Watch Closely; Lessons from Mockingjay

Not So Different

In this special, three-part series, we are working through the The Hunger Games trilogy, book by book, to discuss the lessons each book can teach a cappella groups. If you haven’t read the books before, beware—THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES INCLUDES SPOILERS.

In the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy, we learn the value of playing by our own rules. In the second book, we learn that there are no happy endings. The third book, Mockingjay teaches us what just might be most important lesson of all: watch closely.

It’s easy to think of the natural endpoint for this series to be the overthrow of the fascist government, coupled with the symbolic execution of its leader, President Snow. However, over the course of Mockingjay, Katniss recognizes that the rebellion itself is a far cry from perfect, and that there’s every possibility the incoming administration will be every bit as evil as that which preceded it.

The clearest indication of what lies ahead comes in the climactic scene Katniss watches bombs descend upon a herd of helpless children, amidst which her own sister is trying to help. At first blush, this seems like yet another cruel decision on the part of The Capitol. However, when Katniss looks more closely—ironically, with the assistance of President Snow himself—she can observe all the flags that the new administration is actually responsible, and that this is likely only the beginning of the evil of which President Coin is capable.

As part of an a cappella group, it’s easy to see other groups in black and white—as enemy groups that have stolen songs you wanted to cover, or the members of which said negative things behind your back; or as ally groups with whom you regularly collaborate on performances and cross-promotion. When you look closely and analyze these situations, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is, “What are the products of my relationship with this other group?” You may find that the energy you burn holding a grudge is a distraction or wears you out. Alternatively, you might find that what seems like a negative relationship is actually fueling your group’s competitive spirit and making them more motivated during competition season. Meanwhile, you very well might find that the groups with which you’re allied are doing a great job of helping to get your name out and sharing resources with you; at the same time, you might find that your partners aren’t holding up their end of the bargain, and that, instead, they’re mooching off of your resources, or actively hurting your reputation by association on account of their own poor decision making.

Mockingjay teaches us that any relationship can benefit from a critical eye. Every now and then our perceived enemies are the ones who can be the most honest with us, just the same as our perceived friends might be the ones manipulating us, or, in a less pronounced way, just paying lip-service to us without helping us grow. Take stock of your own relationships in the a cappella universe—you just might be surprised at what you notice.