My Favourite Stories: The Hunger Games

My Favourite Stories - The Hunger Games

This month will see the final movie of The Hunger Games series. It’s another end of an era, and I’m becoming used to the press and emotions surrounding such a thing. I’ve done the usual: re-read the books and re-watched the movies, and somewhat prepared myself for the new installment. I’ve also thought about how the story has impacted me and society.

The Hunger Games is pretty much the primary series that has shaped how I view economic inequality and all of the human rights issues entangled in it. I saw economic inequality as a web, since all of the issues related to it are interconnected, and it’s up to us to de-tangle the web.

These different strands – transportation, income and wages, food security, education, environment, gender, race, and more – are all part of inequality and oppression. And they all play a part in this awful game that we play in order to “win,” whatever that means.

The Hunger Games is probably the only dystopian fiction that I will read or watch for a long time. The stories themselves, while revealing and empowering, are also quite bleak. A lot of people die. If they don’t die, they become broken. And while that is a huge part of reality, especially for those going to war, I don’t like to consume those kinds of stories on an on-going basis.

This might be why I had struggled to complete this blog post. After comparing the themes and plots of The Hunger Games to everything, from Arab Spring to Occupy to Black Lives Matter to the most recent string of ISIS attacks and backlash fueled by Islamophobia… From comparing the tributes to child soldiers who either die or survive and have PTSD… From seeing how this piece of fiction reflects our reality a lot and could potentially become our reality 100%… I had become exhausted.

I work in a non-profit organization in a role that allows me to be an activist and to support people facing marginalization and oppression. I volunteer for a non-profit that allows me to be an activist who uses pop culture to support other fans with their actions. I absorb the news everyday, because I can’t help it, and witness beautiful and terrible things happening around the world. So, naturally I would feel exhausted.

So why is The Hunger Games one of my favourite stories?

Because it made me love first-person novels again (Twilight kind of ruined that for me before). Because it made me feel more hopeful for the future young adult literature. Because I love the characters and how I learned what true strength meant from them.

Katniss taught me how to use the fire within to fight for what I believe in, but to soften and empathize when needed. She taught me the importance of fending for yourself and finding your true self in nature. She taught me that protecting what you find most precious is worth it.

Peeta taught me that humans are innately good. That we all have the freedom and autonomy to be ourselves, our true selves, even in the face of evil. He taught me that love and kindness are far more important than showing off or appearing to be strong.

So, as a farewell to this series, I offer a three-hand salute to The Hunger Games, and to the people all around the world, from the refugees fleeing Syria to the folks being arrested for doing this same salute in Thailand. May we work together towards peace and collaboration in order for everyone to live their lives to the fullest.

Until the odds are in everyone’s favour.

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No Hate

I always get emotional whenever people talk about others being “raised to hate.” It just strikes a chord within me. Maybe it’s because I’ve innately and steadfastly believed in kindness and empathy. Maybe it’s because I’m super sensitive and want everybody to at least like one another. Maybe it’s because I know what it’s like to be on both sides of hatred and of love, and would instantly choose love – even if hatred is easier.

Whenever I think of the word, “hatred,” I always recall the cycle of hatred in Naruto. Pein, one of the antagonists (although I say that word lightly because of the nature of the series and how it portrays people as morally complex), says the following:

Love breeds sacrifice… which in turn breeds hatred. Then you can know pain.
Just by living, people hurt others without even realizing it. So long as humanity exists, hate will also exist. There is no peace in this cursed world. War is just a crime paid for by the pain of the defeated…

There’s even a Curse Of Hatred that has plagued the Uchiha clan for generations.

In these instances, it looks like duality is at the forefront: you can’t know hatred without love, you can’t experience peace without conflict or violence. Basically, if you’re human, you feel all of these emotions and live all of these experiences. It’s unavoidable. What can be avoidable, though, is how we turn to destruction and despair whenever we feel and experience the negative.

Nelson Fernandez Jr.’s article about ISIS and the cycle of hatred uses Naruto as a narrative framework on conflict and peace-building. He talks about how the cycle can be broken or how we can look at acts of violence through a different perspective.

I really like this article. It calls for critical thinking and understanding, a willingness to cooperate and collaborate, and most importantly, empathy. We need more of it in order to end this cycle, or at least stop ourselves from thinking in that framework.

No hate, all love. ❤

Shipping

We’ve all done it, whether it’s with people we know in real life or with fictional characters. We notice how they act around each other, or how they would act around each other, and we come up with this perfect idea: they should get together. They should go on a date. They should get married. They should have sex. They should love each other, dammit. Such is the train of thought of a shipper.

I suppose the first time I shipped characters together would be Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. I was 8 years old. A year later, I was shipping Ron and Hermione. Things pretty much escalated from there – or went downhill, depending on how you view shipping.

I’ve been on both sides; I’ve had conflicting emotions regarding shipping. Yes, it makes a growing series more exciting and creates really thoughtful and engaging discussion about literature and media – if not correctly. If not, then what we have are shipping wars. People can take their ships too far and will only immerse themselves in a story for the prospect of two (or more) characters falling for each other or doing the do. Which doesn’t really make a well-rounded, engaged fan. Ships can make or break a story, depending on what happens to the characters and how you handle whatever happens. More often than not, I’ve been on I guess the winning side.

But what if a ship does ruin a series for you? What if a toxic relationship comes to fruition and makes you worry about the people influenced by the story? What if a character dies in your ship and the other spends the rest of their lives in regret and loneliness? Or worse – what if the other character doesn’t care?

And what does this mean for you? How do you cope with this? How much time do you spend mulling over everything, thinking about any foretelling signs, dealing with your feelings? I’ve been there, and it absolutely sucks. (The ships were from Naruto and HIMYM, if you’re wondering.) It changes your view of the series and its creators. Sure, you still appreciate everything that you’ve learned and felt from the story, but there’s that bitter aftertaste that you just can’t ignore. Perhaps it’ll just be an aftertaste, and will eventually just become part of the experience instead of The One Thing That Ruined Your Favourite.

And hopefully, it will come to pass, you’ll find other things and people in life that give you hope and inspiration and meaning, and you’ll move on. I have.