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Caesar raises Katniss' hand in a gesture of triumph


'The Hunger Games' is a satirical, sci-fi polemic that despite its lack of rallying battle speeches manages to rant and rail against the dangers of materialism, economic inequality and greed through its costuming and world building1. Now, as you might have guessed from my use of the words 'polemic' and 'rail' to describe it the political stance of 'The Hunger Games' is not exactly subtle. If anything its very narrative deliberately rejects taking a subtle approach to political criticism, as it makes much use of traditional satirical techniques like visual exaggeration, contrast and hyperbole to make its points.

Any piece of media that dresses the characters who support a repressive regime like this:

shot of Effie from film adaption of The Hunger Games in purple dress with white hair and giant crazy flower atop her head wtf is that


clearly cares nothing for the understated approach to political criticism.



Let's take an in-depth look at what this outfit tells the viewer about the lady wearing it. When combined with her mass of hair and gigantic flower fascinator, the exaggerated shoulders of her jacket, nipped in waist and her thin, teetering heels2 make her look top-heavy and unstable. Her clothes are clearly impractical for everyday wear, because they appear to keep her from moving freely. Her hairdo is elaborate and immovable, while her makeup is heavy and carefully applied. As a whole her fashion choices signal that she doesn't have to worry about dressing to accommodate practicalities. She isn't concerned about disrupting such elaborate dress either because she can afford to pay someone to redo it easily, or because she doesn't anticipate ever having to do any work which would muss her arrangements. The character's name is Effie Trinket and she's the first person from the Capitol that the viewer meets. In her first appearance on screen, before the viewer fully understands what being from the Capitol means, she is marked out by what the viewer assumes is her personal fashion choices as the embodiment of a moneyed, inactive upper class.

The viewer has already met members of District 12, the place that Effie is visiting, and seen that the people there dress rather differently than Effie does. When Effie stands on stage before the people of District 12, her outfit is placed in contrast to the citizens of the districts, who dress plainly out of necessity. In this context, Effie's costume transforms from the harmless fashion choice of a rich person into a symbol of difference which sets her apart from those around her. When viewed by an audience that understands typical fashion clues of wealth and poverty, Effie's personal style becomes a visual signal of her distance from other people, as well as a sign that the film's world contains some stark class inequality.

Effie and Katniss standing side by side with Effie in elaborate purple monostrosity and Katniss in a plain blue dress


Group shot of women from District 12 in their simple clothing


As the film quickly progresses to the point where Katniss volunteers herself as a tribute, the viewer learns that Effie is a member of the Capitol society which created the barbaric Hunger Games; a contest that pits human beings against each other in a fight to the death. She is shown to be an active organiser of the Games, who has come out to District 12 to draw the macabre selection human lottery. Later she becomes Katniss and Peeta's handler when they are selected to take part in the games. By this point Effie has been established an insider who helps to support and create an unjust system rather than an outsider who is acted on by the system, like Katniss.

With this knowledge, Effie's differences from the people of the districts take on a more sinister aspect. The garments she wears, which suggest she has a lot of excess time and spare wealth to spend on outward presentation, change from being simply an isolated display of unfair inequality. Once the viewer knows that Effie Trinket and her peers are involved in keeping The Hunger Games going their materialism becomes a visible sign of just how ghoulishly removed they are from other people in Panem. The Capitol isn't just filled with people who are a bit privileged and can't break their addiction to nice things. Their extreme interest in fashion isn't just a harmless distraction, attended by unfair privilege. These are people whose capacity for empathy appears to have entirely disappeared. Their disinterest in addressing the economic imbalance that sits in plain sight every day they get dressed in a new flashy, colourful ensemble, and the people of the district get dressed in the same worn cotton, is a visual manifestation of their lack of feeling. And as the viewer makes that connection between exaggerated fashionable alienation, materialism, and an exaggerated lack of human empathy, they are clobbered in the face by the idea that maybe we should be concerned about the repercussions of wealthy people's conspicuous consumption, rather than regarding it as a frivolous eccentricity.

At times I did feel like 'The Hunger Games' was determined to throw startling colour combinations and oversized fascinators in my face until I shared its politics. Like I said above, it refuses to consider taking a subtle approach and slaps extra bows on in defiance of anyone who might suggest such a thing. However, I did come out of the cinema feeling like the film had done a pretty good job of providing a rallying, easily understandable symbol of the evils of capitalist excess. The film's main political ideas are timely. The ridiculous element of extreme materialism is critiqued. Cruelty is directly linked to extreme materialism. The rich keep the poor down. It's been a while since I felt so... so... understood by a blockbuster film. It's been a while since I saw a film that made me so sure that someone somewhere really sees the problems of the real world.

However...Ugh, there's always a but in my posts, isn't there? When I left the cinema I was fully prepared to start lauding 'The Hunger Games' as the rousing political film of the year, but then my brain was prompted to think a bit more about 'The Hunger Games' by a smart post from another lady. Renay linked to Hello Tailor in Sidetracks a few weeks ago and I fell immediately in love with her posts on film costuming. I scrolled through her posts, found one on 'The Hunger Games', and dived right in. Having read the novel and seen the film, Hello Tailor noticed a discrepancy between the way the Capitol's fashion was described in the book and the costuming of the film. 'Why,' she asks 'are all the women so feminine, and the men dressed in some version of a suit?'. Where had all the glorious fashion diversity disappeared to?

And my brain started ticking. I think I can answer that question now.

Ugh, I wish I did not think this was the answer.

Unfortunately it seems to me now that the film isn't, as I thought at first, attempting to just flat out criticise all the dangers excessive materialism may bring to society. Instead it's (*insert biiiiig sigh*) characterising materialistic destruction of values as a gendered problem through the particular way that it visually signals excessive consumption. Although the society of The Capitol contains both men and women who dress extravagantly, the materialism of their society is coded with a number of traditionally feminine signals. Dress in the Capitol is overwhelmingly influenced by elements that are traditionally linked with female dress, like bright colours and large accessories. The Capitol's materialism appears to be entirely based around fashion, a traditionally female form of conspicuous consumption. We never see people in the Capitol driving flashy cars, or obsessing about, say, the most perfect cigar in the land, which would link materialism with traditionally male elements as well. Finally, for the most part the men of the Capitol who the viewer spends any time with are all dressed in much more restrained, traditionally masculine fashion, as Hello Tailor notes. This is a visual indication that they are somehow separate from the Capitol's over the top consumer society. Although these male characters may still be evil, or at least unthinkingly complicit in the inhumane acts of their society, their evil is not linked to the traditionally female evil of frivolously spending and decorating, as displayed by Effie Trinket. And that tells us some interesting things about how gendered both evil and power are in this film3.

Sadly it seems so much easier to link femininity to materialism and exaggerate it until it is comically out of proportion; so much easier to critique things that are traditionally female than it is to critique things that are traditionally male. It should not be that hard to link traditional male consumption or presentation to the evil side of materialism; it should not seem that difficult to emphasise that worshipping at the altar of a shiny new car, or a very manly leather coat, or being desperate to appear as manly as possible through what you choose to consume, is just as bad as an overly feminised version of materialism at all costs. But satirically, it kind of is. People choose not to get the joke when it's a man's thing, unless a very specific kind of man (old clinging to youth, weedy, bookish, socially inept, gay) is being critiqued through an exaggeration of masculine consumption.

As Minh-Ha T.Pham says in her excellent post 'A Pyre to Privilege, Not and Invitation to Gendered Shaming':

'...fashion consumers are easy scapegoats. They're already perceived as frivolous, wasteful, and stupid conspicuous consumers whose feminine vanity leads them to participate in irrational and irresponsible consumer practices that are the cause of All Of The World's Problems. The gendered subtext that always lurks behind this finger wagging is why I'm turned off by fashion-shaming of all stripes and sizes...Seldom is this kind of moralizing and shaming lodged at consumers of luxury cars, personal technologies, homes, and vacation packages even as all these luxury items have adverse effects on the local environments and economies in which they're produced.'


'The Hunger Games' isn't exactly above taking shots at easy targets. Reality television is still the devil in most circles. Is anyone in favour of kids losing their childhoods prematurely and being turned into soldiers? It looks like fashion is just the third sitting duck it had to hit before winning the big prize at the fair.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I did find 'The Hunger Games' inspiring, so sometimes when I'm feeling a bit more generous I start thinking about another theory I have that might explain this film's preoccupation with what women buy and wear. Sometimes this film is trying to align the extreme pressure society puts on women to dress femininely with a cruel, totalitarian state, rather than link any kind of femininity with cruelty and shallowness. When I think about the moment when the audience sees Katniss' dress laid out on her bed and feels her distress at being forced into a feminine garment she doesn't want to wear, it seems like such a feminist moment to me that I wonder at its unconscious reinforcement of gender ideas in other areas. I start to think that maybe, just maybe, this film is attempting to critique the rigid strictures women are forced into and the ridiculous way these strictures make women appear just as much when Effie Trinket is presented as when Katniss is being pushed into dresses. Sadly, if it's trying to make this point I think it fails, largely because it resists any attempt at nuance or at really getting to grips with what performative fashion can do for ladies. It's all or nothing with this film: you're either afraid of dresses and on Team Katniss', or rocking shoulder pads with dead eyes.

Here's where Cinna comes in. Cinna wears gold eyeliner, an obviously feminine touch, and he is involved in costume design. He reads to me as a genderqueer character and he's obviously as much a passive part of the Hunger Games' organisation as Effie, but he's never ridiculed by any of the other characters or made to seem stupid by the narrative. Although he works on the Games, he's never shown actively cheering them on. Most importantly, he supports Katniss and seems to love her wholeheartedly, which encourages the audience to find him unobjectionable at the very least. Hey, says the narrative, it's not femininity I object to, it's the overblown social construct of femininity which is forced onto women at all times. Chill out, Cinna is my bud and the dude wears gold eyeliner.

Cinna's situation highlights a positive aspect of the film. Genderqueer characters have a safe home in this narrative and the narrative omits negative judgement of them, encouraging the reader to do the same. In this sense, Cinna is similar to Katniss, who I feel makes a lot of sense as a genderqueer character for the first part of the film. She is physically startled by the fact that she will have to wear a dress to the lottery and matter of factly can't see the beauty that Cinna sees when she puts the dress of flames on. This desire to distance herself from femininity can be read as a lack of confidence in the context of the film on her appearance, but personally I felt that Katniss just didn't think her body was meant to go in a dress4. Simple as. And I love that, I love that the narrative makes space for gender queer characters. Even though I think reading Katniss as genderqueer for the rest of the narrative is near impossible, as she turns up on screen in night dresses and never once actively struggles with wearing a dress again on screen, I love that Cinna exists in this story as the eyeliner wearing dude on Team Good.

Cinna and Katniss rest their foreheads together before Katniss leaves for the Games.


Of course, you can't be too genderqueer or anything and still expect to find yourself quietly unlinked from the horrors of Capitol society. Ceasar, for example, is a man who is always dressed in brightly coloured clothes and clearly takes an interest in his appearance, which links his presentation with traditional female fashion. His gender feels queered by his style of dress, at least it does to me. And...oh right, he's a vapid if kindly talk show host, who provides easy, untroubled commentary on the Games, as if the death of human beings were no more significant than falling off the big red balls during Wipe Out.

Returning to something else that I did looooove about the film, I present our newest tribute Katniss Everdeen:

Katniss pulls back the string of her bow, pointed to an object offscreen


Katniss is the political rockstar of this film.

At the beginning of the film, Katniss is a regular citizen of District 12. Katniss's friend Gale at least thinks about rebellion despite his disempowered state as a citizen of a district. Before the lottery, he talks to Katniss about his dream that the Games could be destroyed by a mass boycott. His idea sounds attractive, if a little simplistic, but Katniss tells Gale that this is never going to happen. In this scene, she is established not exactly as someone who supports a status quo that is harmful to her, but as someone who isn't interested in debating possibilities, probably because she is too busy finding food and sees no chance of change.

And yet Katniss, this politically disenfranchised grafter, will begin to change the world as soon as she volunteers for the games. The way she goes about changing the world and beating the system may seem a little conservative, compared with Gale's grand visions of mass protest, but by the end of the film it's difficult not to view Katniss as a reluctant, practical radical. By reshaping herself for the public gaze and allowing others to reshape her image with her consent, she manipulates the narratives that the system loves to uphold in order to gain an advantage. She forces the system to work for her, and while she is helped in her task by people inside the system it is largely her own true and powerful instincts which lead her to survive when she should be killed by professional game players.

Publicly Katniss conforms, even though privately she rebels from this conformity and worries about what her public narrative says about her. However, when she shoots an apple from above the heads of those tasked with ranking her and determining her chance of survival, this is a public act that speaks of rebellion and comes from deep within her. It's an act of bravado and rebellion that she can't restrain. And it turns out that this true action from her heart wins her favour with the sponsors.

It is out of this natural instinct that the film's most moving political moment if born, as a girl who expresses no desire for political change because she is just too focused on surviving and keeping those she cares about alive flashes a power sign from inside the Games. It's a political fist pump, which Katniss gives presumably without any idea of what it will spark (a riot, which as Jason says, shows that 'anger and frustration, even violently so, is a real, human emotion, with real, human causes, and that its presence as part of our culture, today'). Bam!

animated image of Katniss sending three fingered salute to Rue's district

Source


This is the part of the post where I admit that I teared up at a scene from 'The Hunger Games' because of its political feeling. I know you all seriously doubt my opinions right now; you may as well just come out and say it!

Katniss' particular way of changing the world may seem both small scale and accidental. The ending of the film particularly seems to say that Katniss has changed no one's world but her own, even though we have previously seen her accidentally instigate riots. Whether you long for Katniss to be a protagonist who works outside the system, in the way that Gale and later Peeta advocate, will largely depend on how you feel about how Katniss' character intersects with her ability to take an active part in labour struggle. I wish Katniss had been able to change the world by working outside of the system rather than manipulating the system to work for her, because personally I have a hard time believing that lasting positive political change can be brought about by rebels taking over existing systems of authority. Still, I very much understand why that won't work for her within the context of this story. Katniss is poor and has other poor characters who are totally dependent on her waiting at home. She can't afford to be a martyr and it is unlikely that a revolution which seeks to change all existing structures could be won bloodlessly on a first pass.

As she says to Peeta before the games begin, she can't afford to think the way he does about trying to keep a part of himself for himself, because others are depending on her to come home triumphant. The best she can hope to do is break the system by personally winning the Games in a new way. Even that brings its own dangers.

It's a shame that despite its strong engagement with labour/anti-capitalism politics, which it is unusual to find in a blockbuster, and its inclusion of a less idealistic type of heroine whose political actions are the result of necessity and instinct, 'The Hunger Games' still feels politically shallow. As I noted way back in the mists of time, women get called out as the sole source of consumerist evil due to the film's gender issues and reluctance to present a more nuanced picture of Panem. Still, maybe I should mention that it may also circumvent other gender issues, ones that were present in the original novel.

In her review of the original novel, 'The Hunger Games', Renay says:

'Other female characters are treated badly, too. Katniss often critiques their looks and behaviour in offensive ways or the book frames them in really problematic ways. In the opening chapters before the game, we meet several female characters, and all the adult women are worn down, bony, have super awesome gross nicknames marking them out (crones) or are actually called witches or otherwise shown to be evil and no-good. Attractive women are judged for clearly "working for" the attractiveness. The one man like this is very flamboyant. Boy, where have I seen that before?'


After reading that review and um...just knowing how keen mainstream cinema is on the exceptional female narrative, I suspected that the film would be keen to preserve Katniss' excepto-girl status and would give her plenty of space to loudly voice harsh criticism of other women. In fact, the film erases a lot of this harmful anti-female critique, much as the Twilight films strive to keep Bella's feelings about other girls the hell away from their films. Good job! *thumbs way up*. Just maybe stop focusing on how feminine fashion will be our downfall, 'k?

When I look at 'The Hunger Games', I see a partial and almost petty political narrative revolution. A lot of individual pieces pierced my heart and made me feel somehow better, or at least more equipped, to go out and face the messy economic situation we're in now. And ugh I have all the feelings about Katniss. But it could have been so much more. It could have been the film that united us all against the real Capitol. Instead, it almost avoids looking at some of the main perpetrators of capitalist excess (the people who wield the real power) and dwells on how many women in the Capitol dress ostentatiously. It could have been so much more! Could have, would have, should have 'The Hunger Games'. It's too late now.

cat looks disappointed by what is in his bowl and caption reads this is inadequate



1 For more information about what the games are, how they work and the plot of the original novel, check out Renay's review of the book.

2 which unfortunately you can't see in this picture, so here's a gif of a later outfit which shows off Effie's taste in shoes:

animated close-up of Effie's shoes that are extremely dangerous omg


3 It's interesting what can be learnt about societal ideas on power by looking at the way the costuming of male characters like President Snow, in comparison with the costuming of Effie Trinket. Snow needs to appear powerful, and so despite being a member of Capitol society he needs to avoid being burdened by all the gendered baggage of weakness, stupidity, and unthinking callousness a viewer may want to load onto the back of the more eccentric fashion choices. If Snow were a woman how would he be dressed do you think?

4 I gather from Renay's review that Katniss' dislike of dresses may indicate a more negative rejection of femininity when it comes to the novel.



Interesting Hunger Games posts

Renay reviews ‘The Hunger Games’ for Ladies in SF Week
Hello Tailor - Capitol Couture in The Hunger Games
Moored at Sea - Race and Gender in the Hunger Games
My Friend Amy - The Hunger Games Movie
Cleolinda - So I Saw The Hunger Games
Cleolinda - Panem Mandatory Viewing Schedule
Rachel Stark - Why Katniss is a Feminist Character (And It’s Not Because She Weilds a Bow and Beats Up Boys)

Date: 2012-06-17 05:26 am (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
Jodie, I do not doubt your opinions. ♥

I was not overly impressed by the book, but I thought the movie allowed the narrative to come away from Katniss's perspective and show a (slightly...slightly...) nuanced world. I enjoyed the film a lot, although the film was never going to erase the issues I had, because they were integral to the film, but I agree about tearing up over all the political feelings. WE CAN HAVE THOSE FEELINGS TOGETHER.

Date: 2012-06-19 01:06 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Your comment pointing out that the parts of Capital society that DON'T get shoved in our faces was very powerful and resonant to me - we DON'T see, say, capital bankers, or a capital rise in food prices resulting in grinding another districts face into the dirt, etc, etc. The fact that they dress funny is pretty pale, after all, in comparison.

The problem with fashion in general (and the reason that it COULD have been a very powerful symbol in the film) is that it IS a social signifier - in a post-scarcity society, this is usuall the function of fashion, to delineate classes, genders, and other spheres of privilege from each other. Of course, this applies to social fasion, not one's individual fashion sense, necessarily, but clearly Effie's frou-frou-cake style of dress has some basis in her society as a whole. To turn this on its head though and reexamine the society in the Capital: I personally felt like Effie, herself felt nervous and threatened the entire movie - I read a subtext of femininity (much like now) being something one proves as a woman, in order to negotiate social status. In other words, I felt like Effie dresses as ostentatiously as she does as a tool to retain privilege in a society where she would not have the degree of it that she has - much like the underlying social drive for a Victorian woman to wear a corset (in both cases, it can't possibly be because they just love that feeling of bein immobilized by one's own clothing). If you look at it, the actress playing Effie (at least to me) frankly looks slightly mentally uncomfortable in the clothes she's in - the fact that she looks 'artificial' is something that one can after all turn back on its head and ask who is pressuring her towards an obviously uncomfortable artifice?

After all, a society of oppressive, exploited plenty does not necessarily reduce social distinctions - it can in fact increase them. I thought, for instance, the parallels to Nazi Germany in the film were probably intentional in some scenes, and its worth remembering that Weimar Germany was the Germany of the sexually transgressive and genderbent cabarets, of the'wicked' city of Berlin, whereas when the Nazis took over and began to transform Germany into an imperialist, exploitative wealth-state, one of the first things they did was to begin to encourage distinct gender roles (the image of the fertile Aryan woman is kind of disturbing), to arrest homosexuals, and of course not handle race in a particularly admirable fashion.

In the movie, we most obviously see the 'big' inequality: Capitol versus District. But I wondered if the overbearing, sort of desperate frippery was a sign of inner inequalities within the District. After all - the people who DO seem comfortable in their own skin, like the president, are also, not coincidentally, those with the most political power. Effie, in contrast, is just a pawn.

This isn't to belittle the misogynistic elements of shoe-shaming, as it were, which were very real. And its entirely possible that my eyes just read WAY too much into what could just as easily have been simply an exaggeration of existing conventions. Just thinking, curious what you thought.

Date: 2012-06-19 01:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mooredatsea.blogspot.com
*face-smack* Sorry that was me. The 'anonymous' comment option kills me every time :D

Date: 2012-06-20 12:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mooredatsea.blogspot.com
I think part of the problem is that 'frippery' on men is a way of designating strength - take martial dress, where all those colorful ribbons and metals are supposed to represent the potency and virtue of the bearer. Nazi officers were also pretty snappy dressers, after all. And that's just it - we are, in a sense, culturally embarrassed by female style of the past, but not as much with men's (at least the men's style of class - style that differentiates by power. People are probably embarrassed about bell bottoms). After all, in the grand scheme of things, the clothing of wealth - martial dress, tuxedos, three piece suits - is certainly different from what it was 120 years ago. But not THAT different. I can look at an Edwardian banker's suit and recognize them today. I can see photos of General Pershing, and he doesn't look that dated. Women's fashion on the other hand? We look at Victorian women's fashion and we all roll our eyes. And even if you wore an evening gown from, say, the 1980's to a formal occasion now, you'd look dated, in a way that a tux from that time would take a far more practiced eye (a nice tux, that is - again, this applies only to class-differentiator fashion). Even in casual wear, sort of the upper middle to upper class style of daywear - khaki slacks, polo shirts, rugby sweaters, etc - looks at home today or 50 years ago. I hadn't thought of it before in connection with Hunger Games, but it is interesting. I can IMAGINE someone dressing like mister flames-in-the-sideburn today. It'd be a daring choice, but they might be considered 'cool', you know? But if you dressed like Effie, that'd be... well, just weird. Unacceptable. In a sense, men's fashion is simply a way to signify class. Women's fashion is connected in our mind with pretense.

I do agree, though, that the representation of fashion as a sign of weakness (as opposed to, in Gaga's case, conscious declarative strength) is a dangerous, usually misogynistic, idea that does concern me in the film. This is somewhat ameliorated by the gold eyeliner, like you mention, but that was pretty understated, in comparison to much of what was around the social class that the character inhabits (he is not, after all, at the social strata of the games maker or the president). And even with him, his understatement, I think, is part of what separates him from the other stylists in our eyes, makes him seem reliable and 'good' - the others come as addled ditzes, as it were, and their fashion extremes are part of that. Oddities of personal fashion are usually just presented as eye-rollingly silly, at best just a sort of lovable quirk, where in reality, fashion is a powerful means for challenging the social norms around you. To take another example, when some women in the 90's began shaving their heads, this was in many ways a challenge to our society. But then in film, you saw it presented in (and I'm ashamed to admit to this being where I remember it) The Brady Bunch movie, as just a throw away stupidly full-of-themselves artsy hairstylist character. Fashion choice in this sense was transformed with 'I think that our obsession with 'prettiness' is wrong, and I intend on finding my own way of being beautiful' to 'I am so dark and mysterious, that I shaw my head to make sure you know it'. Showing non-heteronormative fashion behavior becomes as often as not, simply a way of reinforcing the norm that the character is bucking, by putting them in a position where they appear weak, deluded, evil, or self-serving. This is ALL one Hunger Games.

In a sense, this is a difficult thing to deal with though, not to excuse the authors. After all, in some sense the challenge of societal norms has historically been the privilege of those with wealth and influence to do so. In District 13, it is somewhat acceptable tot he locals for Katniss to act 'male' by going out hunting, simply because thats part of the survival behaviors of the group (in other words, in such a society, I think that being a hunter would be connected with youth and fitness, rather than gender). But imagine the opposite, imagine if either of the two 'hunks' Katniss was in love with wanted to, say, wear skirts, or even imagine if they were physically weak and enjoyed traditionally female activities like sewing and child-care. I'm not sure that the residents of Districct 13 would accept that. A society that is under great stress often enforces societal norms more strictly, because those norms are the basis of the tradition that keeps the society united in spite of its problems. So it would be difficult to show someone genderqueered in District 13 because a society under that much duress might not have the luxury to doubt itself? But then, I think we also tend to underestimate the ability of the proletariat (as it were in this situation) to be openminded. Intellectuals work under the assumption that poverty=ignorance and intolerance. This CAN be true (our society, I think sometimes, works hard to MAKE it true), but it isn't always. Poverty simply cause one to focus on needs, and we assume from the outside that those needs are easily understood and categorized. In a sense, I think we think of the poor sometimes much like the Capitol does - as a herd of animals that is incapable of conscious choice.

Your point on Dickensianness (I hope thats really a word! It should be!) was really interesting too. In a movie, particularly, I Think its just so easy to take this shorthand. The gentle playing that a movie like, say, Breakfast at Tiffany's does with this expectation is part of why i find that movie so interesting (in spit of some its other cringeworthy aspects). Fashion is so interesting, how it is this interplay between masking one's self, fulfilling expectations, presenting information, and rebellion, all at once, and in very odd combinations. Film OUGHT to be a good medium to examine that MORE closely - the way that someone's clothing is a conversation, in itself, the way people can cry for help with a blouse, or hide behind a necklace. Its a shame the movie couldn't grapple with something so thorny at a more nuanced level.

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