Girl on Fire: The ‘Hunger Games’ generation

The instinct to imperial conquest has long passed into the universe, but Captain Kirk is still with us, appearing on Broadway today as William Shatner. This outward movement was most poignantly observed by Walt Whitman in his poem of 1871, “Passage to India.” And was this not God’s plan from the first, asked Whitman, that we would travel across the seas to India and beyond; to Sirius, to Jupiter?

But the outward journey has found its edge. We can no longer take China as our own, nor India or anyplace else for that matter. We turned inward, possibly as early as the ’60s, when the soldiers refused to go. Newt Gingrich got his knickers in a twist when the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi rose to prominence and this just as he and George W. Bush and Cheney were about to ship out to Nam (not!!!). And they would not forget. No worries, the hippies would soon join the conquerors on Wall Street. Something was happening there, said Stephen Stills in our time of brief moments. Something that is still not really clear.

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We today are at another turning and those Student Life administrators in colleges across the country who look to the markings of new generations should look to “The Hunger Games.” It is insidious and dark and beautiful and will raise a cry of liberation and awakening to a new generation.

Suzanne Collins is a serious and committed author; her Underland Chronicles series within reach of wisdom; wise maybe like Stephen Stills, only for a moment, or Whitman, in timelessness. I don't think this generation will look abroad for self-identification and seek to conqueror elsewheres with priests – Bono, Lady Gaga — or soldiers, money or smartphones. There are no more elsewheres left to conquer. (“The spaceship has landed,” Steve Jobs.) They will look here, where we live. This generation will look to the heart instead of the head. And maybe it will be as Whitman prophesied: Past Sirius and Jupiter we return and "The true son of God shall come singing his songs."

Donald Sutherland is the great totalitarian in HGs, but the Emperor likewise walked the skies long ago in “Star Wars.” Hamilton’s original vision of one world is now a global freak-show ruled by game show hosts and preening modernists, extending caricature beyond Rome’s wildest circus. While the heroic hippie/survivalist Katniss, “girl on fire” in “The Hunger Games,” is armed with only the simplest tools, faith and intuition. It is a dangerous, revolutionary, magnificent movie and could change everything. I was pleasantly surprised by the quiet erudition. Without giving anything away, the ending suggested homage to Man's Fate, Andre Malraux's iconic revolutionary novel of 1933.

It was hidden from view by the game show hosts of MSM but “Star Wars” was likewise an insurgency text from the beginning. Only Mel Brooks, in his parody “Space Balls,” seemed to notice. He named the place they sought to begin again Druidia. All space journeys today return to a place like primitive earth; “Avatar,” “Lost,” “John Carter” and even the TV series “Survivor.” It is a reccurring dream or maybe an ancient memory fighting its way back into reality. In “Hunger Games” it is an anthem. It calls today to the mythic White Queen as we have called these past 40 years — Leia, Padmé Amidala — a call to begin again in time. With “Hunger Games” we do not seek a future. We seek a beginning.