Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dr. Telhami's lecture on Arab culture and revolution in the Middle East contained many reflections of the revolution and situation in the Hunger Games trilogy. 
One parallel is the fact that there is a identity issue in both the Arab world and of the districts of Panem. In the Middle East, in the past there has been a significant divide among the different nations so far as who the people identified themselves as. Though many of the countries shared religious and cultural characteristics, citizens of those countries considered themselves to be Saudi Arabian, or Iraqi, or Iranian, etc. There was an individualism that has since started to fade, as in recent years many identify as Arabs or Muslims more than as citizens of their particular nation. It's reasonable to attribute this change as a result of the increased accessibility of information, with people seeing and hearing things about their countries and regions that they were never exposed to before. Similarly, in Panem, the districts were forcibly separated, and thus there was no sense of unity between them despite their common suffering under the Capitol’s rule. In order for the rebellion to happen, they needed a rallying point, and were provided one in Katniss.
Another interesting point Dr. Telhami made was that revolutions, even successful ones, don’t necessarily lead to more stability or even less oppressive regimes. In fact, often there is much instability in places where a dictatorship or something like it has been overthrown. With so much work to do in establishing a new system and new constitutions, societal unrest often results and chaos can ensue. Moreover, the leaders of the rebellious group may not be any better at successfully and righteously leading a country than the people they overthrew. The fact that Katniss realized that President Coin was in many ways just as heartless as President Snow, and her decision to kill President Coin, saved Panem from closely replicating the previous regime.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Like many revolutions, the rebellion of the Districts of Panem against the Capital is influenced by a culture of dance and music. From one of the early acts of defiance in the first book of the trilogy, to moments of of reprieve in the final chapters of the series, these two art forms have an underlying presence throughout each phase of the revolution.

In the first book, when Rue is near death, Katniss sings her a lullaby from her childhood as a way of comforting the young girl. The song is one Katniss learned from her father, and reflects the culture of her home in Appalachia. The moment where Katniss holds Rue and sings serves as a sort of wake up call to the Districts, who are reminded of the human element of the games. Seeing two girls from separate districts share that emotionally charged moment, and the depth of Katniss's dedication to Rue when she puts flowers around her body, seems to be a vision of how the districts are all suffering together in the Hunger Games. If they are suffering together, then maybe they can unite to end that suffering. By simply singing to Rue, Katniss demonstrates that a united rebellion against the Capital is possible.

In the final book, at Finnick and Joanna's wedding the people of District 12 forget for a moment that they are fighting a war and spend the evening dancing and enjoying music. In the midst of all the pain and suffering they've endured in the recent days and weeks, Katniss and the other rebels find solace in music and dancing. In part, I think it reminds them what they are fighting for, that despite all the horror of the war, life is still worth living. Those sort of moments are so vital to a revolution. When things are at their worst and the world is dark and miserable hope is often lost. Dancing and singing and enjoying life revitalizes the spirit of those fighting, which is paramount to succeeding in a rebellion.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Topic 2: Influence of TV/Text on society

The presenter who spoke to our class on Thursday gave us a history lesson on reality TV, and how it has evolved since TV first became a part of our culture in the mid 20th century. She talked about how as reality shows became more and more complex and showed more depth of the characters on the show, creators of these shows started to incorporate more illusion into the material in what the presenter said was an effort to influence the audience. She pointed out how in shows like "An American Family" the editors primary goal was to show the gritty material, the stuff that got people watching, the fights and the controversies that increased viewership and thus the revenue received from the show. The presenter went on to talk about the concept of Hegemony, the binding of society together without force, and how major production companies use reality TV to manipulate the people watching their shows. She gave examples of how producer editing and scripting in reality TV is used to create a false reality on the television to cement the ideologies in place today. Sexist prejudices, racial barriers and socioeconomic statuses are supposedly intentionally reinforced by these programs.

For example, Henthorne argued in the reading that the popular show Survivor was a ploy to enforce the capitalist ideology that getting ahead by any means necessary will reward those who deserve to be rewarded. Contestants were often seen betraying those they had once been aligned with, using cunning and trickery for their own gain at the expense of their competition. These ideals are supposedly the way to get ahead in a real life capitalist economy, like that of the United States, and the show Survivor has been accused of intentionally extolling that cut-throat mentality.

Personally, I see the patterns in reality TV, and don't doubt the ability of the corporations in control to stoop so low as to intentionally influence their viewers. However, I see the motivation behind manipulating the content of these shows as purely trying to make them more exciting. No one wants to watch a typical family do typical things. We want to see them fall apart, we want to see the controversy and the fights and the tears and the back stabbing because it's interesting and fun to watch. To me, that's why those shows are scripted and edited the way they are, not because the producers want us to keep thinking women belong in the kitchen and men are sexist pigs. The harsh reality might be that that's what puts people in front of their TV, and those producers are simply capitalizing on our inherent narrow mindedness. Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe those corporations are all scheming to get us all thinking on the same level. But sometimes I think people try to look for conspiracy where there is none.