Mockingjay Discussion 17: Books vs. Broadcast

From Hogwarts Professor Louise Freeman in Virginia, thoughts on ‘Mockingjay,’ media, books, and truth, not to mention a contrast with Harry Potter:

“Beauty is truth and truth, beauty–that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”  John Keats.

The Hunger Games trilogy gave us the harshest skewering of the media since Rita Skeeter, and with much less comic relief.  The first two books show the broadcast Games, “reality” TV twisted into a weapon of oppression and packaged as entertainment. Mockingjay shift gears into “informational” broadcasts twisted into weapons of war; they don’t even bother calling them “news broadcasts” but “propos,” a nickname for propaganda. In the end, there’s little difference between the two formats.

However, in Harry Potter, the target of the critique is the printed word:  the Daily “Profit”, the “whatever sells” writings of Skeeter and Lockhart; in Hunger Games, it’s all about television. There is little evidence that print media even exists; for all their electronic expertise, Panem society seems forgotten that the printing press or moveable type were ever invented. The only books we hear about are homemade, handwritten works.

But it is in those books where truth can be found. They are not just useful but beautiful, with painted pictures, photos and hand-lettering. In contrast to the staged, violent, no-thought-required TV clips, the books inspire mental reflection, spur action and build strength. Katniss’s father’s book of plants gives life to the family and contributes to healing of both the community and eventually all of Panem by forming the basis for District 12’s new industry of manufacturing medicines. Cinna’s sketchbook allows him to continue to clothe and coach Katniss from beyond the grave and show him as one of the true pure-hearted revolutionaries. And, Peeta and Katniss find their first solace in the creation of their own memorial book to those who gave their lives.

The trilogy clearly wound up being more of war story and a sociopolitical commentary than a religious one, to be sure.  But finding truth, strength and inspiration through a Book is not exactly insignificant to Christians, is it?


  1. I cried the hardest over the descriptions of the entries in the memorial book; pages upon pages of loved ones treasured by Katniss and Peeta, and supported by Haymitch’s losses as well. Intensely personal and cathartic, Katniss acknowledges the importance these pages will have in her children’s lives when she and Peeta share their stories with them on deeper levels. This is their Truth…that sacrificial love is the greatest achievement of all. Yes, Christians will not miss the significance in spite of the lack of expressed spirituality in the series.

    Thank you, Louise, for reminding us that each of us matters; that we have to be willing to document our life-journeys in our own hands for those closest to us, thereby affecting future generations.

    Books over Broadcast? I love the contrast. Celebrity to all (broadcast) for the sake of personal gain/control is not a worthy goal. Truly, the pen is mightier than the sword if the new Panem is to thrive.

  2. I think one of the telling things about Coin’s administration is the “propo” they made out of Katniss’ speech in District 8. Katniss’ speech was an example of one of the motifs John mentioned before – speaking the truth to power – something which a spontaneous Katniss is very good at. Yet to me when it was edited to supposedly make things even more dramatic, it didn’t resonate as strongly with me. Throughout the book I questioned the rebels’ need for edited, produced propos. It’s a traditional thing in these kind of genres that the message of freedom itself is powerful, without the need for dressing it up. But real life is all about dressing up your weaker message to make it seem more convincing.

    If the truth is that the Capitol is an evil oppressive government, why do you need tacky Mockingjay advertisements to get the message across?

  3. Louise M. Freeman says

    PK9: Perhaps because a television saturated population doesn’t have the attention span to listen to the whole thing? I’m constantly being told for my college classes that for “today’s generation” I should never lecture for more than 10-15 minutes without some sort of break/hands on “active learning” type thing because my students can’t focus that long. Advice I typically ignore, BTW. I figure college is a place you are supposed to learn those type of skills.

  4. PK9, don’t discount the dual purpose of the rebel propos: uniting the warring districts AND infiltrating the Capitol’s airwaves.

    The contrast between cheesy, manufactured Mockingjay and natural, reactive Mockingjay…I know there is a parallel in our reality, but my brain can’t settle on the appropriate examples! Help!!!

    LMF, I returned to university at the age of 49 and found many of my “younger” classmates almost intolerant of lecture classes, nearly incapable of taking notes with paper and pen, and quite unashamed at ignoring the lectures altogether if the professors did not entertain with a variety of visuals/power points. I’m not sure the citizenry of D13 was worse off in their schedule-compliant lives than the peoples of the Capitol with their zeal for entertainment at any price. Your thoughts, please.

  5. Good for you, Louise! I’m so happy I’m not the only teacher who expects students to rise above the low expectations of our culture! Your sharp points on books vs. television show another historical element, perhaps. During the Dark Ages, the most beautiful books were created even while a largely illiterate population found its entertainment in public executions and other displays of cruelty. Just as the Book Of Kells lit up a dark era before a Renaissance, perhaps the memory book of faces will be a touchstone for a more illuminated age in Panem (not that the Renaissance, or any other time period, is devoid of barbarism. We are, after all, human).

  6. pj, I’m not arguing the need to break into the Capitol broadcast to send a message, I’m arguing that the artificial message seems weaker than the natural one.

    Louise, Katniss’ entire D8 speech was maybe 30-45 seconds long, the editing actually made it more drawn out with cheesy emphasis from video clips.

  7. I think that the propos were another way to hint at Coin and Snow’s likeness, and the books – used only by the rebels – were to contrast the power figures. The creation of the books was a time-consuming task that required focus and thought whereas the propos could be aired the same day they were filmed. I found that Collins was trying to communicate that if it matters in the long run, it will take time to create. Furthermore, the books were designed to last much longer than the propos. The propos were really only relevant during that phase of the war; the books, theoretically, could be referenced for generations. I understood the books to TV comparison to be saying that anything lasting and worth it takes time to achieve.

    The books themselves were differentiated from the propos not just by the authors, but by the authors’ intents. Specifically, to keep the others alive. The Everdeens’ plant book was designed to heal and provide for people, keeping them physically alive. Cinna’s sketchbook helped keep the image of the Mockinjay alive. Katniss and Peeta’s book wanted to keep the rebels who lost their lives alive in spirit. Contrarily, the propos were engineered to threaten death to the opposition.

    If it can be assumed that mass-produced print text was a dead form of communication in Panem, then the books relate to the seemingly dominant theme of life-from-death. The books all support some form of life, which would indicate again that life can come from death. When the other examples are compared, it seems pretty plausible that this is the message of the books-to-TV comparisons.

  8. Agreed, PK9. No argument from me, just making observation.

  9. Given that Ms. Collins has worked on T.V. and written books I think that it is interesting that the writing of books, at Katniss and Peeta’s book, is seen as therapeutic, whereas the making of the propos is, at best, stressful, at worst, fatal.

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