Currently I’m reading Catching Fire from the Hunger Games trilogy. This has mostly been triggered by the fact I’m going to see the movie on Saturday, and since seeing the first one I thought it might be a good idea to actually go and read the books. It is also a nice way to switch off for a while after uni each day, especially since I don’t own a TV. Since I have such a shoddy memory, I have been struck by how fantastically political the series of books actually are. As easy access young-adult lit, it really draws out quite an amazing Marxist critique of society (compare this to the John Marsden we were all reading when I was in year six, where the main theme was fighting against the invasion of Australia…).
Suzanne Collins’ treatment of the characters from the Capitol is part of what I find most interesting. It seems to me (though this doesn’t come out so much in the first film at least) that although they are rather superficial in their interests, they are by no means devoid of humanity. Sure, they like watching kids slaughter each other on the telly, but they also have feelings. Though they are clearly part of an oppressive system, they are so inculcated in the norms of the capitol that the idea of resistance does not occur to them (false consciousness anyone?).
So then that got me thinking – I invest a great deal of my time waving the popular culture banner and resisting dominant readings that suggest we are all brainwashed and oppressed by current norms around sexiness, raunch, the problem with Disney Princesses, etc. But what if we had our very own
Hollywood Hunger Games – would I spend my time analysing it in terms of the death drive, or the way in which it rendered boys and girls as equals within a killing field? Would I approach it without revolt, without action to break those kids out of that crazy systematic torture?
This troubles me. But then I am brought back to why I think approaching things queerly and providing alternative perspectives is part of resistance: because it opens up a space for thinking the world differently. I would hope that alongside my resistant readings would sit some heavy structural critiques. Because, as I have always found, you can’t jump from problematising, say, a dominant feminist line, without considering why feminism is so freaking important in the first place.
But most importantly, I don’t put all of my revolutionary eggs in the pop cult basket. I don’t actually think that millionaire Miley is necessarily going to smash the gender binary, or that the perfumed Britney is going to start the Marxist revolution with “Work Bitch”. But I also think that doesn’t matter. The way in which we approach these texts might matter though, a lot – to imagine different possibilities for sex, sexuality, class, identity, and so on.
Even The Hunger Games could be seen on one level (a classical critical theory approach) as making revolution part of a fantasy world, not a real one. But from another perspective, our encounter with this text could yield a whole other set of discussions and imaginings.
” because it opens up a space for thinking the world differently”
Thinking about things differently does not open up a space to think of the world differently. Having enough money to have the luxury to study philosophy, or another worldview, enables people to think about philosophy or other worldviews. thinking about deleuze derrida and foucault does not create space to think about to think about deleuze derrida and foucault.
having rich parents or FAFSA school money gives you enough free time to reflect on the nature of the universe, which leads you from socrates to foucault to ZIZEK/Judith Butler.
the silent majority of people who work paycheck to paycheck cannot create a space to think differently because the economy doesn’t allow for it.
peoples ideas and thoughts are limited by their economy and political access, their ability to access certain technologies and their ability to read (liberal ideas). even though the things that prevent new ideas are empires, hegemonies, groups of peoples, and economies, we pretend that what keeps people being ignorant christians is because they’ve never read enough queer theory… maybe they haven’t met enough cool gay people? sometimes taking a sociology backfires if you are already conservative
This is a really interesting point that you raise, around academic and educational privilege. Even though I came from a very poor single-parent family, living in Australia (which provides free education and welfare support for families in need) has meant that I have been able to pursue academic studies at a high level without having to be rich or end up with a killer student debt. I have been privileged in this way, and in other ways too, including my ethnic background, access to support services, and so on.
Your economic critique here is completely reasonable on many levels – Capitalism doesn’t allow a lot of space for free thought when it’s putting so many under the pump. I can do nothing but agree with you. I’m not sure what else I can do except acknowledge my privilege and try to help change things.
Thanks for your comments 🙂
It encourages me to think that economic freedom is the same as freedom of thought, even though we associate freedom of thought with access to basic public education. More of a conservative spin I guess, thanks for the reply!
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