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A few incomplete thoughts on Mockingjay, Part 1
Overall, I think I liked it. I have some criticisms but maybe another time. For now, just some thoughts on the movie (and the book), starting with: what is a mockingjay?

1. A mockingjay is the offspring of genetically engineered jabberjays with mockingbirds. The jabberjays were created by the Capitol to spy on people; mockingjays sing beautiful songs. The Capitol's attempts to exert control on every aspect of society, including by creating new tools at the DNA level, are subverted by the procreative urge in the birds. A mockingjay is the grass that grows between the cracks of the sidewalk; it is the result of the primal creative force of life bursting forth within, and even *because* of the most tightly controlled society ever designed.

2. A mockingjay is a being whose defining characteristic is its ability to beautifully, soulfully, reproduce exactly sounds made by others, which it is unable to understand itself.

I'm not sure what I think of the movie overall -- I think I liked it -- but I think that it gets (and gets across) the central tension at the heart of Katniss' role in the revolution that springs up around her: Katniss is, at this moment, the symbol of humanity whose passion can no longer be contained or destroyed, and a tool being used to beam a desire to go fight and die into millions of people's heads.

And that's sort of the trick: to bring down the extremely, shockingly oppressive aristocracy, you need numbers, raised fists in unison like an Eisenstein poster. (I could have done without the oorah, though.) And how much do you need of each person? When you need every body and to conserve everything, to go down to 14% oxygen for a night, suddenly "luxuries" like alcohol, wigs and cats become illegal. For a moment I was thinking how ridiculous it is that Prim becomes the ONLY person to nearly be locked out when District 13 shuts itself down, but of course she is: the survivors of District 12 are the only civilians in District 13 who would think of defying the order to move down into the bunker, which has been drilled into the people for years. They had to, to survive; District 13 is a fighting force, in a way District 12 wasn't. But the people that Katniss are fighting for are the remnants of 12, and they still have individual things they care about.

What degree of control, authoritarian control, and for what reasons, one has to put up with; is it better, in an underground bunker where everyone is fed and they have a chance to strike back at the Capitol but no one can have pets or drink or dress themselves or display individuality, or above ground where people were starving and taking on the Capitol was a pipe dream and an impossibility but people could make their own choices? It's, I suppose, moot now that District 12 is gone -- but one of the principal questions of Mockingjay (the book and film) is what District 13 has lost in order to be the sole region to survive completely separate from the Capitol's influence, and what this means should there be anyone left standing if the Districts and the Capitol go for all out war.

Plutarch changes "a necklace of rope" to "a necklace of hope" in the song, and the call to suicide becomes a call to freedom. And is taking on the Capitol a fight for freedom or a call to suicide? Is there even a difference? (Finnick said, at the beginning, that he wished that Annie was dead, that they were all dead, rather than being punished by the Capitol.) And the quiet beauty of Katniss singing an old, half-remembered song becomes the inspirational/horrifying sight of thousands of people singing a song about murder, lynching and romantic suicide as an anthem of revolution, the Mockingjay leading an army of mockingjays out to throw themselves onto the gears of the great machine and slow it down with their bodies and blood. In the propaganda wars that break out, Peeta and Katniss are opposed symbols, one used by the Capitol and one used by Coin. And both are as honest as they can be, in their situations; both are unwilling to break their own personal moral codes. Katniss looks at the horror that has befallen those she cares about, looks at the hospitals being burned to the ground, and the rage and fire within cannot be sated: Snow is a monster, the Capitol continues to oppress and destroy them, and they need to fight back. Peeta is biding his time for a moment where he has built up enough media capital to scream a warning to protect people's lives, but I also think that he genuinely means what he's saying, because, yes, going after the Capitol is suspiciously like suicide. It's also a call to complacency against a juggernaut that has massacred them and will do so again. Sure, the propaganda is manipulative, and sure no one seems to know what they are singing when they bravely march into battle singing Hanging Tree, but you need every tool you can to dismantle Snow's machine, right? Right?

As with the rest of the media stuff in this series, we're also looking at the bleeding of individual and group -- how Katniss' authentic, idiosyncratic, personal Katnissness is selectively edited, channeled, and packaged to make her the symbol of what everyone else should be, an individualism immediately transformed into a legion's (or fanbase's, or cult's) adulation, the ultimate It girl. And of course, you can't fake authenticity -- so rather than have Katniss try and fail to "act," Coin et al. simply put her in emotionally traumatic situations to produce the exact Pavlovian emotional response they want from her! Katniss is not a wholly passive figure, here -- she advocates for the Victors and for Prim, she regularly defies Coin on a personal level -- and she's not actually programmed the way Peeta is, with actual neurotoxins and torture. But Katniss is a traumatized young woman who has a team of handlers working together to figure out how to maneuver her into having the emotional reactions they want her to have. She isn't yet getting out of that. And I think about Peeta's admonition to her, while he was being used as a tool, which may ironically be the key: think for yourself.

The questions are what conditions are worth living with, and what is it that's worth dying for -- a cat, a sister or friend, a freedom, or power? I do wish this was given more dramatic kick than it was, but still, I do love that Snow has a slow-creeping poison devouring him, which was literally self-administered in order to amass power. In general, how much do you compromise, of personal freedom, to stay alive? How much are, as Snow points out, the things that one wants what will destroy you? If the contrast between Snow's poisoning himself for power and Prim nearly dying to rescue her damned cat or Katniss being broken again and again by Snow's use of Peeta tells anything, it may be this: yes, you may be destroyed as a result of what you love. But nothing lasts forever. In a world where everything you love may destroy you, choose to love someone or something worth dying for.

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I forget how to do spoiler tags -- you can do it, but I don't recall.

And thanks for that. I remember that now, but it's a detail that floated out of my mind.

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