Saturday, April 4, 2015

Reacting to: "Reading With a Vengeance" (The Hunger Games), & a little free Kindle book (on the subject of THG)

READING WITH A VENGEANCE--THE HUNGER GAMES: THIS. PERSON. Is the Angry Video Game Nerd of books...holy schnikies. Her chapter-by-chapter reactions to The Hunger Games are as difficult to stop reading as the books themselves. I have to say that, in my view, maybe half the observations/questions/critiques are easily understood or addressed from within the text & films or by extrapolating, and drawing logical conclusions without being forced to assume too many unknowns or make too many unlikely leaps. The other (roughly) half? Are completely legitimate, valid criticisms. The blog was an entertainingly worthwhile read, for sure.

I mean, this person LOATHES the fucking shit out of Katniss. And Peeta. And sometimes Gale. I'm talking hates, despises, detests, reviles, abhors, holds these guys in contempt! She tears the main characters to shreds every couple of paragraphs. In the case of Katniss...I think these books are just plain too short and simply-written to give us EVERYthing we would want or expect to see, especially when you're looking THIS deeply into every last little line and detail, and nitpicking to such a degree. We're meant to assume--*I* assume!--that Katniss IS feeling badly about bad things, well about good things, etc. Her apparent lack of thought or feeling throughout most of the books is, I believe, intended to be filled in by the reader's vicarious emotions so that the text can focus on forging ahead to the next event or scene. We have to determine which things are merely Kat's opinions at the time, which things are being objectively described as opposed to admired or judged or what-have-you, which things are being described the way some non-Katniss person would (e.g., the "sexy" theme was chosen for Glimmer, so it wasn't really Katniss implying "slut" there), etc., etc.
I'm not saying this extreme reliance on the reader's hoped-for intuition is a good thing, or a great way to much as I admire Collins for bringing us these characters and this world, I still concur that there are great many ways in which the books could have been improved. (Which would inevitably have involved lengthening them significantly.) The third one, especially, is lacking, and bespoke some uncertain, tired, incomplete authorship.

*Yet the vengeful reader asserts that Kat has a Mary Sue-ish quality in her indefinable "spirit," a vague "extra-super-special-snowflake-ness" that allows everyone to be floored by her incredible awesomeness without her actually doing anything of particular worth on her own. It just naturally makes her the center of the universe so that absolutely everything has something to do with her. It elevates her above everyone else so she can judge them, and tell us highly questionable things (but for the sake of simplicity, she turns out to be right about certain stuff even when that seems unrealistic. That's the phenomenon known as "Magic Knowing Powers." Of course, it always pays to be skeptical of a first-person narrator's unproven assumptions, but that's especially true in this case.) She protects herself and the few people about whom she cares, but somehow no one has ever before performed any of her simple, yet oh-so-"special" acts. I have to admit that this "trope" of making the young hero out to be so superior and extraordinary is a little annoying. However, Kat sort of does have her own "side" in Mockingjay; there are almost as many "sides" as there are people. (Although that could also be referring to GoT, eh? Or even our reality.)

Obviously the majority of fans and main characters love Katniss, and that includes me...but again, I can like her without disagreeing with this blog. The writer did a good job justifying her reactions.
There were only a few little bits I didn't quite understand (e.g., the thing about "explaining would be well-intentioned but wouldn't really help you," or some such? Was kinda like, "In what sense? Y'mean the overall scheme of things? Yeah, that's true...could've been troublesome itself, but still, some simple explanation or no reaction would have been waaay better than what she did. Which was just totally bratty, childish, & immature. She made no point other than to reinforce the negative image of her fucking district." Not to mention that the previous year's reaping resulting in two such similar tributes, & Katniss happening to know what she says she knew about them,
was quiiite coincidental as being reaped the same year as your crush's little sister? Heheh.)

As a flawed heroine, Katniss is somewhat more believable and realistic as a person...and the fact that she DOES come off much more like a lower-middle-to-upper-poor-class typical American teen than someone who's almost literally been on the brink of starvation, endears her readily to TONS of folks in this country who can find her relatable. (One thing that stood out to me, too, as making her "starving" claims seem very dubious was her disturbance at being able to count her ribs after the 74th Games. Plenty of us who've definitely never experienced near-starvation can do that, so the fact that she normally can't told me she couldn't really be that underfed.) I can buy that she's been there once or twice, but not on any kind of regular basis.

Another excellent point? Katniss is heavily biased toward males. She is much more willing to give them credit, or the benefit of the doubt (oh, she gives dudes all kinds of praise!), to speak well of them, to forgive them--whereas she's extremely judgmental of other females. Her only female friend from home, whom she barely acknowledged as such, turned out to be so inconsequentially unimportant that she could be eliminated from the films, and there was no sense of anyone important having been cut. Katniss receives the almighty pin (about which she indeed gives not a single fuck for the longest time) from another bit-part woman, and it's totally fine. The author didn't intend to create a dichotomy of wonderful, saintly males and females who're useless, heinous bitches. Yet the more times this came up throughout the commentaries, the more it did seem to have kind of been the case--a male counterpart being shown as the stronger, kinder, gentler, smarter, more capable, more understanding, whatever...or at least...the more likely to be praised by our narrator.

Katniss IS also largely reactive rather than proactive. Following her initial act of volunteering (which I believe was only spontaneous because she hadn't bothered to think of the remote possibility of Prim's single slip coming out as being literally possible), Kat isn't really responsible for a whole lot else. It all comes down to her support network, the people doing things for her, and then the people forcing her to do a whole long series of stuff that just falls into place in her favor or gets handed to her. Essentially, it's destiny; the stars align and fate thrusts her into her roles. One good point: Her renegade "solo" mission to sneak in and kill Snow cost numerous lives in horrible, horrible ways, which were ultimately meaningless. Finnick, Boggs, Messalla, etc. I get it--that's war. That's what happens. Those people went along willingly, aware of the risks. Still, the mission was fruitless because everything would have worked out exactly the same had Kat not initiated it. The guilt born of those deaths, on top of every other person she directly or indirectly kills, must be a huge part of what haunts her in the future.

Also? Yes, the rumors of starvation and soul-crushing poverty would appear to have been slightly exaggerated...;p Because as pointed out repeatedly, none of the facts point toward the Everdeens or Hawthornes actually being THAT badly off. There are all kinds of inconsistencies regarding what they have access to at home--discrepancies between what Katniss says at one point or another. And evidently, enough other district folks aren't at the point of "Things couldn't possibly get any worse & I have nothing to lose but my miserable life," either. They're fucked over, no bones about it; basically bent over and fucked right up the ass by Snow, but...yeah. (Oooh, there's a painfully accurate mental image I didn't need. Thanks, gutter-mind.) For anything of that to make sense, you've got to accept what you're given, read between the lines, and find ways of reconciling whatever apparently doesn't make much sense. Then there's the thought that it may not have occurred to Katniss to use her newfound wealth to elevate District 12 & aid others in need, because she simply continued to reap the rewards of victory herself.
Katniss harps on 12 being the "worst" district, and everybody else seems to agree or corroborate that notion--but we don't actually get to see or hear much about the rest, except for a few perplexing statements about 11 in CF.  
Truly starving people can't mine for coal Games stuff, or...pretty much anything some point...including wouldn't make any sense at all to literally let that happen to many district residents! C'mon. Hell does the Capitol want with weak, inefficient workers to help support their lifestyles? And ain't nobody gonna watch boring-ass games for mostly really weak, frail, or sickly people.
Peeta enjoys decorating fancy cakes, so he naturally puts those on display even though they surely don't sell like hotcakes. It must do something to spruce up the bakery. 

Gale is characterized generally as a disrespectful dick (though defended when she does agree with him over somebody else), and Peeta as an inconsiderate creep. Most fans who don't care for Gale see him as either a) the third-wheel "hottie" who nonetheless lacks Peeta's irresistible adorability, and/or b) the squirrel-killer who eventually becomes a callous, belligerent warmonger and STILL isn't as adorable as Peeta. Again, too extreme a viewpoint for me, but I don't NOT see where they're coming from. (For all intents & purposes I'm "Team Peeta," and prefer both him and Finnick to Gale.) Now, is it a little cliche that Katniss falls "in-love-for-real" with the sweet, darlin' bread-boy who's loved her all along? The baker over the butcher, who's done a great deal for her but is more reticent about "those" feelings? Well, perhaaaps. But, there is a major theme here of "faking" and then eventually being "real."

The first big shock came when Cinna was disparaged--"Someone doesn't like Cinna?! How can this be?!" All right...yes, he should have tested the flames prior to putting them on the kids. Yes, it was just another happy accident that he got assigned to District 12. (The Games employees evidently don't get a choice of district.) Yes, technically all he did was design some hella-swag outfits and then get murdered before we could find out more about him. (Sunuvvagoddamnbitch.) He's a stylist, and damn good at his work. He's also a good and sympathetic man, and had a calm way of putting Katniss at ease so that she immediately felt more comfortable with and trusting of him than the rest of the group. Fashion turns out to be a pretty formidable (not to mention fabulous!) weapon in this story, so what he did in giving Katniss a symbolically anti-Capitol/Snow/government/Games/whatever statement WAS significant despite being "just clothes." Indeed, he paid for it with his life, because CoriolANUS won't stand for that kind of attempted insubordination. People need to be made examples of, dammit. Don't fuck with the Snowman. 
[Additionally: When they say "the Capitol," you do have to use context to determine whether it's in reference to the physical location, its general populace, or the government seated there. And as for the citizens' "accents"--hmmm. Yes. If that's the way they've spoken since childhood, then for them it's just only sounds strange/"affected" to Katniss because it isn't what she's used to hearing, but regional accents aren't "affectations." Not unless they're constantly changing their manner of speech in response to new trends and to spice things up, or something. But really, who d'ya think you are to define "normal?" ;p And DO different districts have different dialects/accents??]

Haymitch...well, he's by turns praised and criticized (also harshly.) Much was made of the fact that alcoholism shouldn't be taken lightly or joked about, and neither alcoholism nor PTSD is at all realistically portrayed in the story. I may agree on the PTSD count especially, due to the diagnostic criteria failing to be met. Haymitch's booze problem was clearly not intended to be something SO dooming that he would be incapable of managing or overcoming it with the proper motivation (e.g., learning to love and care for others again.) I really do not believe it was intended to accurately represent all cases of alcoholism one might experience in our world. We're to take it seriously enough to sympathize with him (and he is my favorite along with Effie), and grasp that he's not a comic relief character...yet, there's apparently juuust enough room there for "Lol @ the drunken slob"-type jokes nonetheless. Because they've been around forever, and this freakin' story needs all the levity it can get. xp

Concerning the prep-team trio, I reckon we're supposed to regard them with pity, as if they're pathetic little children. In a sense they are, as they have little say in most things and little development. They kind of just follow along with the crowd. Superficial and self-centered the three may be, but they have a good amount of sensitivity as well. They seem a bit on the underdeveloped side mentally and emotionally, though, so they don't much know what to do with their feels except to get occasionally weepy. But they still probably deserve a little more credit than generally given (they looked kinda interesting in their briefest-of-the-brief movie cameos, eh? The blue hair had to be Venia...) AFTER all, how many of us have trouble holding all of OUR feels?! The feels largely generated by this godforsaken series?!?! As the "nerd" pointed out, there's no shame in crying/expressing emotion. So to portray that as more the domain of the "self-indulgent" Capitolites than the "stoic" district folk is kinda uncool. (Nothin' wrong with stoicism, either, of course.) Oh, and then there's Caesar--whom you almost want to believe really does have your back, and sympathy, and a desire to "help you out"...but...ultimately the blog is probably right. The guy is a consummate entertainer whose only real concern is putting on a good show by any means possible. He knows what works. When he seems all nice and friendly and helpful, or shipperish, you really want to like him. But he's sort of...neutral as far as you're concerned. Not your enemy, but not truly your friend. We never see him off-camera, though. So what sort of a person is he truly? Is his apparent fondness for the tributes sincere, or just all in the name of good entertainment? I'm getting more of the latter vibes, but maybe a bit of a's tough to dislike him, at any rate...and the bulk of the animosity in this fandom must be reserved for Snow & Coin. [Brilliant idea from a kooky fanfic: Snow dumped Coin, and that's why she's bent on overthrowing him and taking his place. No one dumps Alma Coin and gets away with it.]

Oh, and as for ignoring or animalizing the random, nameless, ignored, or neglected characters who "don't matter," well...I'm not sure why it would be bothersome to have an animal name? Or a plant one, for that matter? Humans are animals, after all (and probably one of my least favorite species, frankly. ;p)

The ONLY characters this Angry Hunger Games Nerd seems to fully like are Johanna, Effie, and Paylor. And I like all three of them, too, so that's good. In fact, this gets at some of the absolute best points the AHGN made: First of all, defending the career Tributes and the districts that set up career systems. It makes sense not to regard them as villains. On the one hand, the careers are made out to be excessively brutal, merciless, and warlike--the "vicious Pit Bulls" who relish the stalking and painful murders of weaker tributes. Still, like everyone else, they're products of their environment and upbringing. They've readied themselves for this deadly competition so that no 12-year-old Rues or Prims will have to go rep their districts.* (For them it may be the glory of battle and whatnot that motivates rather than any sort of altruism, but STILL. The career-volunteer system does make sense, since you have no choice but to send two people one way or the other.) And the fact that the careers stick together isn't *necessarily* an indication of scorn or malice toward the rest (although it apparently is, most of the time.)

*Now, with enough good sponsorships, excellent training, and perhaps the right allies, someone like Rue could've stood a chance--still a small one, maybe, but a chance. Prim? Well, she might be better at "making friends" than Katniss. And her affinity for natural remedies and suchlike would be a strength...small size, good for hiding and getting into tight places?... :/
And the person's constant defense of Effie was perfect. Spot-on. Like, THANK YOU. We're supposed to buy that she's really just some daffy bimbo tasked with following Katniss around to nag and annoy her?!? Gtfo. Eff that shit, no pun intended. There's more to her than meets the eye. Right from the get-go, she is the one working her ass off to do everything in her power to give Katniss & Peeta the best possible shot...even before Haymitch gets off HIS ass to help HER like he's supposed to. (As opposed to being a surly bastard who basically says, "Prepare to die, kids." xD Even though he's also a very sympathetic and likable person, ultimately.) After the reaping, she's not "just doing her job" as expected of her; she's putting maximum energy and effort into trying to assist and protect the tributes entrusted to her. And she's not going above and beyond the call of escort duty like that for her own health, honey (although getting "promoted" to a more favorable district surely wouldn't have hurt, she thought...) Much of the stuff she focuses on IS important--it just seems silly and frivolous because of the way the freaking games are set up.  She didn't design them, but she knows how they work. (So yeah, you should pay attention while she's trying to HELP you, rather than spiting yourself just to be a bitch to her.)

She's used as a cog in the system--basically a slave to the Capitol despite her privileged lifestyle, having to serve as their pretty little puppet. No wonder she's paranoid about any of them actually uttering anything that could be construed as even borderline treasonous, and tries to kind of channel her anxieties into a neurotic, almost OCDish approach to doing her very best for the kids.

They ridicule her every chance they get, but she deserves the opposite. So she got pearls and diamonds mixed up or some such--give the gal a break! Her shitty job puts a metric fuckton of pressure and stress on HER. (Not to mention that her education might well have been a little bit lacking in some regards...;p The Capitol's supposed to have all the best everything, but heh...and uh, I'm not a seafood fan either...;p Some of the people to whom she said it probably don't even know about pressure metamorphosing one substance into another, anyway.

Anyhow. Yeah. That was just right-on. She does manage to keep her composure remarkably well most of the time--and manages to keep up that cheery, bubbly, optimistic, enthusiastic persona of hers as best you could ask a sincerely goodhearted and sensitive person to, under terrible conditions. Consider the kind of mental & emotional fortitude required for that sort of reaction formation (i.e., expressing the opposite of what you feel as a coping mechanism.) But oh yeah, Effie's a girl and she wears wigs, and wigs are stupid, and "the book does everything but call her a slut," so also, fuck feminism! Amirite?!? HELL NO. THAT'S A SHITLOAD OF FUCK IS WHAT THAT IS, JERKFACE. (Pardon my French, Eff, but it all needs to be said.) The blog was just rad.

Everything is harshly criticized down to the minutest detail: the logic of Panem's government and the Games and districts, their structures and populations and functioning every step of the way, how Snow maintains power and effectively oppresses...the narrative and its "cheating" in order to make itself work...the economy and the plausibility of D12 having only 8-10K residents given its distinct segments...the weaponry and survival skills, with the author's apparent cluelessness/lack of research in those areas...

I myself wondered about Panem's population. It covers most of North America, so the districts are fairly massive...most must be approximately twice the average size of a Canadian province or territory? Something like that? And the population must be large enough to prevent inbreeding, since each of the 13 districts (plus the Capitol) are pretty much closed-off from one another.
    "All of my hate, book. All of my hate." xD I love the snarkastic, enraged tone even when I'm not totally in agreement with what she's saying. I like the books, I like most of the characters; I don't share that critic's level of was extremely entertaining to read. And there is a goodly amount of constructive criticism that can be thrown at the series, if only because you WANT it to be as awesome as possible. The vengeful critic, though...seemed to be able to muster up naught but utter loathing for these books! There was so little of which she approved--in concept, description, or execution.

Yet if we can try to look at it and envision all the potential improvements being made, then perhaps, we can all be happy...^^''

Now, the real question is: Why did they insist on editing the very ending of Mockingjay? Here is the original:
"But there are much worse games to play. For example: Hong Kong '97, Big Rigs, CrazyBus, Desert Bus, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Master Chu & the Drunkard Hu, 
Universal Studios Theme Parks Adventure, Plumbers Don't Wear Ties, anything made by LJN, and so forth. The ones where you'd rather tear out your brain stem, carry it into the middle of the nearest four-way intersection, and skip rope with it, than play them for longer than ten minutes." Personally, I believe this powerful passage should have been left alone. 

And...I just realized what a real 'Hunger Games Nerd' would be: someone who's studied every single year of the event and knows every last detail about each tribute and how things went down. Y'know, like the nerd who can identify obscure details of a sci-fi show or comic by episode/issue number and date. ;p 

ALSO, I really can't believe that they haven't made a video game yet. On the one hand, it'd probably be criticized by some as cheapening a serious story...not to mention the fact that movie-based games generally suck ass. On the other, much of the time video games are already about senseless violence and mindless killing of "innocent" virtual people. This wouldn't be much worse than, say, GTA. And if they did it to full potential, all the elements are there: Create a custom "OC" tribute (choose your district, name, age, skill, whether you got reaped or volunteered, etc.) or play as one of the existing characters. You go through the training process, honing your skills and learning new abilities...doing the dress-up part, being interviewed, trying to win sponsors, learning about your competition, etc...then of course you get into the arena, where your strategies are put to the test. All of the many, many variables affecting how things go would make for a totally different experience each time. You win, you get your victory tour and become a mentor. 

Multiplayer mode? Absolutely! Ally with your friends, betray them, or just immediately try to kill their asses? Up to you! The characters would of course have stats...e.g., their strongest skills to begin with, and physical traits. Like in a racing game. (There are the big powerhouses who tend to be slower-moving and less maneuverable...the lightweights with high speed, acceleration, and agility, but less brute power, and who can get out of control more easily...and mid-weights who fall in between and may have more average ratings on most stats...) Also, the idea of it being an online game so that you could play with 23 other real people instead of simulations is great. It doesn't even have to just focus on the games themselves; you could play as a character at home, or play out the events of Mockingjay...there is a whole lot of potential here.
OR, they could simply take the characters and insert them into any other typical sort of adventure or racing game, for fun. 

Some MORE noteworthy points from the "Dragon Quill" Hunger Games critiques...which were apparently an earlier draft of the "Reading With a Vengeance" ones?:

-Omg! XD;; 'Peeta is a creepy, manipulative, useless, immoral asshole who thinks with his dick.' As is Gale. Okay, so I like them...well, I like Peeta more than Gale. But I don't loathe them the way this critic does, even though many of her specific complaints ARE valid. Okay, honestly, her breakdown and reactions make them look almost as horrible as the whole Edward & Jacob mess, which is just--such a feat because thinking of Twilight Sparklevamps and THG in conjunction pretty much makes me want to crack up. (Twilight Sparkle, on the other hoof...? No, no, no, don't even let me get sidetracked onto pony here!!)
    And Katniss? Oh. Lawdy. She was still blowing up at her every few lines. x3 "Hypocritical, sueish, heartless, lying, unobservant, clueless sociopaaaaaath!"

-The exceptionalism. Yes. Katniss has to be from 'the shitty district.' So much that happens is unique to her experience; it's never happened before, no one's ever thought of or tried it previously. Things magically fall into place and get handed to her by others. The universe revolves entirely around her, and absolutely everything relates to and depends on her. No one else is complete without relating to her in some way. (Even Prim, who's such a catalyst and motivating force, is basically a setpiece...the movies, among many other important things, humanized her a bit more.) Everything bad that happens to her is THE. WORST. POSSIBLE. THING. (Until the next worst-possible-thing occurs.) Everything is always complaint-worthy, no matter how many contradictions and inconsistencies arise in those complaints. (Let's face it: There are plenty of places where Katniss and/or the narrative is inconsistent and/or doesn't make much sense!) And everything bad that happens is only really bad insofar as it's bad for Katniss. When Katniss does something it's fine, it's great--but when someone else does it, they're subject to criticism and shaming and ridicule. She'll gush on and on over how resplendent Cinna makes her look, then claim to be bored by "girly" topics. Yeah, there is admittedly a LOT of all that stuff throughout!

Katniss was largely given the values of a contemporary American, somehow, despite living decidedly NOT in contemporary America. Sure, there are some obvious comparisons to be made, but by trying to make everyone identify with the narrator, they're kinda being let off the hook as far as critiquing their society's similarities with the Capitol. Y'know? Uh-huh...

-The massive confusion regarding how the economy works, as well as the system of it would be practical when each district is exclusively responsible for the production of necessary goods/ Snow could've expected the system to be effective...the origins of Peacekeepers, the population and gene pools (indeed, red hair is very rare, so one would not expect redheadedness to be mentioned as many times as it is! ;), etc. All of the factual errors regarding weapons, a million examples of logic and feasibility and plausibility and practicality being thrown totally out the window (such as regarding the raising of animals and plants.....) All of the, "Why don't they [insert smart thing here]...??" Of course, as I pointed out, this takes place a few centuries in the future, so we can't assume that all plant life will have remained precisely the same as we now know it. And there are ways of working out or explaining away many of the "issues" brought up, but hell, if you're going to analyze the shit out of literally the entire books, you may as well dig into every last little thing that strikes you as "wtf"ish. 

-And yeah, the districts that train Careers--why exactly is that looked down upon, exactly? Those kids are depicted as bloodthirsty brutes who can't wait to get in there and start slaughtering helpless 12- and 13-year-olds, tearing them limb from limb,'s better to LET the little ones be sent, rather than prepare certain willing volunteers who'll stand a good chance? Hrm. Yeah, good point. 

-Some of her ideas for rewrites of the books--so that she would find them good and conveying better messages--aren't bad ideas, I will say. They do involve less retconning of stuff. And tallying up the male vs. female characters, she still noticed all the crappy unevenness: guys who are praised and exalted, perceived as good and righteous and capable, given full credit for the successes of females, and so on. Girls who are belittled, judged harshly, useless, mentally ill, evil, phony, less attractive than Katniss, or undeveloped cardboard props. That aspect improved in Catching Fire, but was still a shocking issue every time the critic ran up another tally...! "Well, damn."

-She really loves Johanna, Enobaria ("Dude, she ripped someone's throat out! Who wouldn't want to read about her? That's awesome!!"), and some of the really minor characters who pop up briefly and then vanish. HUZZAH for her defending Effie at every turn, too! She didn't even perceive Effie as being excessively fixated on manners and propriety, so much as "Katniss you are being a huge dick to someone who's doing everything she can to help you! She knows what she's doing in this respect and you should pay attention!" I mean, at first Katniss views her as annoying and daft, but she does eventually realize that the image she projects isn't the real her...and they do bond, they do become much more sympathetic to one's just that on the whole she's treated pretty darn unfairly. Don't worry, Effie, you're pretty much best pony and we all love you. (Worst is obviously Snow, but Coin gives him a run for his money.)

-I guess it's good that we don't get a pathetic black-and-white portrayal of *all* Capitol citizens as stupid, stuffy, silly, wasteful, arrogant, shallow, selfish, callous pricks, and all district residents as angelic. It is abundantly clear that there's plenty of cruelty and/or callousness right within 12; those who could do something to help others (including Katniss, Peeta, Gale) don't appear to. Even when they become filthy stinkin' rich, somehow it never occurs to them to do what they're supposed to and use that for bettering the lives of those around them. Tres bizarre. 

-Omigosh. CINNA THE BESTEST AND MOST WONDERFULLEST PERSON EVER. Aiight, I do love him, but I can't deny enjoying these critiques nonetheless! True, he tested the flaming outfit ON the wearers, risking covering them in third-degree burns. He was a great designer practicing his craft. At the same time, he was another one who liked Katniss on a personal level and genuinely wanted to help her make a good impression. His act of defiance in creating the transformative mockingjay gown (and designing the suit) was definitely audacious. Very gutsy. It doesn't seem like all that much, but it was essentially suicide because he had to be aware of the likely outcome of that. 

          Still the reviewer has a more than fair point every time this comes up--the more you're walloped over the head with how magically awesomazing and naturally super-duper-special a person is, the more you're inclined to...maybe not like that person so much. Or at least be more skeptical and critical of them. Especially when they aren't actually better than many of the others mentioned. 

-She takes issue with the various actions that are declared to be "defiant" or "rebellious" or "making the Capitol look foolish" or whatever, and to some extent, you do simply have to take Katniss' word for how Snow & Co. viewed them. 

But...what's wrong with some of the names--e.g., Purnia, Finnick (aka Duke Devlin) or Plutarch (aka Patriarch?) They are all real names, and most correspond to relevant historical figures or meanings. They're not THAT bad. xD Sure, Fulvia sounds too similar to "vulva" to be pleasant, but still. Greasy Sae is the lady's widely-known nickname; Katniss doesn't tack on "Greasy" as any sort of put-down. 

Mankind has clearly not by that point evolved near the "utopia" of Star Trek, but they do have some space-agey advanced technologies. Decent start. I suppose. 

And, well, yes--Snow is the ultimate evil. Everything comes down to his orders, his boundless tyranny and cruelty. (Oh, and of course the group that voted three-quarters of a century ago to create the Hunger Games in the first place.) However, it's more than arguable that Coin is even worse because Snow at least makes no bones about how dangerous it is to defy him. Coin pretends to oppose him but really just wants to replace him with more of the same--only with her in power instead. Appeasing those who weren't satisfied with the immeasurable bloodshed of the war that just transpired and demanded more unjustified killing by instating "just one last" Hunger Games would have been indefensible. Surely there were people like that, whose anger would have been sated only with the blood of all Capitol dwellers, including children. With Coin out of the way, however, there's virtually no chance they would've had their way.

          Voting "yes" on that proposition was a calculated risk, taken in order to eliminate this equally treacherous new leader...however, those who voted "yes" honestly wanting it? Oh, for shame. 3: I are disappoint, peoples. Truly. "One more" Games for vengeance? Really? We don't foresee an endless cycle there?

KATNISS THE CATTAIL: This book is well-researched, educational, and, for most characters, illuminating. Each given and/or surname connects the character with numerous concepts--historical figures from Rome or elsewhere, Shakespearean characters, saints and religious/Biblical figures (dude, Peeta is Jesus), meanings and ideas and associations with certain plants or animals, symbols, definitions of words that have been used as names, etc. Many of the entries are highly enlightening, with truthful parallels drawn. Most character names have been so perfectly selected and applied that you wouldn't believe how well the ideas and meanings behind them represent these people. It's brilliant.

The section on symbolism is almost as interesting--again, several entries are insightfully well-written and summarize much significant information related to the many inspirations behind THG. One would learn a great deal from this compilation. 

The main problem with the something I may be able to forgive by remembering that, in its introduction, the author made it clear that we'd be examining the meanings in terms of how Katniss perceives her fellow characters. After all, the entire series is experienced through her eyes, so that made some sense. I was still very dismayed at how grossly unfair and shallow a look was given to Effie--who is actually one of the deepest, most complex and intriguing people of all. Again, this may have been due to Katniss' perceptions...or at least, her earlier ones...although even by series' end, though the two are deeply bonded, she still wasn't being fully fair to her. Which is probably due to their separation and Effie's fate being so enshrouded in mystery. (Guh, why? Enlighten us, final movie and DEMANDED sequel. You have sooooo very much to tell, as a matter of fact.)

Yet there are later passages in this book--whose overall level of detail and analysis make that shortcoming a real surprise--that appear to negate this superficiality! So I didn't exactly know what to make of it. The author was either deliberately going with Katniss' first impressions, but ultimately knows better and just isn't telling you s/he does...OR truly failed to pay any attention to this one person, while seeming to have a decent understanding of several others. Anyone who honestly believes in "looking beyond the surface" ought to have the deeper perspective. To dismiss her as being exactly what she first appears just suggests the understanding of a four-year-old. I mean, I've said so much about her because there's so much to say--invoking psychoanalysis and freakishly accurate comparisons/references to other characters, stories, and songs--so that cursory entry just struck me as dishonorable.
(Like others who've tried to write academic-type HG material, this author did have a right talent for oversimplifying and giving inappropriate amounts of credit--very UNlike the 'Reading With a Vengeance' critic!!)
        Regarding the entry: That full name is very fitting to her; it sets her apart by being Greek rather than Roman, and the fact that she goes by a nickname differentiates her as well. With the saint story...well, thankfully it's not an exact parallel! I mean, just flat-out refusal to participate in the "sacrificial ritual" could've resulted in her being dead years ago--or maybe an avox, which is scarcely better. Or even IF she'd been able to bow out gracefully (how doable is that without some really "good," believable, compelling reason as judged by the powers that be?) and take up some other occupation, then she'd have become basically irrelevant...but still no difference would've been made. She'd have been swiftly replaced, with somebody who might or might not have tried as hard for them as she did. Something, even if pure stubbornness or the increasingly futile hope of advancement, had her staying and refusing to give up on the tributes. Though being "stuck" with 12 must have sucked, maybe something compelled her to keep on trying to help the underdogs. And victory is that much sweeter when your team was considered a long shot at best, or hopeless at worst! 

         And as for being like, thrown into a ring with a bear?! (Um, can you say Game of Thrones? Brienne & Jaimie? "Bear & the Maiden Fair?" First thought. Holy shit.) Well...whatever the hell happened, Collins evidently liked her too much to let her be actually martyred like her namesake. ("Thank you for your consideration." *sarcastic bow* Would that you'd liked Finnick and Prim and everybody else as much...;p) Anyhow, the meaning ties in as well--the idea of being polite, well-mannered, well-spoken, speaking well of others...and the word "euphemism" meaning a "nice," tasteful, polite term for something vulgar, crass, unpleasant, or bad (what with her having to try to put the most positive spin possible on the annual kiddie death match! o,-,o) Like most of the others, it fits and makes good sense.

P.S. No color is "unnatural." So far I think blue roses are the only ones that are unable to be grown naturally...whether in the ground or in a greenhouse, which is just as legitimate a gardening method...and they're still incredibly beautiful. So lighten up, yo. We may eventually end up with a rose variety that's naturally blue. For now, they can just remind us of pleurosis and The Glass Menagerie. I like that. (The play, I mean. Not pleurosis.)

The Gospel According to "The Hunger Games" Trilogy:
VERY limited, indeed. I'm glad I read this little essay for free, because it gave the impression of having been written by CCD teachers who maybe skimmed The Hunger Games once without putting much thought into the text, or the films...and perhaps referred quickly to Wikipedia summaries of the characters in order to come up with a "Bible study guide" tool based upon a popular series. I'm sorry, guys, but there were basic errors, false attributions, meaninglessly vague or confounding statements, and tenuous or faulty "parallels" throughout. As mentioned--Rue sacrificing herself for Peeta? What? Rue was a temporary friend/ally to Katniss in the arena, but she got speared. To what were they referring? Reducing Peeta & Gale to Katniss' two potential boyfriends is another tired, shallow observation made in superficial "analyses" of this story. Peeta ultimately "wins" her because she needs the gentle, kind, loving, optimistic boy who favored diplomacy over war...whereas Gale had become too aggressive and indiscriminate for her comfort. The question of whether Coin had used a bomb of his and Beetee's design to kill Prim and those other children would forever nag at her. 

And when they compared Effie to Judas, I really wanted to hurl my phone at the wall. I would expect a fifth-grader to be able to grasp how deeply she cared for the tributes entrusted to her, how hard she worked on their behalf, refusing to accept their deaths as a foregone conclusion despite their hailing from an "underdog" district--even when Haymitch was being next to useless as a mentor and she had to light fires under his bum. She has a lot in common with Peeta, while Katniss is more similar to Haymitch. I loathe any write-up that dismisses her as weak, dim, shallow, uncaring, etc. Supreme comprehension fail on one of the most fascinatingly complex characters--but yeah, let's just write her off in two or three sentences because it's easier not to look beyond the surface. 

"I ignore things that challenge me!"
-Applejack in "Friendship is Witchcraft: Foaly Matripony"

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