"The revolution cannot be boring."
Life imitates art. I push that concept a lot in this space because one of the key roles of art is to examine and uncover the truths about our present lives in order to inspire change to our future ones.
But they're not always happy lives: George Orwell conceived a dystopian world of government deception and secret surveillance way back in the late 1940s but it didn't really start happening until recently.
Along those lines of thought, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, (opening this week at the Village 8) is probably much more than a young-adult movie that's redefining Hollywood heroines. It could also be a defining moment in the next social revolution.
The story: having beaten the Hunger Games system (Part 1) then escaped it (Part 2), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, perfect as always) is now ready to destroy it. She finds herself holed up with a band of rebels living underground in secret District 13. Class warfare is boiling over and the revolutionaries need a figurehead. Katniss is the one, but rather than leading the troops and bow-and-arrowing a bunch of uppity Capitol-establishment types in the throat, Katniss finds herself shooting propaganda commercials instead. Remember when Gil Scott-Heron said, "The revolution will not be televised"? He wasn't talking about this one.
The Hunger Games is a franchise that has always been about the power and manipulation of the media but one of the strongest themes to emerge from Mockingjay, Part 1 is the message that people are sheep and they need to be herded. That we just can't/won't get the job done without a wise and powerful leader guiding us. Both sides in this conflict are using the same propaganda tools to control the masses and Katniss, the most powerful individual, is the key to it all. But she's also, so far, just another pawn in the game as Mockingjay serves us a glimpse of what our own military-entertainment complex might look like in a few years.
Putting these kind of complex ideas ("So the bad guys and the good guys are both kind of the same?") in a PG film is a step in the right direction and even if a whole generation of kids don't fire up their own conversation about the politics of perception, The Hunger Games will still be the best sci-fi franchise of the past three decades.
Entertainment as mind control? We know this is already happening and films like Mockingjay only help pull back the curtains. Western culture and media is designed to force feed us feelings of inadequacy at every turn — our asses are too big, our muscles are too small, our sex isn't sexy enough and our bankrolls don't roll with enough force. They present hope in the guise of childish televised fantasies ("Anyone can be a star if their talent can just be discovered or they can survive on this island!") but that promise of celebrity is really just a ploy to sell us products that will never ease the self-doubt and hate the media works so hard to propagate.
And according to Russell Brand (Get him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) fame won't make you happy either. Brand's third book, Revolution, is not a playbook for overthrowing the insanely imbalanced distribution of world wealth and resources. Instead, like The Hunger Games, it's a reminder that system exists, and a conversation starter about change. It's a good book, and while the old guard (the ones who want change the least) criticize him for not providing answers, they're missing the point. Brand has ideas, not answers.
But ideas are enough. Life imitates art and Brand is an artist, a dreamer. Like John Lennon was when he wrote that song "Imagine." Like all the people who stop what they are doing and think for a minute every time they hear that song at a party. So far there haven't been enough of those dreamers to really make a difference in reality but if the art of today is any indication, there may be enough sometime soon. And some of them might have bows and arrows.
Viva la Revolution!