“Every revolution begins with a spark.” It’s on the Hunger Games: Catching Fire posters and trailers. It’s a great Hollywood movie quote, but there is so much more to it. This simple phrase captures a profound truth that has echoed throughout history, as one person takes a bold stand to ignite the spark that catches fire and changes the course of human events.
Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is the unwilling heroine of Catching Fire, thrust into the spotlight in the brutal gladiator-type games sponsored by a totalitarian government. She never meant to be a symbol of resistance; she just wanted to keep her little sister alive by volunteering in her place. When she refused to play along with injustice, sparing the life of her friend Peeta, hope began to fire up in the people who watched her. Her passion for justice began catching fire throughout her world as she became the symbol of the hope of something better.
It is that reluctant hero theme that resonates loudly with those who want to take a stand, but have hesitated or don’t know how. As viewers watch the beloved Katniss refuse to back down, that spark inside of them fans into flame, catching fire to make a difference in their own world.
In history as well as literature and film, the theme recurs. As the darkness of injustice or oppression grows, and passions smolder just beneath the surface, it only take a spark from one brave soul to ignite the fires of revolution.
It is this theme in Catching Fire that brings to mind the eloquent speech of hobbit Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, arguably one of the most powerful monologues in movie history:
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered… Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something… that there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
This is precisely what happened on a December day in 1955 when seamstress Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She had no intention of sparking a revolution, but that is exactly what she did. Her single action was the spark that caught fire and fueled the Civil Rights Movement. As Katniss Aberdeen became the symbol of freedom in Catching Fire, so Rosa Parks became the symbol of racial freedom. Maya Angelou speaks of that moment:
“Had she not, on that particular day, said, ‘I’m not moving; my feet hurt,’ we would have a different nation, and a different world.”
Ancient history also carries this theme echoed in Catching Fire. As her people were decreed to be annihilated, Queen Esther defied protocol and went before King Xerxes to ask that the decree be overruled. That action legally could have cost her life, but she recognized that she had been born “for such a time as this,” and bravely resisted the great injustice of her time, sparking the fire of revolution that saved her people. Queen Esther’s bravery is still celebrated annually in the Feast of Purim, more than two millennia later.
Hunger Games: Catching Fire is fabulous blockbuster entertainment, but it is its theme of a single spark of courage catching fire that speaks to a generation. We often hear lamented that “one person can’t make a difference.” I maintain that one person, whose passion and courage catches fire, is all that has ever made a difference.
[image via deviantart.com]