From sandwiches to makeup to a new theme park, the marketing campaign behind the mega-hit series The Hunger Games has spared no expense in getting the word out. Consumers can submerge themselves in The Hunger Games culture and be like Katniss or the citizens of the Capitol. But is that really the message the books are trying to get across?
The Hunger Games is about the divide between the rich and the poor; those who want and those who need. It’s about the glorification of violence and the blasé attitude society has about it. There are themes of economic inequality, racial injustices, mental health, and oppression, but the movies are more focused on the love triangle. For viewers who haven’t read the books, they’re missing out on the real message.
Suzanne Collins, the author of the bestselling series, was inspired to write The Hunger Games by flipping through television channels late one night. She was switching between news coverage of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and reality television, and was inspired by the way society is able to do that so easily; how people are more concerned about their favorite reality stars than the troops fighting for freedom or the people dealing with oppression and injustice.
The books are horrifying: 24 teenagers put in an arena to fight to the death so the Capitol citizens have something to watch on TV, something to entertain them. They throw money and support behind their favorite tributes, like they’re contestants on American Idol. The Games are also a means of oppression: they’re a way to keep the citizens of Panem in line and punish them for once rebelling. The movies, however, cast twenty-somethings rather than teens, and most of the horrors were glossed over. The movie had a rating of PG-13 to attract more viewers, but how can they truly get the message across without showing the violence? No one wants to watch kids killing one another, but that’s exactly the point.
The marketing department took the glamour of the Capitol and sold it to consumers. Rather than talk about the injustices Katniss and the citizens of Panem had to endure on a daily basis in the districts, marketing sold the “Girl on Fire” look to consumers, forgetting why she was called that in the first place.
And now there’s talk of a theme park. Two, in fact: one in Dubai and one in Atlanta. A theme park where visitors can ride the train to the Capitol and take a hovercraft tour of Panem, just like the tributes, forgets that those who did that were being sent to their deaths. It’s the equivalent of making a theme park about World War II, and a train ride to Auschwitz.
One wonders just how close to the themes of the novel the theme park will be. Is there going to be a Medival Times-style show, where visitors are divided into districts and root for their teenager to win while enjoying a dinner? Will there be economic requirements to enter the park or ride certain rides? Or will they split visitors up based on their heritage, segregating them with privileges based on performance? Because that is the narrative of The Hunger Games.
While the world may not be Panem, a lot of the issues are still prevalent and real. There are injustices, oppression, inequalities, and horrific violent acts that are all too common. Shootings and acts of terrorism are occurring more and more frequently, and there are people out there in a real-world Hunger Games, fighting to survive.
The Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness about issues in stories, such as The Hunger Games, is running a campaign entitled Odds in Our Favor, where people can share their own Hunger Games stories on social media, such as twitter and tumblr, with #MyHungerGames. Help reclaim the narrative, and check out examples and stories, or look for ways to take action at MyHungerGames.org and OddsinOurFavor.org.
May the odds be ever in your favor.
I also made a video about this topic, which is very dear to me: