Okay. I’ll admit it. I paid way to much to see the opening showing of Catching Fire. It’s been a while since I’ve done such a thing but here I am. Sitting in the theater. But, it’s a Double Feature!!!! Never mind that I can see The Hunger Games on Netflix any time I want….It’s on Imax!!
Lapses in sanity aside I wanted to take this little 30 minute break between HG and CF to write a little note about personal project that I’ve been working on for some time. It should come as no surprise that I really like bugs. I really love cats too (remember, I’m *that* person) but I really like insects and other arthropods. I also happen to love movies and television. I find movies and television can tell us a lot about ourselves as a culture. We don’t only look to cinema for escape, we also look to it for clarity in ourselves. That, and things blow up…which is freaking cool (I can’t even tell you how excited I am for the next Avengers film…but I digress…
So what’s my personal little project? Glad you asked….It’s a sort of combination of those things, bugs and movies/tv. And as I wait for Catching Fire to start up I thought I’d point out a few things that you might have missed from The Hunger Games, both the book and the film. The film is a rather faithful adaptation to the novel and it succeeds where a number of adaptations fall flat (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire I’m looking at you). Like a lot of films that incorporate arthropods into the script, ours appear as a villain. But contrary to popular portrayals, the Tracker Jackers double as savior too. Those stung by these four-winged, stinging villains will suffer terrible hallucinations, pain, and possibly death. Katniss manages to suffer only troubling visions, unlike some of her competitors. – Is this the point where I should say “Spoilers”? – They also saved her from a potentially deadly situation. These deus ex machina death-wasps also exemplify an all too common phobia among Western audiences. Admittedly, this phobia is warranted in some cases (if you’re “deathly” allergic to wasps, it’s not a phobia…it’s legit fear) Death and insects are paired more than once in the filmic adaptation of Hunger Games.
Chopping down a Tracker Jacker nest.
This may be the point where you get confused. More than one entomological player in The Hunger Games? Yup. But you might not have noticed it. In fact, the entomologists I’ve talked to about this didn’t even notice it. This tells me that I’m just that nuts and notice useless information.
The book doesn’t feature this other insect but the filmmakers seemed to make a discernable effort to feature it. Or, as Mr. Plinkett would say, “You might not have noticed it…but your brain did.” As Katniss takes her first moments to breathe and settle into the trauma of the arena she sits and surveys her bag. As the absence of a soundtrack fills the theater we are reminded that she is in a place and time that will see no escape for her. I say no escape because even if she survives, she will forever carry the experience and themes of the arena with her. – A point made clear throughout the rest of the books and hopefully films. – Death is now her only consistent companion and this is where our little friendly insect comes into play. She sits. She absorbs. And then the cannon. “The familiar sound of the cannon that marks the death of another tribute” we hear the announcer say. Paired to the sound of the cannon and the announcers’ cheery tone Katniss finds a butterfly. A simple black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes: Nymphalidae: Lepidoptera)…female at that. Butterflies and moths have a long history of being harbingers of death and guides for the dead. Once again, that purpose is being served.
Eastern Black Swallowtail
Screen shot from The Hunger Games.
And, now a little quick note post Catching Fire. If you’re interested in a review I’ll post one here at RottenTomatoes. I noticed an interesting continuation of the entomological portrays in this film as well. When in the jungle environment we see and hear the buzzing of anonymous insects. But what really struck me was again, a butterfly. Or rather a lot of butterflies. **Spoilers???** As Effie begrudgingly, and sorrowfully reaches for the names from the glass bowls her outfit is another stunning portrayal of the excesses of the Capitol…and of that ancient metaphor for the passing of the soul and harbinger of death. A dress made completely of butterflies. The butterflies that adorn her, guide shield her as she is soon to adorn and guide her tributes to the coming slaughter.
So there you have it. My two cent psychological assessment of the bugs in a couple of movies. If you think I had fun with this, you can’t imagine the field day I’ve had with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.