Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dr. Rog and Leadership - extra reflection

     Dr. Casey spoke with us about leadership in class on Thursday, how he came into his leadership, how he handles the leadership, etc. He mentioned that, had he not become President of McDaniel, had he remained a professor, he would be equally satisfied. I thought this was interesting in regards to the Hunger Games.
     What if Katniss hadn't volunteered as tribute? What if she remained in District 12 and had never taken on the role of Mockingjay? Had she not been thrust into the leadership role she took on, would she, like Dr. Casey, have been happy?
     In some respects, I think she would have been much happier. She probably would have ended up with Gale, she would not have lost Prim, she wouldn't be battling depression and abuse. But, had she not become the Mockingjay, there would still be a Hunger Games, an oppressive government, 23 kids dying every year under President Snow, or another authoritarian "president." 
     Katniss' leadership role was not something she necessarily wanted. She did not plan on leading a revolution and overthrowing a government. However, when she needed to, she came into her role and commanded respect and attention. Her personality lent itself to her success, and I think that Dr. Casey shares that with Katniss. His charismatic personality (very different from Katniss', but providing the same result) allows him to be a successful leader on campus, in the community, and across the nation. 

Standards of Beauty

     This post is kind of a spin off of our class with Dr. Raley. Her talk mostly focused on gender stereotypes, things that society has dictated being "feminine", or "masculine". Why is it okay for a woman to act masculine, while men who act feminine are emasculated? We also talked about standards of beauty for women. As that standard rises for women, so it does for men. "Manscaping" is common in men - women today don't want a man with too much body hair. What I want to focus on here is that rising standard and how it's seen in the Hunger Games.
     In the Districts, people don't worry about appearances, as staying alive and not starving death are so much more important; the Capitol also takes most fabric, so clothing is limited. When Katniss first gets to the Capitol, the three stylists have to do a "full body clean" to make her presentable enough to hand over to Cinna. Shaving and tweezing and waxing are just a few of the things the trio had to do to get her ready. Cinna then applied makeup, did her hair elaborately, and dressed her in a gown sure to impress the Capitol.
     The men tributes too have to go through this process because of how high the standard of beauty in the Capitol is. In the Capitol everyone wears crazy clothes, dyes their hair - and even their skin - different bright colors, puts on crazy makeup. Not just women get so wild in their appearance, the men do too. High standards, born of so much excess, have reached insane heights in the Capitol, and every year they make sure every tribute who comes to die reaches those standards. Appearance wins tributes sponsors in the Capitol. Sponsors can save someone's life based on that first carriage ride, to put into perspective how important appearance is to them.
     I don't think American standards of beauty will ever reach the crazy levels they did in the Capitol, but that's not to say that they aren't high. Men and women have a lot of pressure put on them every day to look and act a certain way. And I don't think that is ever going to change.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Some Opinions on Dr. Telhabi's Talk

    Last week, Dr. Telhabi came to McDaniel campus, which I consider a real honor, as from what I found out, he is  truly an expert in the political science field, and we were lucky to have him come share some of his knowledge with us.
     Something I really took away from his lecture and wanted to expand on was Middle Eastern identity. I thought it was very interesting, especially in American culture, where if you aren't chanting USA all day, you're un-American. Dr. Telhabi said that in his surveys, most Middle Easterners identified with Arab or Muslim before they did their state. This concept was so foreign to me, again, because Americans are so unashamedly American. Though, given the circumstances past and present in those Middle Eastern countries, upon thinking about it, it was not that unsurprising. The governments and terrorism and different aspects in this region are so corrupt that identifying with the state is somewhat akin to identifying with and accepting that corruption.
     Bringing this topic into the world of the Hunger Games, this same idea of identification is seen in the Districts. Though there is absolutely no religion seen in the stories (could this be a tactic of the government? That's a question for a different post, I suppose), but no one identifies with the Capitol, except for those who live in the Capitol. District 12 identifies as District 12, District 3 with District 3, and so on. Because the government is so corrupt, again, identifying with that government is identifying with the corruption.
     Though, perhaps unlike in the Middle East, this identification somewhat helps the government. Because the Districts are so cutoff from everyone else, and because they identify so closely with their District, the government is able to hold the Hunger Games every year without a total uprising, until, of course, there is an uprising. But nonetheless, the government was able to get away with killing 23 children a year for 74 years because the Districts were so separated.
     So, identification of a people can really play a huge role in how an area is run. Maybe if people did identify more with their state in the Middle East, they would not have nearly as many problems as they do now. But then, would the Middle East be the Middle East? Middle Eastern muslim culture is such an important part of the region, obviously, and wouldn't be as rich in culture or as steeped in history as it is. Identification is a double edged sword, I guess.                                                                                                        

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Appalachia and District 12

    In class last week, we had two speakers come talk to us about Appalachia. Suzanne Nida and Walt Michael showed the class a different side of Appalachia that I don't think a lot of students know about. Being an environmental policy major, and an environmental activist, I have educated myself on Appalachia and the environmental tragedies occurring there, but I never looked too much into the culture, which I learned is steeped in history and rich in passion.
     I noticed a lot of similarities between the people of Appalachia and the people of District 12. District 12 is set in a post-modern Appalachia in The Hunger Games Trilogy. With that, there are a lot of cultural similarities between the two peoples. Oral tradition is huge in Appalachia, through song ad spoken stories passed down through generations. The same emphasis is seen in District 12, where songs like "The Valley Song", "Deep in the Meadow", and "The Hanging Tree" are well known to those in the district, but foreign to anyone else. These songs shared with the people of Appalachia talk about their culture, their environment, and sometimes call for change and hint at rebellion.
     The people of Appalachia are, and have been for decades, experiencing complete exploitation of their home. To deal with this tragedy, people turned to song. Their songs speak about the injustices they experience, and sometimes the songs get heard. In the Hunger Games, this is seen as well. Katniss sings "Deep in the Meadow" in the arena when Rue dies, and it starts a revolution. The whole act of her covering Rue in flowers and singing her this song from District 12 shows everyone watching that she and Rue are more than just pieces in the Capitol's Game. Both Appalachians and members of District 12 share this desire to protect their livelihood and their homes, and for many, preserving their culture through song is how they are able to do that.
From Youtube:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sexualization in Dystopian Literature (READ: Hunger Games)

So, on Tuesday last week, we had two presenters come to our class to talk about dystopian literature and sexual objectification in different works, like A Handmaids Tale, Brave New World, and Mockingjay. While it was really interesting hearing about the other two books, I had never read them, so I didn't really have much to say on the matter. When it came to Mockingjay and Hunger Games, though, I have plenty of opinions.

I mostly agree with everything that Dr. Carpenter and the other presenter said. I want to focus mainly on Finnick and Katniss and their sexualization. Finnick, when he won his games, was 14, attractive, and a hero. So, to keep him under control, President Snow turned him into a prostitute in the Capitol. Every year when the Games rolled around, he was subjected to performing sexual acts for whomever could afford him. And he made sure that he came at quite a cost. Rather than getting money for his sexual favors, he demanded secrets. In this way, at least he got something other than humiliation and deprecation from his forced prostitution. I think this is the only way he could have done what he was forced to do without going completely crazy. And of course, the only reason he did it at all was to save the woman he loved, Annie Cresta, from being murdered by Snow. Snow had slowly taken away everyone Finnick loved. But Finnick would not let him take Annie. I believe that Finnick is the bravest, most selfless character in the series because of what he did for Annie alone. Yes, there are other examples of his braveness, but the fact that, from such a young age, he was willing to sell himself to save his love means more than anything else.

As for Katniss, who we didn't speak a whole lot about, she was sexualized as well, and at at times by those supporting her. She was made into a love struck teenager by Peeta before her first Games even started. Making her more "desirable", he and Haymitch claimed, would help them win over sponsors. But nonetheless, it was still degrading. Then, after the Games, she was forced to be madly in love with Peeta in front of the Districts and the Capitol by Snow. He told her to convince him and everyone else of their undying love, or basically watch her family die. This is sexualization in a more innocent form, but she is still selling her body in a fashion. Then, she is turned into a symbol of the rebellion. Using her person as a symbol of hope. Again, not sexual in a crude use of the word, but still using her body somewhat against her will; she does not always like being the Mockingjay.

I had a great time listening to all of our speakers last week, but I feel like the sexualization resounded most with me.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Torture in the Hunger Games

     Torture is clearly very prevalent throughout The Hunger Games. The Games itself is its own form of torture, making the Districts pay for their uprising 74 years prior. Forcing two children from each District fight to the death while their families watch is cruel on multiple levels. Innocent kids are forced to become murderers, and their families and loved ones forced to watch their kids kill and be killed. I also find it crazy that the people in the Capitol have been brainwashed to find it all entertaining.
     The Capitol found other ways to torture the other Districts, as if a yearly fight to the death wasn't enough. Depriving the Districts of food and resources while the Capitol is able to take a pill to force them to throw up so as to continue eating is in no way fair to the members of the Districts. Districts live in depravity - most in District 12 live in fear of starvation every day - while the Capitol has more than enough is another form of torture, and another way for the Capitol to show its dominance. The Capitol also makes sure that he Districts don't get any of the resources they slave to make. The Capitol doesn't give the Districts anything extra. District 12 only gets the coal that they pay for, the rest is sent to the Capitol to fulfill its exuberant lifestyle. I think that is so wrong, and once again shows the vindictiveness of the Capitol and its government.
     Getting the years tributes ready for the Games comes with its own torture for the tributes. They get to live so lavishly after being plucked from their districts. They are treated to all sorts of rich food, technology, and any amenity you can think of. Then, a few days later, they are sent into an arena to kill each other. It's terrible how the Capitol shows them how fabulously they can live, and then how they can just as easily take it away.
     During the Games, there is nothing but torture for all but those in the Capitol. Again, family and loved ones of the tributes are forced to watch on is horror as they watch their children try to survive, and eventually, more than likely, die. The tributes themselves are obviously tortured. They have to try to survive in an unknown arena, with nothing given to them but what they are willing to kill for. Constantly watching their backs for another tribute, starving, suffering from dehydration. Then, eventually everyone ends up killing and eventually dying, leaving just one "victorious".
     But are they victorious? After the Games, the winner has to deal with the traumas met in the arena, like killing and starving, and knowing that they could be next at any point. PTSD is almost assured after leaving their arena. Then, they are forced to remember everything as they go on a Victory Tour, visiting the Districts of those they killed. And then, year after year, winners must mentor new tributes, many of whom will not become Victors themselves. The Capitol ensures that any winner will be tortured from the inside out for the rest of their lives.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Katniss, the "Futuristic Theseus"

   The Hunger Games and the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur show many similarities. There are many accounts of Suzanne Collins herself saying that she drew a lot of inspiration from the story. Gresh's The Hunger Games Companion outlines both the similarities and differences nicely, but I think there is a lot of room to build upon her observations. 
   Gresh makes a nice little chart for her readers that goes through each similarity and difference she noticed, so I think I'll go in that same order, outlining what she says, and adding my own notes as we go along.

  • Theseus has an evil step-mother, bent on killing him so as to protect her royal claims. While Gresh correctly points out that Katniss does not have an "evil step-mother", she certainly has someone who wants her dead so as to to protect his lifestyle - President Snow. He does not try to poison Katniss, as Medea does Theseus, but he is definitely terrified of her and the power he knows she could have. 
  • More on the Medea/Snow dichotomy, Snow does not send Katniss out to kill a bull, but he does give her a task that he makes quite plain will kill her if she does not succeed. "Convince me." He says to Katniss, concerning her and Peeta's relationship. Like Theseus, if the task is not successfully completed, she will die. 
  • Theseus is the son of a king and/or god, and a king's daughter. Katniss is the daughter of a mere coal miner and healer. Clearly, this is a significant difference. Theseus is presumably wealthy, despite the fact that he was hidden from his father; after all, his mother is still a princess. Katniss, from District 12, is very poor, facing hunger and poverty on a daily basis. I find it interesting that in the end they both have the same desires - to end something horrific, whether it be the sacrifices or the controlling government of Panem, despite their different upbringings.
  • A labyrinth is created in the myth, similar to the different arenas of the Hunger Games. Every year, in both stories, an equal amount of girls and boys are sent into this labyrinth/arena to their deaths. The labyrinth, containing the minotaur, and the tributes sent into it, are a punishment by a more powerful being (Poseidon in the myth, the government in the Hunger Games) for disobeying (again, Poseidon was angry that Minos had defied him and not sacrificed his bull; Panem was paying its people back for a previous revolution). 
  • Both Theseus and Katniss sacrifice themselves. Theseus had a more general reasoning for his sacrifice: hoping to end the sacrifice of children, he volunteered himself for the whole. Katniss, on the other hand - at first at least - volunteered herself solely to protect her little sister, Prim. Over the course of the books, however, she does sacrifice herself in a different way. She gives herself as the face of the rebellion in order to overthrow the government.
  • Gresh did not mention this next similarity, perhaps because it is not so concrete as the others, but upon reading the myth, I thought this was a kind of interesting connection. I relate the minotaur to Panem as a whole. The minotaur is a beast created because of the displeasure of a higher power; in the case of the myth, Poseidon. In the same way, Panem is a creation of the displeasure of its own government, because of the uprising of the Districts 74 years previously. The minotaur is fed children yearly to pay for Minos' mistake. Similarly, the Capitol is - figuratively - fed children every year to pay for the Districts' mistake.
These are just some of the what I am sure are innumerable connections Suzanne Collins forged between the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and her own work, The Hunger Games.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Class Post #1

I chose this class, The Wonderful World of the Hunger Games, for several reasons.

  • I love the Hunger Games Trilogy. 
  • I needed an SIS to fulfill my McDaniel Plan requirement, so why not do that in the coolest way possible? I will gladly sit and discuss the Hunger Games a few times a week; it hardly seems like work, and being with all Honors students is always a treat.
  • An Honors credit for discussing different aspects of the Hunger Games? Yes please. 
  • I had heard only good things about Dr. Esa, and was definitely into taking a class with him, which, without this class, I probably would not have gotten the chance to do, as I am a Political Science and Environmental Policy major. 
  • Effie Trinket.
What do I want to get out of this course?

  • Well, we talked about making jewelry, so I would like a piece of handmade jewelry by the end of the semester.
  • Also, learning archery came up (Esa, I will have a venti coffee for you tomorrow if that's what it takes for me to shoot a bow and arrow, just comment how you take it, haha)
  • More than that, though, looking at different aspects of the literature with different pieces of real life, history, religion, and more just seems like a lot of fun, and very interesting.
  • We have only had one class so far, and, even though I said I wanted to get away from Environmental Policy, I already know that I want my research paper to be on coal mining in Appalachia and in District 12. There are so many parallels there that I can't wait to examine.
  • Knowing that this is an Honors course, I expect the discussion to be on a higher level, with more critical and textual analysis, which I find enlightening and entertaining, especially when applied to something the entire class is truly interested in. 
Last question. Who is my favorite character and why?

Effie Trinket. No question. From the first moment she stepped onto the stage at the 74th Reaping, Effie stood out to me as a character, for reasons that go beyond her eccentric style (though that definitely plays a part. I wish I could pull off hot pink hair and matching eyelashes).
    At first, Effie was clearly an outcast, whether it phased her or not. So starkly different from the citizens of District 12, she represented the Capitol, and everything that Katniss and her peers hated, and maybe even envied on a certain level. However, as the books progress, Effie becomes so much more than the annoying, energetic Capitol representative thrust upon her tributes to shunt into the torture that is the Hunger Games. Over time, she becomes a part of District 12, supporting her tributes, growing with them, and crying with them when the Quarter Quell is announced.
    It is her transformation over the course of the books that really draws me to Effie as a character. I consider to be a very strong person, who really does want more for her tributes than death and killing. She wants them to win, in more than just the Hunger Games.