The Hunger Games, and it’s Unlikely Bad Guy

WARNING: SPOILERS!

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So, I’ve been a fan of the Hunger Games since I read the books a couple of months before the first movie came out.  I read all three books within a week, and have been hooked on the franchise ever since.

Now that the movies have all come out and I’ve reread the series again, there is one character that seems more despicable than the rest, at least on a personal level.  Oh, you’ve got President Snow and his league on pompous minons, controlling their little slice of the world through cruelty, suffering and callousness, but he’s always been the antagonist…the thorn in nation’s side, shall we say.  And then you’ve got President Coin, who came along towards the end of the series, originally positioned as a saviour, though it was hinted the whole way through her story that she was basically just a female version of Snow.  No, there’s someone in the books and the movies who’s betrayal really upset me, probably more than it should have.

Ceasar Flickerman.

Aka, this dude:

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Yeah, I bet you didn’t see that one coming.  In a book full of people who fall into two categories – brave and noble or weak and untrustworthy, there are plenty of people I could have said.  While it’s true that Gale’s betrayal (though unintentional) was tough, I still didn’t find it as uncomfortable to read/watch as Caesar.

I’ve thought about why this is for a little while now.  I mean, on paper it doesn’t make sense – he’s the embodiment of everything that is the Capitol.  His perfect teeth, his expensive outfits, his garish coloured hair and eyebrows.  He’s the face of the Hunger Games, and thereby all it stands for.  He’s shallow and fake.  Yes, on paper I should feel nothing at all about this character except mistrust and disgust.

I don’t though.

He seems like such a friendly guy in the first two books/films.  He helps the nervous contestants on stage, getting them through situations they’ve likely never even envisioned themselves in.  If it wasn’t for him, a lot of them wouldn’t get sponsors, and if they don’t get sponsors, they’re basically doomed in the arena (“If no one sponsors me, my odds of staying alive decrease to almost zero” – Hunger Games, Book 1, Chapter 8).  Plus, even as an embodiment of the Capitol, his crazy hair and over-the-top personality really make him seem like a good guy.  Even Katniss – who doesn’t seem to like anyone much, even her pretend-boyfriend most of the time – seems to get along with him.  Surely that’s saying something?

Then it all changes.  Once the dramas happen after the Quarter Quell, he becomes another minion of the Capitol.  He interviews Peeta several times, watching him appear increasingly unwell, and pushes him along.  In the films, he’s also the one that puts out the alerts for Katniss, which adds a whole other level of betrayal, and I think is what got under my skin the most.  It’s one thing to side with the Capitol, but quite another to speak in such a horrible way about someone you knew personally, who never did anything to intentionally harm you.  Yes, her rebellion affects his way of life, but he saw firsthand that she never wanted to be the figurehead of anything.  When she revealed the wedding-come-mockingjay dress, he saw her surprise.

He also saw what she went through in both Games.  I think, underneath the betrayal, his character upsets me because he had the chance to really help out the rebels.  He was centre stage.  The audiences ate up every word he said.  After watching the Games for the last fifty years, meeting all these kids, interviewing them…then watching their gruesome deaths, surely even he could understand the rebellion.  Surely he could see what they were fighting for.  If he came across as heartless from the start, or distant, or uncaring, then maybe it’d be easier to swallow.  The fact is, he was never any of that.  He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and nice guys don’t throw kids under buses like that.

I guess the other reason he upsets me is because he is basically positioned in a similar light as Effie Trinket.  Both preening, pretentious, yet ultimately wonderful people from an otherwise messed up, wasteful city.  In fact, Effie was probably written as much more of a Capitol lapdog than Caesar, and with less power to help.  Yet, when it came down to it, Effie chose her side not on how it will affect her, but for her loyalty to Katniss and Peeta, and for knowing how completely messed up it is that she’s had to see so many kids she’s gotten to know personally die.  She lost her whole way of life by doing this, and it would almost be understandable if she didn’t join the Rebellion.  Caesar, on the other hand, fought the rebellion, betrayed people he could have done so much for and ultimately played a part in the deaths of so many people.

War is never easy, but that doesn’t excuse the actions of some people.  Especially people like Caesar.  He felt like a friend, someone I could trust, and then went and stabbed everyone in the back.  The worst part is, I should have seen it coming, but didn’t.  I just hope that whatever happened to him after the war ended, it was something Katniss and Peeta had a hand in.  After all, what goes around, comes around, right?

Revisiting My MySpace Blogs – “I Admit: I Don’t Know” (Posted 2006)

So, like I mentioned briefly last night, I finally got ahold of all my old MySpace blogs.  Some of the stuff I posted is highly embarrassing and I wish someone would have given me a swift kick in the pants for writing it, but other stuff is actually really  nice to look back on.  The one I’m going to share today both resonated and amused me when I read it.  I’ve cut out the irrelevant first half (it was a really long blog!) and just left in the bit that I wanted to address.  This was written towards of year 10, back when I’d only recently turned 16 and was heading into my big final two years of school the following year.  (I decided to leave all the terrible grammar and spelling in to keep in authentic…apparently capital letters weren’t cool back then).

I Admit: I Don’t Know (Posted : 2006-08-02)

the time had to come of coarse. there was no denying that. it’s the time where we have to choose subjects for our final two years of school, and with that, a career path. and i hate it. i was never the kid to think “i’m gonna be a firefighter” or whatever. well, not for more then a few days anyway. and although the thought had crossed my mind once or twice, i never really thought about it, just chucked it on the too hard pile for another day. and now the time has come where there really isn’t any time left for thinking…well, there IS of coarse, but you had to at least have a loose idea. and i sort of do. but i just can’t see myself staying with one job. and that isn’t a good thing. if you jump careers all the time, it’s not going to be a steady income. and i’m not a moron. i know how important that is. damn, just covering the cost of petrol is more then enough reason to just decide on a proffesion and stick with it. and i’ve narrowed it down to two fields – music or computers. i know, big shock huh? lol. not really. music, well, i’d LOVE to be in a band, but i can’t sing, and am only just moving into a sort-of-okay guitarist. i’m not brilliant, but i definately have stepped up quite a bit since i started. gimme two years i think, and then maybe i’ll be ready. but nah, even if i was in a band, that’d be gigging at nights, and it wouldn’t be an income. i know that. so i was thinking maybe a sound technician. or if it was computers, it would either be something to do with the internet like a webmaster/designer, or like a computer programmer. had a “taster” at the local nmit tafe two days ago, and it was on the visual design coarses. that isn’t for me. i know that. but there was a Q-and-A after lunch, and one of the students they got to talk was studying music, and they’ve just brought in a diploma in it, and the guy talking was in the band we saw afterwards. and it made me want to do that, but at the same time think that i’d complete it and then go “nah, i’m over this” and do computers. ohhh i’m so confused. that’s another reason why i was probably crabby. i don’t know. and that’s the extent of it, of all of this i suppose, I DON’T KNOW. i’m only sixteen! twenty-year-olds don’t know what they want half the time. i can’t vote. i can’t drive without someone next to me. i can’t smoke (not that i would). i can’t drink. so why in the hell am i am even thinking about a career path? i’m not saying that i should be treated like a four year old, coz i’m not. i want to be part of the adult world. but at the same time, you can’t expect us to know when we’re sixteen. not properly. well, not me anyway. i just know that i’ll choose something now and in six months time go “what was i thinking?”. and by then it’s too late. urgh i just want someone to tell me what i want. it’s draining and stressful and confusing. but i’m not complaining. well, no more then anyone else.

I really liked this post in particular as I still completely agree with what I wrote, which is unusual considering I’m now well and truely on the other side of the fence.  A majority of the stuff I wrote/complained/whined about back then I now understand better and therefore, don’t really agree with any more, but this post is still so true!

I can’t believe schools expect kids to know what they want to do at such a young age.  As I addressed in the post, kids that age have no legal rights whatsoever, and yet they’re expected to know what they want to do as a career for potentially their whole life?  I mean, I understand that choosing the wrong subjects isn’t the end of a particular career path should you decide later on, but between the ages of 18-21, further education places do check what subjects were taken and the results, and if something wasn’t taken you’d have to jump through some big (often time consuming) hoops.  That’s a lot of pressure to put onto people that young!  Especially when on top of that, the teachers are all crying “Year 11 and 12 are the hardest years of your lives, you have to study, you have to get good grades, you need a good final score or you won’t get into further education and you won’t have a good job!”.  Essentially, if you don’t do well, you’re life is over.  Looking at it from the other side, it’s 100% a dirty, dirty lie.  Let’s not even get into what schools consider “careers” – if it doesn’t have a fancy title or a 4-year coarse behind it, it isn’t one.

I was lucky.  Little did I know when I posted that blog, that halfway through Year 12 I’d get accepted into film school and it would make my end of year results irrelevant.  Little did I know at that time that film school (although fun) would take me absolutely nowhere and I’d be forging a career in telco.  This is exactly what I mean by putting so much pressure on young people though.  In that post, I’m frantically trying to pick a job out of thin air that I know very little about.  I landed on a sound technician (which I’ll bet is generally a super boring job aside from the occasional live-show gigs) or a computer technician (ha, with my maths skills?  I don’t think so).  It wasn’t until partway through year 12 I decided to pursue film, and honestly, even that was on a bit of a whim.

You have to do something.

That’s the mentality of the final years of high school.  As you’re finishing your education, it’s like a rite of passage that you go to uni.  I mean, sure, you can take a gap year if you need some time away from study, but even then the idea of that is you’ll go right back to uni after you’ve had your fun.  Not once did anyone ever say “keep working in retail until you know what you want, it’s okay”.  I wish someone would have though.  Maybe I wouldn’t have wasted my parents money doing a coarse I’ll never use.  Maybe I’d like retail.  Granted, the pay isn’t fantastic, but it’s still a career path.  You can still work your way up like any job.  And if you’ve done retail for awhile and then finally work out what you want to do with your life, what have you wasted?  Only a little bit of time, but chances are if you hadn’t given yourself that, you’d probably be studying something completely different.  What’s a year or two in a shitty job if it means you’ll make the right choice longterm?  This is what schools should be saying.  They won’t though, because I’m sure it makes them look fantastic if they can say “two-thirds of our year level went on to do further studies”.  They’ll never follow up to see how many of those same students wound up working in the field they studied in (or even how many finished the coarse in the first place).

This is where the education system fails people.  It’s all a big competition.  Instead of making it about the students, it’s about the results.  All that means is students are worked too hard to get grades they may never even need, to be brainwashed into thinking they absolutely have to do further studies.  It results in depression, anxiety, kids dropping out of school early or, worse, suicide.  Over what?  A stupid coarse that’s make-or-break over a stupid final mark?

Fuck that shit.

Especially because after 21, that mark becomes absolutely irrelevant.  You’re classified as a mature-aged student and you have free choice of almost any coarse you like.  Let me restate that again for you: kids are literally killing themselves trying to get into a coarse at age 18 they could breeze into at age 21.  All because the schools are acting like it’s the most important thing in the world.

To anyone still in school reading this, please don’t get caught up in all this bullshit.  You’re so young.  Enjoy it.  Don’t let anyone convince you that your final marks are the be-all-and-end-all.  Please don’t think you need to have a life plan now.  Things will change, people will come and go from your life, your attitudes and ideas and mindsets will shift.  You have no idea what lies ahead, and making a life plan before you’re out of teenage-hood is absolutely crazy and a waste of precious time.   Don’t get me wrong, if you have an idea, go for it.  Ultimately, a couple of years spent in retail, or on a coarse that doesn’t help you, is nothing.  Stressing about it all is something though – it’s bad for your health and you’re too young for that.  You’ll have so many reasons to stress later in life, don’t let it get to you now!  Go out, be crazy and take heaps and heaps of photos.  You’ll never be this young and free again!

What are your thoughts?  Did you wind up doing the job you thought you would at age 16?

-JD

My Two Cents: Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

This is a hot topic in Australia at the moment after the government suggested potential plans to bring this in, in an effort to stop people using their welfare allowances on illegal substances.  I know a lot of you reading this aren’t from Down Under.  We had a slang term to address people like that – “Dole Bludgers”.  It’s an offensive term and something a lot of people actively avoid being called.  It basically means you’re too lazy to get a job and the rest of the country hates you for wasting our tax money.  There are suburbs in every state where there are a large number of Dole Bludgers…it’s those same suburbs that are actively avoided due to their reputation of high crime rates.  I know I don’t go to them unless absolutely necessary.

Anyway, I’m all for the testing.  I know some people – namely those accepting allowance payments – think it’s an invasion of privacy, and there’s no guarantee the drugs were paid for my government hand outs.  They say it doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for work.  If they’re unable to work, they say it doesn’t hurt anyone and it shouldn’t affect their entitlements.  They say they need the money to feed their families.  They say it’s a health issue, much the same as cancer or depression.  I’ve read all the excuses.  That’s exactly what they are – excuses.

Whether or not drugs should be illegal is a completely different argument, but as it stands in Australia right at this moment, they are a banned substance.  Now, if you want to use them despite that, then that’s your choice and I’m not about to go all politically correct about that.  It doesn’t directly affect me (thankfully) so I’m not about to weigh in on that issue.  I will say, though, that if you’re using my taxpayer money to fund your habit, that’s when I’m going to start saying no.  I was unemployed up until last week (though I never got so far as to accept handouts).  I understand it isn’t easy to find a job.  In fact, it’s hard work and it sucks.  That’s why our government has a system that allows for hand outs.  I have no problem with people accepting the money, because that’s what it’s there for, but I do have an issue when they piss it away on dope or ice and don’t even attempt to find a job because they’re too busy being off their faces.

Drug testing would mean that people found to have banned substances in their systems would be stripped of their benefits, and be forced to find work.  While that may initially sound ruthless (particularly to those supporting families), I don’t see this as being a bad thing.  It’s forcing them to get clean, ask for help, admit the problem instead of hiding away, making the problem worse, and possibly endangering their lives and the lives that surround them.  Obviously there would need to be some timeline in place for those that comply and legitimately can’t find work, but this would also need to be accompanied by regular drug tests as well.

Is it an invasion of privacy?  Well, no, not if you’re using taxpayer’s money.  You gave up your right to that level of privacy when you began accepting those payments.  If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you aren’t giving up anything more private than your pee.  Again, this probably sounds ruthless.  Isn’t everyone entitled to privacy?  Yes, of course.  I’m not suggesting everyone who goes on the dole should have to give blood samples and fingerprints.  It’s not a criminal offence to ask the government for help.  It is a criminal offence, however, to use elicit drugs, and if you’re going to break the government’s law using government funds, then it’s you’re own stupid fault if you get caught.

The most used excuse is “it’s a health issue”.  I understand it’s an addiction so in that sense it’s true.  That being said, just the same as alcohol, cigarettes and sugar, it’s something you can kick.  I believe should this testing come into practice, the government would need to give users free access to rehabilitation clinics and support groups, as I completely agree it’s almost impossible to go cold turkey.  I’m not suggesting this testing should be bought in to punish users, but to help them.  If they refuse the help, then they lose their benefits and that’s the end of that, but if they accept the help and successfully kick the habit, then they should be allowed benefits again.  Seems fairly straightforward to me.

The last excuse I want to touch on is the “I need the money to feed my families” one.  This one is particularly disturbing to me as drugs aren’t cheap, we all know this.  If you’re expecting your allowance to cover your habit and your kids food, what are you feeding them?  It’s bad enough they’ve got a drug user in the household, but to then be raised on two minute noodles and baked beans because that’s all they can afford after the drug money?  This is why testing needs to come in.  To help the innocent victims.  To get their parents back on track.  To give them a voice and make them heard.

Australia is a great country when it comes to supporting it’s people.  We have a fantastic health system and a decent support system for the sick, unemployed and disabled.  A lot of this is due to the taxes we pay each year to cover the cost.  I am wholeheartedly supportive of the drug tests.  I think the positives far outweigh the negatives, and anyone who can’t see that needs to have a long hard think about why exactly that is and who they’re hurting in the long run.

-JD

My Two Cents: Gun Laws

So, this is one of the most hotly talked about topics in the blogosphere at the moment, mostly from people in America.  Normally I steer clear of political topics because I generally don’t have a well-formed (or I suppose well-educated) opinion.  This is potentially true in this case too, however I do have a unique insight and overview of the whole thing as I’m not from the US, and I’ve grown up in a very different world when it comes to guns and the laws that surround them.

In my humble opinion, Australia has a fantastic system when it comes to guns.  You firstly need a licence which I believe also requires background checks.  I can hear the American pro-gun uproar at the thought of it: “What do you mean, a background check?  It’s my right to have a gun!”.  Tying in with that, to obtain a licence you absolutely have to be over 18.  Sorry, underagers, but you have next to no chance of picking up a weapon unaccompanied down under.  Secondly, anyone who owns gun/s must have their serial number registered to them.  No, you can’t just go to a gun show and pick one up.  (Side note: who the fuck even thinks gun shows are legitimate entertainment anyway?!).  Thirdly, anyone who owns gun/s must have a secure storage place for them.  The authorities can check.  Cue pro-gunners: “How is that going to help if someone is breaking in?  Where’s the security in that?  What’s the point?”

See, the thing about all these laws is, it means less people have access to guns.  A lot less.  By having less guns, it means they’re less likely to fall into the wrong hands.  We almost certainly will never have a re-enactment of America’s Sandy Hook shooting.  Firstly, because most families simply don’t own a gun.  For the ones that do, they are stored under lock and key, far away from curious little hands and minds.

With our stricter laws, we don’t have gun shows or easy-to-find gun shops.  We don’t stock ammo in everyday stores.  Kids with mental issues – such as the case with Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris – can’t just got out and pick up a couple of rifles.  Even if they were of age, chances are they’d have gotten knocked back before even being able to obtain a gun licence.

“I’m sure if they were desperate enough, they’d have found a way to get their hands on some guns.”

That may be true, I can’t completely deny that.  Mentally ill people can do some pretty desperate things.  That being said, Australia hasn’t had any mass shootings at all since before tougher gun laws were introduced in 1996 – and even that shooting was done by someone of age.  We certainly have our fair share of people with mental issues and disabilities.  The gun laws – no doubt coupled with a great health system – have stopped school shootings from happening.  Put simply, it’s just too hard.  Even if they could find someone with a gun (in the populated cities and suburbs I’d say that would be difficult), the person they’re taking the gun from is registered to it.  It would take the police no time at all to trace it back to them.  Who wants to risk that?  Nobody.

“But the right to bear arms is in the constitution!”

Yeah.  So what?  While I appreciate that Americans see the constitution as the be-all-and-end-all, I just don’t get it.  Maybe because Australia doesn’t really have anything similar, I just don’t really follow the logic.  It was written hundreds of years ago.  A lot has changed since then.  We have access to better technology, better heath systems, better education than when that was written.  Why can’t it be changed?  Or I guess, more to the point, even if it says it, why does it mean everyone should have a gun?  Just because you have the right to do it, doesn’t mean you need to.  I have the right to eat fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner…it doesn’t mean I do it.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

I seriously can’t stress how idiotic that line is.  It seems to crop up every time a pro-gunner opens their mouth.  You’re being stupid.  If the guns weren’t there, less people would be dead.  I don’t care how you want to look at it, you can’t kill half as many people in a physical attack (such as a stabbing) than you can with a weapon.  Nobody is suggesting that simply by having a gun, you’re going to kill someone.  However by having a gun, it means you have the ability to do it easily and efficiently without getting into any form of combat whatsoever.  No, the gun doesn’t pull it’s own trigger, but the person behind it likely wouldn’t commit the murder at all without it.

“I only have a gun for protection because everyone else has a gun!”

This I understand.  Completely.  It’s just a reflection of how out of hand gun control is in the States.  If you feel you need a dangerous weapon just because you’re worried other people might use their dangerous weapons on you, it’s time to take a good hard look at why you both have them at all.  Australians don’t feel the need to own guns because we know that our neighbours likely don’t have any to turn on us with, and if they do, they’ve had proper screenings before they’ve been allowed one.  The gun problem isn’t going to get any better if you keep letting people buy them for protection.

Just because we are on the other side of the world, doesn’t mean we don’t feel the impacts of the school shootings Americans go through.  We see it on the news, we read it in the newspapers, we see it on social media.  All those broken families, crying faces, people asking why.  Our whole nation asks that same question too.  Why?  Why do you keep letting this happen to your children?  You watch on in horror, you hang your flags at half mast, you mourn for them…and yet you do nothing to fix the problem.  Do you honestly think this problem is just going to go away?  That it will fix itself?  That disturbed people will just decide to seek help instead of acting out their fantasies?

Wake up to yourself, America.

Collumbine happened back in 1999.  This has been an ongoing issue for SIXTEEN YEARS.  It isn’t going away.  It won’t fix itself.  Mentally ill people aren’t seeking help.  Stop putting guns in their hands.  Stop letting innocent lives be ended prematurely for a constitutional right.  Isn’t it a basic human right to live?  To feel safe in your own country?  To go and get a education without fear?  Until something changes, we will continue to watch in horror as more mass shootings occur, I guarantee it.

*Full disclaimer that I’m not meaning to offend people with this post.  I understand that Americans have been conditioned to believe guns are a part of life.  Also, if any of my facts are incorrect, I apologise.  I’m not an expert.  This is just one person’s view on the whole issue.