In Catching Fire, the prequel to Mockingjay, Katniss is forced to “perform” before all of Panem. Embarking on her Victory Tour, she’s instructed to make a few speeches, smile and wave, and honor the rules of the government headed by President Snow.
In Mockingjay, Katniss, now working with a rebel alliance trying to bring down Snow’s government, is given a subtly different kind of script to follow. Just as before, a huge TV crew follows Katniss as she goes through Panem visiting the citizens of each district, and just as before, the purpose of the crew’s footage is to build support for a political group (in this case, the rebel alliance) by treating Katniss as its mascot, the Mockingjay.
When the TV crew’s footage is judged to be awkward and unconvincing, the rebels tell Katniss that she must “improvise” for the camera. Instead of following a pre-approved script, she is to follow her instincts and “be herself.” This suggests some important questions—what happens when improvisation becomes, in essence, part of the script? It is really possible to “be yourself” when the cameras are rolling?
For much of Mockingjay, Katniss blurs the distinction between “being herself” and performing for the camera. As she tours Panem, visiting the wounded and the sick, she shows genuine, unscripted compassion for others—compassion that translates into very effective footage for her TV crew. But there are also times when Katniss seems to lose sight of the difference between performance and improvisation. After she shoots down an enemy hovercraft in District 8, she is surprised to “find herself” making a bold speech about the rebellion, which inspires hundreds of people to shout and cheer. Just because this speech is improvised doesn’t mean that Katniss is being herself. On the contrary, she’s finding it harder to tell the difference between TV and reality—in short, she’s becoming the Mockingjay, the fictional role the rebels have designed for her. In a world where everything is filmed, and where the characters spend huge chunks of time watching propaganda on television, it’s not easy to be one’s “true” self—people are always performing for a camera.
Although she poses some troubling questions with regards to sincerity, performance, and reality, Collins steers Katniss toward the optimistic conclusion that it is, in fact, possible to move past the demands of the camera and be “true” to oneself. At the climax of Mockingjay, Katniss is instructed to kill President Snow in front of an audience of millions. In essence, Katniss is placed in front of a camera and told to be herself—to satisfy her desire for revenge and kill her enemy. Yet instead of following her directions, Katniss shoots President Alma Coin, the very person who organized this public execution in the first place.
Through Katniss’s action, the novel suggests that in a modern world, in which there are cameras and mass media at every turn, it is difficult but possible to be true to oneself. People must question the mass media and think critically about sources of power in society. Most importantly, they must ask themselves, “which of my desires are truly my own, and which have been passed on to me by other people?” When Katniss asks herself this question, she realizes that the rebel alliance—that Alma Coin—has craftily manipulating her thoughts and feelings, pushing her to crave revenge on President Snow all as part of Coin’s own larger effort to seize power. By declining to “play along” any more, she not only throws out the script; she throws away the camera, too.
Role-Playing, Authenticity, Television, and the Self ThemeTracker
Role-Playing, Authenticity, Television, and the Self Quotes in Mockingjay
Haymitch holds up the notepad. "So, the question is, what do all of these have in common?"
"They were Katniss's," says Gale quietly. "No one told her what to do or say."
"Unscripted, yes!" says Beetee. He reaches over and pats my hand. "So we should just leave you alone, right?"
People laugh. I even smile a little.
If you panic, it could spread like wildfire," explains Plutarch. I just stare at him. "Fire is catching, so to speak," he continues, as if I'm being slow on the uptake. "Why don't I just pretend I'm on camera, Plutarch?" I ask.
"Yes! Perfect. One is always much braver with an audience," he says.
It's only now that he's been corrupted that I can fully appreciate the real Peeta. Even more than I would've if he'd died. The kindness, the steadiness, the warmth that had an unexpected heat behind it. Outside of Prim, my mother, and Gale, how many people in the world love me unconditionally?
I know there are a couple of huge screens here on the square. I saw them on the Victory Tour. It might work, if I were good at this sort of thing. Which I'm not. They tried to feed me lines in those early experiments with the propos, too, and it was a flop.
In the twilight of morphling, Peeta whispers the word and I go searching for him. It's a gauzy, violet-tinted world, with no hard edges, and many places to hide. I push through cloudbanks, follow faint tracks, catch the scent of cinnamon, of dill. Once I feel his hand on my cheek and try to trap it, but it dissolves like mist through my fingers.
We spend a couple of hours quizzing each other on military terms. I visit my mother and Prim for a while. When I'm back in my compartment, showered, staring into the darkness, I finally ask, "Johanna, could you really hear him screaming?" "That was part of it," she says. "Like the jabberjays in the arena. Only it was real. And it didn't stop after an hour. Tick, tock." "Tick, tock," I whisper back. Roses. Wolf mutts. Tributes. Frosted dolphins. Friends. Mockingjays. Stylists. Me. Everything screams in my dreams tonight.
"Don't trust them. Don't go back. Kill Peeta. Do what you came to do." What did he mean? Don't trust who? The rebels? Coin? The people looking at me right now? I won't go back, but he must know I can't just fire a bullet through Peeta's head. Can I? Should I? Did Boggs guess that what I really came to do is desert and kill Snow on my own? I can't work all of this out now, so I just decide to carry out the first two orders: to not trust anyone and to move deeper into the Capitol. But how can I justify this? Make them let me keep the Holo?
"Can't help him!" Peeta starts shoving people forward. "Can't!" Amazingly, he's the only one still functional enough to get us moving. I don't know why he's in control, when he should be flipping out and bashing my brains in, but that could happen any second. At the pressure of his hand against my shoulder, I turn away from the grisly thing that was Messalla; I make my feet go forward, fast, so fast that I can barely skid to a stop before the next intersection.
Peeta and I grow back together. There are still moments when he clutches the back of a chair and hangs on until the flashbacks are over. I wake screaming from nightmares of mutts and lost children. But his arms are there to comfort me. And eventually his lips. On the night I feel that thing again, the hunger that overtook me on the beach, I know this would have happened anyway. That what I need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that. So after, when he whispers, "You love me. Real or not real?" I tell him, "Real."