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.