Friday, November 26, 2010

Spending Black Friday in Panem

Here is a timeline for you:
     Wednesday, November 24, 2010, about 9:00 PM: While watching Modern Family, I am horrified to see a commercial that advertises that Toys "R" Us is opening at 10:00 PM on Thanksgiving night, my terror only deepening when there is another advertisement proclaiming how Walmart is open all Thanksgiving day.
     Thursday, November 25, 2010, about 2:00 PM: I stuff myself with turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, and garduna (a fried Sicilian vegetable that tastes sort of like the fried string beans you order from T.G.I. Friday's.....but better, immensely better.) A few hours later, I saturate my stomach with apple, mixed berry pie, and  chocolates from a local sweet shop that were indescribably delectable, not realizing that yes, some people are actually shopping at Walmart at the precise moment when one of my cousins makes the statement of the night-"Wow, there are a lot of apples in this apple pie!"
     Thursday, November 25, 2010, 11:00 PM: I see on the 11:00 news an overwhelming line of people stretching down the blocks of Times Square, all feeding into a building that I can't describe, can it be? can't...Oh no, now the newswoman said it....oh goodness-Toys "R" Us!
     Before this little wake-up call, I was under the impression that the only person who would go at 10:00 PM on Thanksgiving night to shop for the holidays would be that woman on the Target commercials who ties herself to shopping carts filled with weights and walks up hills for "training". But no, there were others. Many others. I wonder if there were some people lining up in the afternoon still nibbling on a drumstick....

     So while some individuals look around for last-minute sales and run laps around department stores (I bet that's great cardio exercise!), I am sitting at home hopelessly encompassed in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. I picked  up the novel on Halloween, sitting on my stoop while the cool autumn breeze ran through my hair, and was instantly encompassed into the heroic story of Katniss Everdeen. Katniss lives in what remains of North America-a country called Panem, which was originally one breathtaking capitol surrounded by thirteen districts that were each known for one special industry. Then the thirteen districts rebelled against the Capitol because of its mistreatment of the rest of the nation, causing a civil war that culminated with the prevailing of the Capitol and the annihilation of the District Thirteen. As a reminder of their victory and a reinforcement of the fact that the districts are nothing compared to them, the Capitol began a tradition of taking one and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen from each district and throwing them into an arena in a tradition called The Hunger Games.  In this gory competition, the only way to win is to kill every other contestant, or "tribute", and the entire event is televised and created for the viewing pleasure of the peoples of Panem. That means that when there is a day with no happenings, the Gamemakers, or administrators of the Hunger Games, can through in an unanticipated obstacle to bring the tributes together so more blood can be shed, more souls can be lost. Katniss lives in District Twelve, one of the most impovershed areas of Panem, and when her twelve-year-old sister, Prim, is chosen for the Games, she volunteers to take her place. Katniss is therefore plunged into all of the enigmas of the lifestyle in the capitol-the food, the glamour, the fashion, the sparkling, and the final tossing into a gargantuan arena to be killed.  Throughout the book, what strikes me most is how every action, every expression, every move is planned to manipulate the audience of the Games to think what the tributes want them to think. The tributes can recieve gifts from sponsors around Panem in the arena, so each tribute attempts to take on a persona to make them more attractive to the audience. Lover, Thinker, Killer-it's all an act, an act whose success means the saving of lives.
       What's the lesson here? The media can make us into anything it wants us to be-vicious shoppers lining up at midnight for deals on the lastest hubbub, or maybe even blood-thirsty contestants who want to murder their peers for their own gain. But they cannot do anything to us if we resist. One of the most heart-warming scenes of the novel is when Katniss sprinkles flowers over her dead ally, Rue, just to show the capitol that she is not just a pawn in their Games, in their tool to remind the Districts of their forced subordination. Don't let what we see every day tell us who to be labeled as-Republican, Democrat, Businessman, Day-Dreamer, Rebel; actually, eradicate labels themselves for that matter. We should let ourselves decide what to buy, who to be, or what to support, not the corporations around us who mainly just present us with these advertisements to generate wealth. They do not possess our brains-we do.