In Future Worlds, we hone in on various world events and examine their parallels with fictional future worlds.
This week’s news item: The Conservative Party in Britain and its campaign sex bus.
David Cameron and company have had a rough few months in the realm of sex scandals, between the pig-head fellatio incident and now the sex bus.
Allegedly, a recent party campaign bus trip dissolved into a “dystopian bacchanalia” in which young activists “were encouraged to have sex with Members of Parliament and senior party officials”. This was orchestrated by ex-candidate Mark Clarke, who also played a role in a young activist’s suicide.
The future world it parallels: Panem from The Hunger Games.
Although this sex-bus incident does not involve televised teenage gladiator fights, it does share one curious commonality with the world of the Hunger Games: Finnick Odair’s character arc.
Introduced in Catching Fire, the second installment of the series, Finnick is a victor from a previous year and a Capitol favorite.
“Finnick Odair is something of a living legend in Panem,” Collins writes in Catching Fire. “Since he won the Sixty-fifth Hunger Games when he was only fourteen, he’s still one of the youngest victors…the citizens of the Capitol have been drooling over him ever since. Because of his youth, they couldn’t really touch him for the first year or two. But ever since he turned sixteen, he’s spent his time at the Games being dogged by those desperately in love with him.”
When he’s first introduced, he seems shallow and smarmy and both Katniss and the audience aren’t quite sure what to make of him. Katniss even briefly considers offing him in the arena before she realizes that there’s more to him than meets the eye.
As we learn more about him, things get considerably darker. In Mockingjay — spoiler alert for a book that came out five years ago and for a movie currently in theaters — it’s revealed that his flirty demeanor is not by choice. He’s a plaything of the Capitol, forced to cater to the politicians’ every whim.
“President Snow used to…sell me…my body, that is,” Finnick begins in a flat, removed tone. “I wasn’t the only one. If a victor is considered desirable, the president gives them as a reward or allows people to buy them for an exorbitant amount of money.”
As the story progresses, Finnick ultimately has the darkest and most tragic character arc in the series, as — SPOILER ALERT — he ends up a casualty in the fight between the rebels and the government. The narrative’s conclusion sees him violently ripped apart by mutant beasts engineered by Capitol. And right after getting married, too.
Although The Hunger Games is most famous for its flashy aspect — the reality show teen death matches — it’s the surprisingly bleak character arcs that correlate most to real-world situations.
Obviously Finnick is not a direct correlation to real people who have been chewed up and tragically screwed over by political machinations. But Monica Lewinsky has given a TED Talk about the price of shame one pays when they’re involved in a political sex scandal as a non-politician. He’s got a silly name and he’s in a pulpy story, but Finnick is an intriguing character who pays the highest price. And though his world is a fictional society — and an implausible one at that — even far-fetched future worlds hold truths.