Saturday, December 07, 2013

Can the Hunger Games ignite a real revolution?

"From now on your job is to be a distraction so people forget what the real problems are."
Haymitch, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Eyes bright, chins up, smiles on!

Did you see those freaky CoverGirl ads begging you to become a Capitol clown? 12 Districts. 1 Exquisite Collection. Choose your District. 

The models look exotic and alien as District Tributes, but the message sends a shiver down my spine. Is this not the opposite meaning we were supposed to take away from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Do we really want to be the horribly immoral and clueless yet colorful pawns living in the Capitol?

It's a steal!

I complained to my Best Gay that this type of commercial brainwashing was exactly the mind control Suzanne Collins was trying to wake us all up from in her stellar trilogy The Hunger Games. And then we dissolved again into an impassioned discussion about the epic miscasting of Peeta and how it effects plot points, rewatched Peter K. Rosenthal’s hysterical "hotness" review for The Onion, and I quickly forgot all about the Capitol shilling fail.

"All things considered, not that hot."

Until I read web backlash a proposed theme park ride was generating. 

The second happiest place on Earth!

In the comments section, people argued distractedly over the nuances: it’s just a roller coaster ride silly, not an actual reenactment theme park of the unthinkable Hunger Games depicted in the books and movies; of course there’s a corporate tie-in and what’s wrong with that it’s the Capitalist way? Anonymous posters aimed their flaming arrows at each other, on a website owned by one of the six corporations controlling 90% of American media.

Now my spider sense was tingling. Sure, everyone has a right to make money, blah blah Capitalism is always awesome or you aren't American. But at what point has The Hunger Games sold out? Perhaps Lionsgate, the studio behind everyone’s favorite Girl On Fire, was as duplicitous as President Coin?

Is that CEO Jon Feltheimer at the console?  

So my best gay and I did an internet search to see if we were the only ones hearing the call of the mockingjay. We discovered…we are not alone.

There’s a real life Hunger Games media rebellion happening right now.

Protesting the icky corporate marketing tie-ins to the smash hit The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Harry Potter Alliance has created an easy way for you to take a stand while other citizens volunteer for the real-life district battles known to us as Black Friday.

To join the resistance and hack the Hunger Games advertising, simply take a selfie. Sporting the signature three finger salute of District 11, natch.

Rebels allianced at Odds In Our

The Harry Potter Alliance has a history of using fictional worlds to bring together activist partners who want an empowered world. A video on The HPA website implores “Enough with the distractions; The Hunger Games are real” before taking the real-life comparisons to Panem deeper. Lest you dismiss them as progressive crackpots, the Los Angeles Times found them substantial enough to publish an op ed piece by HPA’s Executive Director Andrew Slack points out the disturbing cracks in the movie tie-ins, and calls for citizens to hack the multimillion dollar ad campaigns by sending salute photos into Odds In Our 

The HPA isn't the only one hoping Catching Fire will light a fire in viewers' bellies. In an article in The Guardian titled "Donald Sutherland: I want Hunger Games to stir up a revolution" the veteran actor who portrays evil President Snow states "I hope that they [youths] will take action because it's getting drastic in this country.” The infamous rabble rouser knows that movies are political activism, and made the film hoping the Millennials would wake up from their passive sleep and do something. 

"They might create a third party. They might change the electoral process, they might be able to take over the government, change the tax system."

Author Suzanne Collins has weighed in at Variety on the overall effect of the marketing campaign by Tim Palen, and given the Lionsgate team a surprising thumbs up. “It’s appropriately disturbing and thought-provoking how the campaign promotes ‘Catching Fire’ while simultaneously promoting the Capitol’s punitive forms of entertainment…That dualistic approach is very much in keeping with the books.” 

Santa, can you bring me the ironic Effie Barbie doll for Christmas?

Over at Women in Hollywood, producer Nina Jacobsen dodges Melissa Silverstein's question of whether the target audience actually can grasp this dualistic approach. I think Nina doesn't answer because we all know the answer is a resounding NO. We live in a country where most adults think reality TV is real, but kids whose brains haven't even stopped growing yet should be able to sort through the shiny propaganda without falling for it? You know, the same kids we don't teach media literacy to, which is why Suzanne Collins wrote the novels in the first place?

Actual licensed merchandise. Really, Suzanne? Still fine by you?


These official responses about the offensive marketing disappoint me, as we know advertising  works. That's why corporations spend a half trillion dollars on it annually. 

When commercials prey on our primal needs, our brains switch into primal monkey mode where there is no higher functionality like empathy. Do we really believe that the fourteen-year-old girls who scrimped and saved to pay $60 to attend the Arclight's Capitol Bash in full costume and CoverGirl warpaint were full of compassion and sympathy for the poor Career Tributes? Or is it more likely that there was gleeful cheering akin to the coliseum stadiums of yore? 

Free popcorn, costume contest, and I get to pretend to be a sociopath?  Sold!

In my heart of hearts I can't really believe that Suzanne Collins doesn't see the misuse of her anti-totalitarian tomes against teens to place their focus on frippery. There has to be some corporate concern the little bastards might actually absorb the content of The Hunger Games and start Sutherland's longed-for rebellion. 

Actual licensed merchandise. I just...can't.

Isn't change what Collins wanted? Or has she gone Establishment from diving into her Scrooge McDuck swimming pool of cash? I suppose this should be expected of an anti-estabilishment smash hit. That's what happens to all rebellions...they're absorbed and assimilated into the corporate machine and spit back out as more mind control. The odds are never in our favor.

Unlicensed fan-made merchandise

Luckily, I can think of no better time than during the gluttony and materialism of the Christmas holiday to take stock of our participation in the media machine. Are you going to raise your hand to purchase an officially licensed Capitol Couture lipstick so that you look your best for the Quarter Quell? Or, like defiant Katniss, will you be a hero who raises your hand in protest?


What do you think? Has the The Hunger Games franchise sold out and lost the message through glib marketing tie-ins? Do you think young adults get the irony of the advertisingOr are they getting off on being Capitol Cuties embodying the fashion and fakeness of the richest District? Are you going to post a protest photo? Comment and tell us what’s happening in your District!

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