Image by Kendra Miller
Image used under terms of license by Creative Commons
Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only.
Like so many others, I waited with great anticipation for the release of the fourth and final installment of the Hunger Games movie franchise. I was roped into watching the first movie, thanks to an epic Pennsylvania snowstorm and an insistent offspring. But it didn't take long for the story to get my attention. After the second movie, I purchased the books on Kindle and read the entire trilogy. When it was first publicized, I dismissed it as a JATM (Just Another Teen Movie). But the story, I found, went so much deeper for me.
The success of the franchise shows that I am not alone in the tone of resonance it struck with millions. Since everyone who hasn't been living in a hole in the ground over the past four years knows about the story, I won't re-hash it here. But I have been exploring in my mind and heart exactly why this story has gotten my attention.
There are some political science-related themes artfully buried within the tale. The danger of a government using war as an excuse for taking full control of it's population. The danger of having a pampered populace whose every need is met by the government and thereby loses its own sense of self-determination. The hazards of class warfare. Oppression creates rebellion, and past a certain point, people will give up their lives rather than live in bondage.
And in the last film, those who lead a revolution should never lead a government.
But what I found most interesting was the elements of hope and love.
Hope and love. Two concepts inescapably intertwined by human nature. Love cannot exist without hope; nor can hope survive without love.
Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the stories, has a close relationship with Gale Hawthorne, but is unable to express love because she feels their situation is hopeless. Similarly, she has decided not to have children. After all, why would you have a child, raise and love that child, only to see that child's life extinguished in the Hunger Games? I've always felt that the human desire to have children is linked to the hope that their offspring will live in a better world; will have a future. I know there are those of my generation who, after the tragedy of Vietnam similarly vowed to go childless rather than raise them in the hopeless world they saw around them. We see Katniss wrestling with that emotion throughout the stories. Despite their performance in the Games, as viewers and readers, we are never sure how much of that is acting. I don't think Katniss is ever really sure, either.
As the story unfolds, we see that even with her close relationship with Gale, there is something deeper that has established itself between her and Peeta. When she sees how Peeta is obviously being tortured by the Capitol, it becomes clear that in her heart, this emotion has escaped latency.
In the fourth film, and the second half of the third novel, we watch Peeta struggle back from his tracker-jacker venom induced illusion. Katniss and him engage in a game they call "Real/Not Real." Peeta makes a statement, and Katniss responds by letting him know whether the statement is true. Through this process, he begins to separate truth from lie; reality from fantasy. Towards the end, both are back in District 12, living in a house in the Victor's Village. With the twin horrors of the games and the rebellion behind her, hope has returned. With this new hope, she now is able to seek love. We see her rise from her bed, go to Peeta's room and slip into his bed. In a way that is now natural, they cling to each other. Peeta says, "You love me. Real or not real?" Katniss responds without hesitation, "Real."
Time passes, and we see that they have children. Their faces, once taut with fear and anger, are relaxed, peaceful. They found their hope, because they acknowledged their love. They found their love, because their hope had been restored.
So many of us struggle in this same way. The world we see, full of violence, hate, greed, and oppression makes it so hard to find hope. Our relationships suffer because of that hopelessness. We may have sex, but love eludes us. Joy exists in the lives of others, never in our own. Too many of us look for joy in chemical stimulation, only to find that once the feeling fades, nothing has really changed.
If you have hope, you can find love because you know that the future can be better than the present. If you find love, you must also have hope because why open your heart to the possibility of the deepest wound of all?
It is so very important for us, and for our families, that we find that hope, and cling to it tightly. For we as a human species cannot live without hope. Hope keeps us working for that better future. Hope keeps us from surrendering.
Nor can we live without love. For without love, we die from the inside out. With love, however, there's always a future; there will always be life.