Having perhaps an even more miserable time is Effie Trinket, Elizabeth Banks’ Capitol dress-up doll. “Oh, she is very unhappy,” says Banks, of Katniss and Peeta’s chaperone. “It’s so sad. The revolution has ruined Effie’s wardrobe.. She’s still pretty damn fabulous, but she has literally one wig and one outfit.” Effie won’t see her home again until Mockingjay Part 2, and then not under the best of circumstances. In a departure from the book, in which Effie was imprisoned and largely ‘off-screen’, she has now been “whisked to District 13 with nothing but the clothes on her back” to join the rebels. “Essentially, I’m taking the role of Fulvia,” says Banks. “Fulvia’s sort of Plutarch’s [Philip Seymour Hoffman] right hand in [the novel]. Rather than introduce another new character, Effie takes that role.”
Mostly, though, her role is still to look as remarkable as she can against the stressed drabness of her co-stars. “Everyone in District 13 is given a standard jumpsuit thing, but obviously that won’t work for Effie,” says Banks with a mock-appalled clutch of her necklace. “She will make couture with whatever she has. We called her approach, ‘The Project Runway of District 13.’”
The above in an excerpt from the December 2014 issue of Empire Magazine. After I read it my general reaction was, “it’s going to take me about two hours just to talk about everything wrong with this.” I don’t really have the patience for that right now. But I have a few thoughts. Where does the idea that Effie is a sweet person that the rebellion in general and Katniss and Haymitch in particular could trust even come from? The one thing that Collins spells out very clearly is that Effie has made a career out of eagerly collaborating with Snow’s corrupt totalitarian regime. She goes to D12. She oversees the abduction of children. She puts them on a train. They are shipped to the Capitol and killed as part of a genocidal reality game. She has been doing this for years, and her only concern is that D12 is so lame that it’s Victor and tributes are uncouth and unsuccessful and aren’t helping her get promoted to a better district. She goes to D12 every year and still doesn’t understand that it’s essentially a death camp. How much clearer does it have to be?
In Catching Fire, Effie shows no sign that she’s gained any deep understanding of, well, anything. She doesn’t realize the significance of the district unrest. She is disappointed that Katniss and Peeta are going to be killed because she finally got some exciting victors and now her career will be in the toilet again. She thinks it might be unfair to hold a Victor games, but she in no way understands why the hunger games themselves are wrong. She shows no signs of an advanced theory of mind, a capacity for empathy, or a complex understanding of moral reasoning. Her being clueless doesn’t make things better. It makes them worse, because people like Snow thrive because of people like Effie who keep things running smoothly.
So no, Effie can’t just take the place of a character that was actually helping with the Capitol resistance (such as it was) all along. Unless Lawrence just assumes we’re that dumb. And no, Effie’s fashions aren’t just so fabulous. The bizarre, overdone fashions of the Capitol are a metaphor for the atmosphere of the Capitol itself. They help signify that Capitol citizens are so pampered and their lives are so empty that, as Katniss puts it in book one, they have nothing to do all day but decorate their bodies and wait for the next shipment of tributes to roll in to die for their amusement. And no, Elizabeth Banks, it’s not awful that Effie can’t look her best. It’s awful that someone like Cinna, who actually was a Capitol rebel and actually did realize that District 12 was comprised of human beings, was tortured to death for being an authentic rebel.
And as long as Effie gets to avoid prison and spend her time fretting over her wardrobe during the war, I think we need to lighten Mockinjay up in other ways. I mean, this series is about the horrors of living under a totalitarian system, the costs of said system to ordinary citizens as well as the horrors and costs of resisting that system. But screw that. If Effie gets a get out of jail free card, then I think all of the victors should have been rescued from the arena. Finnick lives, and he and Annie go on to have four kids and a happy life in D4. Prim lives, and becomes a doctor. Peeta isn’t hijacked. Joanna joins the star squad for a successful mission to kick ass and assassinate Snow (on camera, of course). Gale, Peeta, and Katniss make a polyamorous relationship work. Haymitch and Beetee work together to indict Coin and end up running the government. Lyme ends up a war hero and becomes mayor of a reformed D2. Sunshine and ice cream for everybody!
One last thing: I find the Effie fans that admire her for her fashions and talk about how E. Bank’s red carpet style is so wonderful and shows that true Effie spirit to be almost as creepy as the people that talk about how sexy Finnick’s sugar cube scene is without understanding the true ramifications of Finnick being marketed like a piece of meat. Using Effie’s fashions as a selling point is like that makeup tie-in with CF, where they talked about district makeup styles. Way to completely miss the point, people.
It is in this spirit that I am anticipating the movie. I will admit to a personal bias. Looking at all the character moments that get cut out of these movies, I can’t believe that the character they go out of the way to give more screen time to – write entirely new scenes for, no less – is Effie Fucking Trinket.