not have a list of every citizen and all their info? Why didn’t they have an enormous army of Peacekeepers go in, arrest and shoot them one by one? They’d know who died and, more importantly, who didn’t. What if, conversely, people who weren’t supposed to be there died? By doing the random bombing thing, the only thing they do is lose track of information and destroy their own factory for no adequately explained reason. They’d have a mishmash of bad information now, all because they couldn’t do anything systematically. Totalitarian empires are supposed to be organized.

Moreover, if District 13 had nuclear weapons, why didn’t the Capitol do the obvious thing and detonate them remotely at a stagger? It’s been stated repeatedly that the Districts and Capitol are all very far apart. Most of the surviving citizens would die (if not from the blast, then the radiation), the land would eventually become unsalvageable after several blasts—the perfect, most gruesome genocide imaginable. And just in case there might have been survivors (or perhaps refugees from other Districts seeking sanctuary in abandoned land), another detonation every decade or so. Kablooey. Buh-bye all signs of hope. The only reason I can think of is that maybe the Capitol didn’t have control over the nukes? Because that is the most utterly stupid thing I’ve ever heard.

And the reusing footage thing? Giant. Freaking. Mistake. Fail times a million. Everyone should’ve noticed that footage was being reused after seeing it so many times. Seriously, how does something stay a smoking crater for three quarters of a century? If Katniss didn’t notice, she’s a dummy. Stop being a dummy, hero-of-the-story.

Overall, yes, this book was much worse than the last one. It raises so, so many problems, and the romance swallows everything and is at Twilight levels (Katniss could live a hundred lifetimes and never deserve him? That made me straight up angry!) though there's still more actual plot in Catching Fire than there is in New Moon, that isn't really saying much. We miss all of the cool stuff, so why even bother writing a book that takes place while the cool stuff is happening? I kinda wonder if a person skipped from this book to the third if it would make any difference.

In any case, I did sort of enjoy it in the way one might like watching a giant explosive car crash in an action movie.

The ending, however, is worse than fanfiction. Everyone wants to protect Katniss because 'she is the Mockingjay'? This 'one person is the revolution' shizznit needs to stop, because that doesn't work in this genre; there isn't supposed to be magic in the Hunger Games 'verse. That'd be like if at the end of Flowers For Algernon (great book, by the way) we found out that Charlie was the Chosen One, destined to end all discrimination against the mentally disabled.
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed the post. Just a couple of quotes and footnotes:

(1) "Johanna Mason. District 7. Lumber. I bet she's been tossing around axes since she could toddle. It's like Finnick with his trident. Or Beetee with his wire. Rue with her knowledge of plants. I realize it's another disadvantage the District 12 tributes have faced over the years. We don't go down into the mines until we're eighteen... There are things you could do in a mine hat could come in handy in the Games. Wielding a pick. Blowing things up. Give you an edge. The way my hunting did. But we learn them too late." Goodness knows, toddlers are surely capable of tossing axes around and kids should be in mines wielding picks. Darn Evil Empire, keeping under-eighteens from working in mines. (Seriously, they aren't very good at evil, are they?) And yeah, the awful grammar and mechanics in this book make my head hurt.

(2) ""Like bait?" I say to the ceiling. "Like how they'll use Annie for bait, Finnick?"

I can hear him weeping but I don't care. They probably won't even bother to question her, she's so far gone. Gone right off the deep end years ago in her Games."

I'm gonna ignore the obvious point that Katniss is a sociopathic, self-centered douche, and instead say that I don't understand what real evidence there is for Annie having "gone off the deep end." Like, at all. Why is Katniss/the narration treating this like an established fact? Also, I now officially care much more about Annie and Finnick than I do about Katniss and Peeta. Screw you narration, don't try and tell me what to feel and for who. Betcha they both die because they're more interesting than the alpha couple.
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