**Please note that this post contains SPOILERS for both the book and upcoming film Mockingjay, Part I.**
Mockingjay, Part I premieres tomorrow in theaters around the country. As it does, I aim to continue a set of posts that I’ve written with the release of each of the films. (Only one entry this year, however.)
The popularity and themes of the Hunger Games series have made it a particularly useful conversation piece. Over the past two years I’ve taken the opportunity to use the films/books to write about theology, adolescent culture, and youth ministry.
As the story of Katniss and her struggles begins to wind to a close with this film, many of the motifs of the first two installments continue: the co-option of her agency by a dysfunctional adult world, a world structure built mostly upon violence, the use of artifice and/or deception as a means to survival, etc. As I’ve argued before, Katniss’ story mirrors the perceived journey of many adolescents. While our students are not forced to fight to the death against their will in a vicious set of games, their lives can feel that way sometimes.
There are no games in Mockingjay, however. Now things have become real. At the end of Catching Fire Katniss is whisked away from the playing arena and enters into a larger struggle. Her adolescence, we might say, is over. The adult world now beckons. Heady stuff for a young person looking forward to putting the nonsense of youth behind her.
And yet, the more time she spends in District 13, the more she realizes that the broken system that led to the Hunger Games and the societal mechanism’s that co-opted her youth persist. As the symbolic leader of the rebellion against the Capitol she is forced to become “The Mockingjay.” She has little choice in the matter. Her young adulthood, therefore, is just as trapped in this broken place as was her adolescence.
Being forced to play a role in a world that seems to know only one way forward is not unique to Katniss Everdeen, however. It is a reality felt by many young people as they strain at the tension between their dreams and hopes and the strictures placed upon them by outside forces. It can be a difficult place to live.
And yet: as much as the Hunger Games saga is about the ways in which young people are forced to fight for a broken system, it is also about how that system can be changed or subverted.
Katniss Everdeen is never just a passive participant in the brokenness around her. Rather, she is always thinking about how her actions in the midst of it might work to change things for the better. These efforts at subversion and resistance to the prevailing status quo are tested in Mockingjay, and I look forward to seeing how the two films based upon the book will address these issues.