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Posts Tagged ‘Panem’

President SnowIf you’re just dropping in and would like to catch up, click here for parts one through three.

We just finished talking about how Christ destroyed Satan’s “false world” and opened up a whole new world to humankind with His death and resurrection.  Now let’s get back to the “Catching Fire” storyline.  What happens after Katniss brings down the Hunger Games arena and, by extension, challenges the “false world” constructed by Panem?

The Panem Capital starts cracking down like never before.  Peeta is captured, Katniss’ hometown is totally destroyed, and chaos is erupting.

SermonOnTheMountWhat can we make of this?  Well, I started this post series with the first liturgical reading for November 26, and now I think it would be appropriate to allude to that day’s Gospel:

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”  Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. (Luke 21: 9-11)

Some of the greatest forms of evil our world has seen have occurred since Christ’s victory on Calvary.  This is especially true of the last century or so (the twentieth-century is widely recognized as bloodier than all other centuries of human history combined).

For all his intelligence and craftiness, Satan was not expecting the victory of Christ via the Cross.  In the face of an unforeseen threat, the forces of darkness have been thrown into a panic.  They are gearing up with ever greater force to destroy as many as they can, much as Panem cracks down more forcefully in the face of the challenge of Katniss Everdeen.

I hope I don’t sound all “doom and gloom” or apocalyptic here.  Christ is very clear about the end of the world:

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son,* but only the Father (Mark 13:32)

In fact, my intention is exactly the opposite.  Hopefully this helps us realize that however bad things get, Christ has already won the victory.  If we persevere until the end, the aforementioned trials in the world will merely form our great Exodus into new life.

All this considered, I very much look forward to seeing what the third installment of “The Hunger Games” brings.

*Meaning He wasn’t sent to reveal this information in His human nature.

“Catching Fire” image obtained through a Google image search; picture of the Sermon on the Mount from Wikipedia.

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TrainLikeTribute-595For part one, click here.

So we’ve established the Hunger Games as symbolic of the totalitarian regime that runs them (Panem) in that people are pitted against one another for survival within a controlled environment, or “small world,” and thereby kept unaware of the true enemy.

But in both of the “Hunger Games” movies that have been released, we have protagonists who fight back by refusing to play the game by Panem’s rules.

Hunger Games KissIn the first film, “The Hunger Games,” you have Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark feigning a romantic relationship, showing willingness to die rather than kill each other, and capturing the hearts of spectators.

In “Catching Fire,” we see the effect of this unique, dual victory on the people.  Katniss and Peeta become symbols of hope.  They embolden the populace and, for that very reason, are perceived by President Snow and the Panem Capital as a threat.

catchingfirefinnickkatnisspeetaAnd what is the Capital’s response?  Katniss, Peeta, and 22 others are put in an arena for the “Quarter Quell,” an event that occurs every 25 years and draws from the pool of past Hunger Games victors.

Once in the arena, several of the tributes strive to work together rather than against one another, recognizing that they share a common enemy.  But the bond they form is pretty vague, and they are operating within the enclosed “world” of the game.

Lightning-tree

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

But this time, Katniss takes her subversion even further by serving as a Christ-figure. This she does at the “lightning tree,” which is always struck by an artificially contrived lightning bolt at midnight (if I remember correctly).  At a decisive moment, she stands by the tree, bow aimed toward the sky, and then lets an arrow fly the moment lightning strikes.

In so doing, she redirects the lightning bolt toward the force field that holds the arena together.  This brings down the metallic ceiling of this contrived, artificial environment and disables all screens by which the Panem employees who control the games can see what’s going on.

We could look at this as a symbolic gesture: Katniss is bringing down not only the Quarter Quell arena, but also — and by extension — the false “world” created by the Capital, thereby inviting the people to see that their fundamental freedom is not, in fact, in Panem’s possession.

Hence, the rebellion is quickened.

She also shows her fellow tributes that victory cannot be achieved by playing the “game” they have been put into, even if they play through cooperation rather than competition.  If they are to achieve true victory, then there’s no way around it…they have to bring the game down.

We’ll explore the spiritual significance of this scenario in part three.  Thanks for reading.

Images obtained through a Google image search.

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Catching-Fire_poster

Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ “Catching Fire” is clearly dominating the box office — and with good reason.  It’s a great film, filled with emotion, depth, artistry, and impressive visuals.

I want to begin my reflections by noting a coincidence.  This post happens to coincide with some interesting and relevant liturgical readings from the Catholic Calendar.  I’ll just share today’s first reading, in which the prophet Daniel interprets the Babylonian king’s dream of a statue with a golden head, silver chest and arms, bronze stomach and thighs, and iron legs being struck and destroyed by “a stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand,” which stone then grew to become a mountain that would fill the whole world:

Another kingdom (silver) shall take your place, inferior to yours (gold), then a third kingdom, of bronze, which shall rule over the whole earth. There shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; it shall break in pieces and subdue all these others (…) In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever. That is the meaning of the stone you saw hewn from the mountain without a hand being put to it, which broke in pieces the tile, iron, bronze, silver, and gold. The great God has revealed to the king what shall be in the future; this is exactly what you dreamed, and its meaning is sure.

(Daniel 2: 39-45) (parentheses mine)

President SnowThe reality of the transitory nature of human governments  and their total dependence on God’s permissive will accounts for both the brutality and the urgent sense of self-preservation we see in totalitarian regimes, which seek to transgress their bounds and “play God.”

Panem, the oppressive government in the post-apocalyptic “Hunger Games” series, is no exception here.  As President Snow (Donal Sutherland) basically admits in “Catching Fire,” it is a fragile system that must assert itself desperately through the use of force.

How do such governments manage to hide their vulnerability and keep people in check?  Well, an excellent tool — one used very effectively in the “Hunger Games” series — is to keep the masses trapped within a superficially tiny world, one small enough that a dictatorship could exercise complete authority in it.  What they must do, in other words, is keep people blind to the transcendent, to the larger world and/or larger reality.

catching fire arenaThe Hunger Games are wonderfully symbolic of this whole situation.  Think about it: The Panem Capital takes a group of people — “tributes” — puts them into an artificial and controlled environment, deprives them of necessities, makes them have to fight for survival every minute, and has them compete against one another for this survival.

What then happens is that they get so busy fighting each other that they lose sight of who the real enemy is.

But, of course, you have the hero figures Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) who strive to stand against the status quo.  I’ll get more into this in part two.

“Catching Fire” poster from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search.

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